Is Search Engine traffic the best traffic you can get?

referringAs an SEO professional you have probably spent hours of work trying to fine tune your SEO campaign and increase your organic traffic. Since SEO is a game of inches not miles, every single change could make a difference and thus much time and effort are invested in such campaigns. So the question is, is search engine traffic the best traffic you can get to your website?

In this article we will evaluate the various types of traffic based on the following characteristics: Duration of generated traffic, Degree of Control, Speed of results and Stability of results. The main goal of this article is not to suggest a single “best” source of traffic. Instead it is to examine the characteristics of the visitors along with the strong & weak points of each type of traffic.

1. Direct Traffic

direct

Direct traffic is made up of visitors who have typed directly the URL of a page or who have found it in the history or bookmarks of their browser. Additionally sometimes we consider as direct traffic, a visit that comes from an Email campaign or from a source that is not possible to be traced. In this article we focus on the first case of direct traffic.

Usually increased direct traffic indicates increased brand awareness. It shows that a large number of users know the particular domain, trust it and expect to find useful information or services. In most of the cases they are not new visitors but regular and loyal users.

Duration

Long Lasting

Direct traffic remains high for as long as the topic and the content of the website remains up-to-date.

Degree Of Control

High

Since there are no intermediaries the traffic depends on the quality and freshness of content of the website.

Speed

Very High

Direct traffic is one of the first sources of traffic that a new website receives as a result of word of mouth. Nevertheless the quality and the quantity of the traffic heavily depend on the content of the website.

Stability

Medium-High

The amount of direct visitors that a website receives usually has little unexpected variation but there might be fluctuations due to seasonality.

Visitor Characteristics: Returning Visitors, Regular & Loyal Users.

2. Referring Traffic

up-website-traffic

The Referring traffic is made up of visitors who have clicked on a link of another website and landed on one of your pages. A special type of referring traffic is the one that comes from Social Media and in this article we distinguish it because it has different characteristics.

Increased referring traffic indicates that the website has attractive content and that other webmasters suggest it to their visitors by placing links in their pages. In most of the cases, the pages that receive the most of the links are the ones that are also popular to the users and have great content (Of course there are cases where the increased number of links is a result of a link building strategy). Acquiring links from relevant – high traffic websites can drive lots of quality traffic to your website and increase your authority. Those links usually are hard to get and the best way to acquire them is by starting affiliations with other webmasters or by developing innovative services and quality content.

Duration

Varies
(Usually Long Lasting)

Referring traffic remains high for as long as the referring websites continue to receive high traffic and the external pages that contain the links remain popular to the users.

Degree Of Control

Medium

Since the links are placed on external websites, you can’t change their place within the page, their anchor text or their context. Nevertheless in most of the cases you can contact the webmaster for minor changes.

Speed

High

Usually referring traffic is one of the first types of traffic that a new website receives (along with direct traffic). In most of the cases shortly after the launch, the website starts receiving the first incoming links and the referring traffic is increased. Of course the quality and the quantity of the traffic depend on the external websites and on their popularity.

Stability

Medium

The amount of referring visitors that a website receives is usually stable. Nevertheless the number of incoming visitors depends on the traffic of the external websites.

Visitor Characteristics: New Visitors, most of the times Targeted Users.

3. Social Media Traffic

social-media

The Social Media Traffic is the traffic that comes from online communities and social media networks. It is considered a part of Referring Traffic but we usually distinguish it because it has different characteristics. The problem in this distinction is that it is not always clear how to categorize the incoming traffic from particular sources. For example, should we consider the traffic from a forum or from a blog as social media traffic? Our suggestion is to categorize each source of traffic depending on its characteristics.

Increased Social Media Traffic indicates that the website is popular to the users and there is buzz around it. As we discussed in previous articles (12 Tips for developing a Successful Twitter Campaign & 7 tips for launching successful Social Media Campaigns) investing on a social media campaign is something that can drive lots of traffic to your website. Nevertheless have in mind that not all websites or pages become popular on social media since the amount of traffic heavily depends on the nature of the content.

Duration

Short

Each post or message on Social Media usually remains popular for a small period of time. Of course by investing on social media campaigns you increase your popularity and you become a more influential user. As a result more traffic can be driven to your website by staying an active member of the social media networks.

Degree Of Control

Medium

On the one hand you can control the messages that you send, but on the other hand you can’t control what other people say about you.

Speed

Medium

A very interesting high quality website can become popular quite soon on Social Media. Nevertheless in the early beginning of the social media campaign the chances of generating significant traffic are usually low. Lots of time and effort need to be invested in order to be successful.

Stability

Low-Medium

In social media the trends change very fast. Nevertheless by becoming an influential user and by building a community the amount of traffic that you receive from social media can remain stable.

Visitor Characteristics: New & Previous Visitors, Less Targeted Users, High Bounce Rate.

4. Search Engine Traffic (Organic)

2226178289_3f9556c08f

The Search Engine Traffic (Organic) is the traffic that comes from the nonpaid results of the various search engines. Less often we categorize as organic the traffic that comes from directories and yellow pages. In this article we focus on the organic traffic that comes from the search engines.

Increased Search Engine Traffic indicates that the website has launched a successful SEO campaign. This means that the site is well developed, well structured, it has optimized content and it receives lots of quality links.

Duration

Varies
(Usually Long Lasting)

The duration depends on the techniques that are used (Black-hat techniques do not usually last for long) and on the various algorithmic changes that take place. Large scale algorithmic changes can affect the duration of the SEO campaign.

Degree Of Control

Medium

There are basic principles and rules that if we follow closely, they help us achieve better rankings. Nevertheless, we don’t own the Search Engines, we don’t know always how they work and thus we don’t have full control over their results.

Speed

Low

Usually it takes time until a new website starts receiving a significant amount of Search Engine Traffic. This is because of the fact that the traffic is related to the size of the website and to the authority of the domain.

Stability

Medium

Usually Search Engines avoid making drastic changes in their algorithms and thus the results remain relatively stable (as long as the competition is not increased). Nevertheless every couple of years large scale changes are performed in order to improve the quality of the search results.

Visitor Characteristics: New Visitors, Very Targeted Users.

5. PPC & Paid Traffic

ppc-management-expert

The Paid Traffic is the traffic that comes from online advertisements. There are various types of Paid Traffic such as Pay Per Click (PPC), Paid Inclusion, Pay Per Impression, Paid links etc.

Increased Paid Traffic does not guarantee a successful advertising campaign. Other measures like ROI and Conversion Rates are very important too. Due to the fact that this type of traffic costs, it must be closely monitored in order to improve the effectiveness of the campaign.

Duration

Varies

You can usually keep the campaign for as long as you want.

Degree Of Control

Very High

The major providers support platforms that allow you to control, monitor, filter and measure the results of your campaign very easily.

Speed

Very High

It usually generates traffic directly. Nevertheless the amount of traffic depends on your budget and on your bids.

Stability

High

The amount of visitors that a website receives usually has little unexpected variation but there might be fluctuations due to seasonality.

Visitor Characteristics: New Visitors, Very Targeted Users.

Conclusion

clipart_of_22448_smjpg_2

So let’s get back to the initial question. Is search engine traffic the best traffic you can get to your website?

Certainly search engine traffic is a great source of traffic since it is an effective way to get New Targeted visitors at a very low cost. Nevertheless the SEO campaigns can be affected by the algorithmic changes, by the various “best practices” that come and go and by the increasing competition of popular keywords. As a result there is always the possibility of not being able to rank high enough or of losing your competitive rankings overnight.

Have in mind that in order to build a successful SEO campaign you need quality links that at the same time they are the source of referring traffic. Of course in order to get those quality links you need to attract regular visitors and strong supporters who are willing to recommend you to other users in social media or place your link in their websites. Certainly there is always the option of launching a PPC campaign and get fast results but this will cost additional funds and it might not have the expected results if the campaign is not planned carefully.

That’s why my personal favorite is the direct traffic which is always a reliable measure of the number of the regular visitors. My second favorite is the referring traffic (Social Media traffic is included) since quality links from high traffic websites can generate lots of traffic & buzz and also positively affect my SEO campaign. My next favorite source of traffic is the Organic because it generates much targeted traffic and brings lots of new visitors. Finally my least favorite source is Paid Traffic. This is because not only it has the highest cost of all the above but also due to the fact that once the campaign is over, the positive results disappear very quickly. Of course this does not mean that paid traffic is not important for your Promotional Campaign. On the contrary it can be a very handy tool when you want to get results in a very short time. After all, the most important thing in this business is to find the optimal combination of each source and use all the available tools and resources properly.

What’s YOUR personal favorite source of traffic?

Images by jennysblog, freelancefolder, denniswolff, wealthmakermax.com, enlightened-entrepreneurs.com, msdn.com, getentrepreneurial.com

TRY THE WSA TOOLBOX
  • Wayne Davies

    I love this article. Thank you for writing it. My view is that the ‘direct traffic’ category is too broad. I could get direct traffic from an email I just sent to existing customers with a specific offer I know they’ll like, or from a business card I handed out at a networking event. These 2 types of visitors are very different in terms of the page they land on, the likelihood they’ll buy, and their purpose in visiting the site. I think it makes sense to regard them as fundamentally different categories of traffic.

  • Roshan

    of course the is nothing else like search engines when it comes to web traffic. ranking high on Google would be the best thing for the site. having said that social sites can be considered second best traffic source since can also be very targeted.

  • Pingback: Is Search Engine traffic the best traffic you can get? | Web SEO … :PC & Internet Lifestyle

  • Pingback: Search Engines – search engines submit | Point Article News Feed

  • Pingback: Is Search Engine traffic the best traffic you can get? | Web SEO … | Bring traffic To Your Website

  • Aliur

    Great article, although in regards to Direct Traffic = Loyal/Returning visitors, we also need to consider the below.

    Assume that you are searching in Google for the term ‘Loans’, you then visit a few financial sites based on the results, as part of your journey you bookmark the really good ones, finally when you are ready to take the loan out, you simply go to your bookmarks and select on of the financial sites that attracted you. This behavior does not mean that the user is completely loyal nor does it mean that they are regular retuning users.
    Also with the increase presence of ATL and BTL campaigns referencing the campaign URL, means that more and more visitors are more than likely to type in the campaign URL and thus landing on the campaign. This again can be argued that such users are by no means completely loyal or returning but simply interested.

  • Pingback: The Best Tech Articles of the Day

  • Evgeni Yordanov

    I don’t entirely agree with you, especially on the matter of direct traffic. Social media traffic is something that I do agree with you on. It’s really getting me only short-lasting visitors, and most of them bounce real quick. My social media visitors are the ones that are elevating my bounce rate.

  • Andy @ FirstFound

    Great post. Social media traffic isn’t something that you should be courting, just for the fact that the duration is extremely short.

Leave a Reply