19 min read

Referral traffic

What is Referral Traffic?

Referral traffic is when one website recommends another. Google Analytics enables you to see your referrals. This information shows how consumers are finding your website, and the actions taken once they arrive. Referral traffic is an excellent indication of the external sources important for reaching your business goals and are the methods used by Google to report visitors to your website from outside the Google search engine.

Hyperlinks to your site from different websites are important. These clicks are tracked as referral visits by Google Analytics. The site your visitor originated from is called the referrer since traffic is referred from one site to another. Google Analytics tracks three statistics. According to Sprout Social, these are referral traffic, direct domain traffic and search engine visits.

How Does Google Analytics Track Referral Traffic?

Every time a visitor clicks through your website from a referring source, the traffic source information is updated through the cookie. The cookie will not be overwritten by direct traffic to your site. The cookie value remains unchanged as more visitors are referred to your website. A good example is establishing a partnership with another website willing to pay for traffic. If both websites occupy the same niche, the traffic from both sites can be leveraged to increase exposure.

When your statistics are checked for the previous month, you can determine if your partnership was a success. If you see numerous referrals coming from your partner, check with them to ensure they are receiving similar results. When both sites receive a lot of referrals, you have achieved success. If very few visits are recorded, the partnership is not working. A full guide is available at from this article authored by Neil Patel.

At this point, referral Google Analytics becomes very important. Google Analytics is responsible for handling your referral sources. Although you can track the number of clicks from your website, the analytics package used by your partner captures direct return visits as well. This means when a visitor clicks through the website of your partner, it is one visit. When the visitor returns and types the URL directly into a bookmark or browser, your partner will view the visit as a referral from your website.

Your partner now has two visits. If the visitor returns again, it is counted as a third visit. This means one click to your outbound link resulted in three visits for your partner’s website. All of this information is available in Google Analytics. Google Analytics uses reported visits to your site to track referral traffic. Every time a hyperlink to your site is clicked, the click is tracked.

Diib® takes Google Analytics data (like click through rate) and turns it into actionable, easy to understand steps designed to improve your website’s referral traffic.

How to Find Referral Traffic in Google Analytics

Referral Google Analytics displays the websites sending you referred visitors that have clicked on your link. In most cases, organic searches and advertising visits are excluded from this category. If you are wondering how to find referral traffic in Google Analytics, simply:

  • Go to Acquisition tab
  • Then All Traffic tab
  • Then Referrals tab
  • All of the websites referring traffic to your website will be listed according to session volume.

These steps should result in a page that looks like the one below.

(Photo credit: Neil Patel)

You can also view metrics for conversion performance, engagement and traffic volume. All of the steps are available from Megalytic’s guide on using the referral report in Google Analytics. To view your traffic referrals follow these steps:

  • Go to Acquisition tab
  • Then All Traffic tab
  • Then Referrals tab
  • The table you will see has all the sources of your referral traffic
  • The date range is displayed in the upper right. You can change the date to see referral sources from different dates.

Steps to Improve Referral Traffic

The most important goal of every website owner is to increase the number of visitors to their sites, ending in referral traffic. This can be accomplished using different tactics including SEO, or search engine optimization, social media marketing, blogging, and PPC or pay per click advertising. The biggest concerns with website owners are: PPC is not cheap, a lot of time is required for SEO, using social media to improve ROI is difficult, and Google has become oversaturated. One of the most commonly overlooked solutions to these mounting concerns is increasing referral traffic. Let’s talk about some of the ways you can improve referral traffic.

Publishing Your Website in Online Directories

One of the best and easiest ways to increase your referral traffic is the publication of your website in online directories. Referral traffic meaning is substantial when considering advertising. However, you do not want your website published under every available directory. Concentrate on the directories focusing on your industry, or those generating the highest amount of referral traffic.

There are free online resources for every category and city from ambulance manufacturers to veterinarians. Submit your website according to your industry, and the cities in which you do business. Your best options are directories generating significant amounts of referral traffic. If you are still asking how Google Analytics tracks referral traffic, these directories are another answer. You can determine the best directories for your needs through a Google Search.

The directories at the top of the list usually generate the most referral traffic. The directories you will see are dependent on the category and city you are searching for. Once your website has been listed in the directories, you will receive a little free SEO in addition to generating top quality referral traffic to your website. The actual directory a visitor uses to locate your website is unimportant. Visitors from every source are valuable. The top 10 online directories, according to compete.com, are:

  • Google My Business
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Yellowpages.com
  • Yelp
  • Local.com
  • WhitePages.com
  • Manta
  • SuperPages
  • CitySearch (Must be added via InfoUSA’s ExpressUpdate.com)

Leveraging Social Media

According to article, approximately 89 percent of all marketers have stated social media was responsible for the most exposure. Another 75 percent indicated social media efforts resulted in an increase in website traffic. The top seven social media platforms marketers are currently using are Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Google+. Social media has become much more than simply a trend used by young people.

Marketers are successfully using social media to increase traffic, sales and leads. Being active on social media offers you a wide range of benefits. Every time you pin content, tweet, like or share, you are taking advantage of the opportunity to send referral traffic directly to your website. The chances of your content appearing at or near the top of Google substantially increases.

Social media will help improve your SEO, send potential customers directly to your site, and help increase your referral traffic. Overall, referral traffic meaning is about improving the sales of your product or service by increasing traffic. One of the best ways to do this is through an effective social media strategy.

Publishing Your Site on Review Websites

One of the best sources for increasing your referral traffic are review websites. The visitors you receive have already narrowed down their list of possible products and  are now in the process of making a decision through the comparison of different vendors. Review websites place your service or product directly under the eye of these consumers. Getting your website listed on review sites is largely dependent on your type of business. If you sell directly to the consumer, you’re likely to have a little more success than businesses selling to businesses, or B2B companies.

You will have a harder time being featured with review websites if you have a B2B. You may have heard the term pay to play. This means you need to pay to ensure your company is displayed near the top of the listings. If you conduct a Google search for a B2B business, there will be numerous reviews. Look closely, and you will notice the reviews have been sorted according to sponsor. This means the companies have paid to ensure their reviews and website are listed first.

If you conduct a search for construction equipment, your results for the private and commercial sectors will be different. No matter how many directories are revealed through your search, adding your website is advantageous. You will be reaching consumers who are currently in the purchasing phase. If your company has a good reputation, treats customers well, and offers fair prices, you will most likely stand out from your competition. A lot of consumers will be swayed if your company has positive reviews.

This enables this type of site to make more money. Even more important, this is how the reputation of the site as a respectable source is maintained. Even if you have to pay to list your site, you will most likely receive enough referral traffic to make the payment well worth the cost.

90% of respondents who recalled reading online reviews claimed that positive online reviews influenced (their) buying decisions, while 86 percent said buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews. (Source: Qualtrics)

Commenting on Blogs

Commenting on blogs has become a popular way to improve SEO. Commenting is also important for increasing the referral traffic to your website. When you comment frequently, you can potentially generate hundreds of referral visits to your website. However, you need to be certain your content is relevant and appropriate as opposed to simply filling up space with spam. To ensure the value of your comments, avoid bragging or making any complaints. I’m sure we’ve all seen spammy comments when reading or writing blogs. On that note, let’s check out these this stellar example of a great comment for a blog from the smartblogger.com:

Notice how this post expertly combines value and praise, while acknowledging what the blog was about. She calls the blogger by name, almost as if she has a personal relationship with him; referencing other blogs he’s written. She ends by promising to share this blog on her forum. Great example!

If you post promotional or negative comments, you will not receive the results you desire. By focusing on blogs enabling links to be placed in the comments, you can substantially increase your referral traffic. All you need to do is include a link to your website. Even if other links have already been included, yours will be the last one. When your link is placed either first or last, you have a better chance of generating more traffic and clicks.

Publishing Guest Blogs

Another opportunity to increase your referral traffic is publishing guest blogs. Most consumers pay attention to relevant guest blogs. This creates numerous opportunities for sending referral traffic directly to your site. If you look at the majority of blogs, you will see external links, calls to action and author biographies. Your best option is having a website well known within your industry feature one of your posts. The benefits include both links and referral traffic for your website.

Concentrate on finding websites the leaders of your industry consider important. A well-respected website will receive a lot more attention than something more obscure. The website should concentrate on all different aspects of your industry. Although you will need to be patient, and spend some time to be featured, your efforts will be more than worth the results. The idea is to present your company as an expert in your field. This can be accomplished by using the following tips.

  • Find Blogs in Your Niche: Concentrate on websites relevant to your industry. You do not want to feature office products on a website concerned with the best foods to feed pets. If your blog is relevant to the site, you will generate interest.
  • Don’t Use a Pseudonym: Always use your own name for the content you have written. This will eliminate the possibility of someone else receiving the credit for your accomplishments.
  • Find an Influencer: Linking to influencers is extremely beneficial. If the influencer approves of your blog, they may help with the promotion of your post. This is one of the best ways to generate more referral traffic to your website.
  • Audience: Think about your target audience when you are writing your blog. The majority of blogs enforce strict guidelines for all guest bloggers.

In a study by Social Marketing Writing, ‘62.96% (of survey respondents)…felt that multiple authors add more credibility to a blog.’

Publishing Infographics

A study of marketers was conducted regarding the most important content to increase business. Visuals were chosen by 37 percent of these marketers. The reason is incredibly simple. The majority of consumers have very short attention spans. The human brain can comprehend an image much faster than a lot of text. An image of an adorable kitten will receive more likes and shares than an industry report containing page after page of text. Our Diib website is a great example of this, offering website owners at-a-glance statistics and health scores. See the example below:

Infographics will turn complicated data into simple, easier to understand visuals graphs and charts. The idea is to have your infographic pinned, liked and shared on as many social networks as possible. When your infographics are embedded by others in their articles, you will receive links to increase referral traffic to your website. You can post infographics on websites other than your own. One of the best examples is Pinterest.

Approximately five percent of all referral traffic is generated through Pinterest. The only site currently ahead of Pinterest is Facebook. You have the ability to link your chosen infographic directly to your website. This makes it simple for others to share it.

Activity on industry Forums

One of your best sources for customers and leads is online forums. Unfortunately, many companies do not take advantage of this source for the generation of traffic. Your efforts need to be focused on your specific niche. You can add a lot of value without appearing to promote your website. The best tips to use forum marketing to your full advantage are outlined below.

  • Is it Active? Make certain the forum you choose is active. Forums without recent posts are a waste of your time and effort.
  • Use Examples: Use examples from real-life as opposed to simply offering advice. You will not get the results you want if you come across as a know-it-all. Your personal experiences will offer the most value.
  • Use Your Brand: Use your brand name to register. You want your comments to be associated with a brand name consumers are going to remember.
  • Call to ACtion: Your signature should be created using a link containing a call-to-action. This is the best way to generate more referral traffic to your website.
  • Share Your Resources: This is a good opportunity for sharing your resources. Begin a new thread, then link to a beneficial resource. If you enjoy a specific piece of content, the chances are good others will as well.
  • Participate: Your participation is important. You can use your expertise to participate in the most appropriate areas.

“If you can find an active forum related to your niche and build a presence on there as a valued member, it can become an incredible source of referral traffic,” -Max Robinson (founder of FishTankBank)

Twitter Referral Traffic in Google Analytics

Optimize Smart has a good resource for understanding Twitter referral traffic in Google Analytics. Google Analytics has a default setting for tracking traffic coming to your website from Twitter. To view your traffic using Google Analytics:

  • Go to the Acquisition tab in your Google Analytics dashboard
  • Then to the All Traffic tab
  • Then to Source/Medium
  • The source from where your visitors originate will be either t.co or twitter.com.
  • Your medium will be referral

A referral is your link located on another site your visitors used to access your website. You can use the list to see more information regarding traffic from Twitter by choosing the most relevant options. This data can also be located by going to Acquisition, then Social. When promoted tweets have been used, you have the ability to determine the effectiveness through Google Analytics. To use this option, you need to customize the links you are using for your campaign tags.

The simplest way to customize is through the URL Builder available with Google Analytics. Start the process by completing all of the fields. Once finished, go to Acquisition, then All Traffic, then Source/Medium report. You will see two different types of traffic. The first is Twitter.com/referral. This is where your Twitter organic traffic is located. The second is Twitter.com/social. This is where your Twitter paid ads traffic is located.

Click on the final option to see the traffic from your Twitter paid promotions. This is where you will find valuable insights. If you need a more in-depth analysis, simply import your cost data.

Using Diib® To Improve Your Referral Traffic and Domain Authority

Diib® has several resources to help you with your inbound links and referral traffic. For example:

  • Your dashboard has an objective that tells you which backlinks go to broken pages (404 errors) on your website. Creating 301 redirects will help you point those backlinks to existing pages on your website, improving your referral traffic and making that page rank better.
  • You can also check on the backlinks of up to 6 competitors in the SEO screen. By getting links from websites where your competitors are also getting them, you will increase your referral traffic.
  • Your dashboard will also guide you to getting more backlinks, thus increasing your referral traffic.

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Daniel Urmann

Author Bio:

Daniel Urmann is the co-founder of Diib.com. Over the past 17 years Daniel has helped thousands of business grow online through SEO, social media, and paid advertising. Today, Diib helps over 150,000 business globally grow online with their SaaS offerings. Daniel’s interest include SMB analytics, big data, predictive analytics, enterprise and SMB search engine optimization (SEO), CRO optimization, social media advertising, A/B testing, programatic and geo-targeting, PPC, and e-commerce. He holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) focused in Finance and E-commerce from Cornell University – S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management.

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