Getting more traffic to your website is key goal for many businesses, and understanding how you can boost referral traffic is an important aspect of any digital strategy. 

In more recent times, social media has become a bigger focus in this respect – but as many have found, social is not always a great driver of referral traffic, even if social platforms are highly utilized, and serve alternate purpose. 

So what is the best driver of web traffic? That’s what this new report from Alexa sought to find out. The team from Alexa gathered data on the sources of web traffic to 450,000 domains, and then they categorized the domains by vertical in order to separate the results based on user behavior/interest. The researchers finally identified the top 10% of sites in each segment in terms of total traffic.

Here’s what they found:

Report looks at referral traffic drivers by vertical

As you can see, search and direct traffic are the biggest drivers, with social coming in as a significantly lesser element in every category. Social performs well above its average in the ‘News, Weather and Information’ category, but outside of that, according to this data, social drives less than 5% of referrals in every other niche.

That makes sense, right? People are far more likely to share the latest news content on social as a means to spark discussion and debate, so it’s not surprising to see publishers generating more referral traffic than others in this respect. But the data may also appear to play down the significance of social as a driver of traffic, and thus, relevance in your overall digital marketing plan – when actually, the data probably indicates the varying nature of social media use, as opposed to search, in seeking information on different businesses and products.

The numbers here don’t necessarily mean that people aren’t using social for product and business discovery – in fact, other reports indicate that social is becoming more relevant in this respect. But they would suggest that people are looking to find information on the social platforms themselves, as opposed to tapping through to the actual business website. That means that, say, a restaurant is probably going to see better results by posting their menu on their Facebook Page, as opposed to linking back to their website, a mechanic might get phone calls based on their Facebook business profile, yet not so many people subsequently connecting through to their website.

That’s probably not great for SEO considerations, where you want to boost traffic and links, but it may point to the differing ways in which people use social and search, which is important to note in your planning.

Of course, these numbers are also not definitive. Alexa has used a sample, as noted, and Alexa’s data is not 100% accurate, as it only has access to a representative panel of users. But the figures are likely indicative of more general trends, which could make these findings worthy of consideration in your digital marketing approach. 

If you’re looking to drive traffic, boosting your SEO performance remains the key focus, while social should maybe be considered more inclusive, within itself, as opposed to trying to filter users back to your site for more information. And as you can see, the variability of such relates to different market categories and offerings.

You can read Alexa’s full report, with more in-depth breakdowns and data comparisons, here.

Credit: Andrew Hutchinson (Twitter)

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