(As published in the Sunday Star Times, June 14,2015)

Google Analytics can tell you some really helpful stuff, including where your web visitors were before they clicked onto your site. Liken this in the physical world to someone standing in front of your store and asking people why they chose to visit your shop. Some may tell you they were already customers who read your recent newsletter, others may have noticed your ad in the newspaper and a few may have decided to visit after noticing your post on Facebook.

Why is this good to know? It can help you discern which of your marketing and advertising brings you website traffic and which of those avenues is the best at providing a reliable stream of high-converting leads. (Not all marketing is equal – you might do something that drives hoards of people to your website, but not one person buys something or becomes a sales lead. This may show your marketing choice is attracting the wrong audience for your product or service.)

There are five main streams of traffic that Google Analytics focuses on:

1. Direct traffic

These people know your website address and have typed it into their web browser. Regular customers will do this, but so will those who see your web address in a printed ad, hear your ad on radio or see your domain name on TV.

2. Referral/Social traffic

These visitors were browsing another website and followed a link to yours – it may be from a news story about you, a comment in someone’s blog or directory websites. Your social traffic comes under this category too, such as Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Facebook traffic is further broken down into desktop and mobile sites, so you can tell if they’re viewing your site from a phone, tablet or computer.

3. Search Engine Traffic

These are the visitors that came from a Google search – those who click on organic results, not your paid Google ads. GA will show you how much traffic came from this area and how it performed but it won’t tell you the actual keywords they used to find you ie what they typed into the search engine. (If you buy advertising with Google you can access this keyword data.)

4. Email newsletter traffic

This is where a few people trip up. Let’s say you spend the afternoon crafting and sending a cool customer email newsletter filled with links back to content on your website. If those links are set up to be exactly like they are on your website, this traffic comes under your Direct Traffic category. Not so good. Not only does it warp your idea of how many people know your URL or website address, it also thwarts you from being able to tell how effective your newsletter was on delivering highly engaged visitors to your site. To avoid this, you need to configure your email tool to add in some extra bits to each link to allow GA to place these visitors in their own newsletter “campaign”. This will give you an accurate picture.

5. Paid advertising traffic

Your GA account will treat your Google AdWords advertising in a very special way (of course, considering they’re both Google entities). GA places all the data that relates to it in its own AdWords category. Here you can drill down into the exact keywords that were clicked (so you can see which are working) and the outcomes they delivered (ie did they deliver profitable leads).

Look at your different traffic types and you can make business decisions like:

 – Noticing with glee that your direct traffic gets a sizable bump when your ad plays on radio – and that this traffic also delivers a bump in conversions.

– Reaching out to a website owner who is sending you great traffic via referral traffic, to see how you can advertise on their site to entice more visitors.

 – Realising that only 20% of your Google Adwords keywords are converting so deciding to pause the other 80% and switching your budget to those that are working.

This week, dig into your different traffic types and see how they perform on your website. You’ll find all this in the “Acquisition” part of your account.
Chris Price owns Ark Advance, a web optimisation business that specialises in online marketing. www.arkadvance.com