Where are all these people coming from?

- March 27, 2008

So you’re getting a lot of traffic to your website. That’s great! A good amount of your website’s traffic is converting. Awesome! You’re even getting some returning visitors to your site, and they are buying things, too! What could be better than this? (Of course, you could say “Winning the Lottery!”, but that’s not realistic).

The first question that comes to mind about your website’s traffic is usually “Where is the traffic coming from?”, or some variation of that. This is something that we all want to know, whether to satisfy our own curiosity or to properly optimize your cost-per-click campaigns. Using Google Analytics, let me show you a few different places where you can go to find out the origins of your traffic.

1. The “All Traffic Sources” Report
This is normally where most everyone goes to know where people are coming from. It’s found underneath the “Traffic Sources” section (obviously). Now, you need to understand that, by default, Google Analytics groups all traffic in four separate categories, or, “mediums””:

Direct – Usually represented by (direct)(none), this is all of the traffic that either types in the URL of your website by hand, or accesses your website via a bookmark. Copying / Pasting your website’s URL and clicking on “Go” or hitting the Enter key also counts as direct traffic.
Referral – A referral is any visit from any website that links to yours. Usually appears with the name of the website or IP address (Example: myspace.com / referral)
Organic – Any traffic originating from an organic search engine listing. As of this post, Google Analytics automatically recognizes 39 different websites as search engines, but this number is always changing. (Example: google / organic)
CPC – Traffic that originates from a pay-per-click marketing program, such as Google AdWords. You’ll see it listed as “google / cpc”. Note: you will need to have your URLs coded with Google Analytics URL Tracking on all of your non-Google AdWords Paid Search campaigns in order to see them listed as “cpc”. Otherwise, they will be lumped in with the “organic” listings. Visit the Google Analytics URL Tool Builder Page to learn how it’s done.

2. The “Referring Sites” Report
This report is one of my personal favorites. I really like to look at this report, so I can see who is either linking to me or referencing me in a blog or message board. This report is also found in the “Traffic Sources” section, and it will list any website which you have received at least one visit from. The best part about this is that if you click on any website listing, you can see the exact page where your link is found, and you can also click on the small “double-window” icon next to the full page path to go to that page, to see your link on their site.

3. The “Search Engines” Report
Finally, you can use the Search Engines report to view your total amount of search engine traffic. You can also click on the “paid” link next to the segmenting tool to view all paid Search Engine traffic, or you can click on the “non-paid” link to view all organic / non-paid Search Engine traffic. Clicking on the name of the search engine that’s listed there will allow you to segment that search engine by keyword, so that you can see which search terms are responsible for bringing you traffic.

These three reports are a great start for you to start to see where all of your traffic is originating from.

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