Most small clients I work with have never used Analytics before. While this is frustrating for me as a consultant, it is even more frustrating to them as a business. There really is a lot of great data they could be gathering. Even small businesses with a low volume of visitors can glean enough information from the data to make better decisions.
One of these important bits of information is where a website's visitors originate. How are people finding your website? Are they finding it at all?
These questions matter a great deal. They will shape the way you spend your marketing dollars, mold the content and design of your website, and help you determine the effectiveness of your advertising spend. When you move on to analyzing deeper data, these traffic sources will create natural segments for breaking down the analysis.
The Usual Suspects
Website traffic is generally broken down into two fields - source and medium. The medium is the type of referring entity, the method by which the visitor found your website, while the source is the actual referrer. Typical sources and mediums are found in the image below:
Take, for example, a person searching for your business on Google. If you do any paid advertising on AdWords, they might see an ad of yours. Otherwise, they might see your listing show up in the organic results. These "organic" or "natural" search results are those that are not paid, but surface due to Google's ranking algorithm based on your website, and how other people discuss your website on the Web.
A click on an organic listing to your site would show the medium as "organic" and the source as "Google." The great thing about search is that we get even more information, at least most of the time. Analytics will also show you exactly what keyword the visitor was searching when they found your website. This data forms the basis for highly valuable Keyword Research.
Diversity is key when it comes to website traffic. Relying primarily on a single source or medium can set you up for failure if something goes wrong with that source.
The astute business owner will be thinking now, "how do I monetize this information?" More on that in a later post!