That’s the one question marketers and entrepreneurs are always interested in knowing the answer to. And even this question isn’t a simple one; it takes many many forms. Where exactly are their audiences coming from? How are they finding them? What were they looking for when they found them? What were the reasons for looking for what they were looking for?
The answer to these questions help us understand more about our visitors, know what makes them tick, and figuring out these answers is a crucial part of any marketing and growth strategy. So it should come as no surprise that throwing some light on the traffic sources to your content can help you in devising ways to improve content performance.
(Oh, btw. If you are wondering, that gif up there. That’s FBI special agent Peter Burke asking Mozzie that question. The scene is from a TV Series - White Collar. If you haven’t watched it, go for it. Completely binge worthy. I just finished it - again - a couple of weeks ago.)
Anyway. Enough pointless segues. Let’s get back to the matter at hand.
The importance of traffic sources: it’s more nuanced than you think
The most obvious reason is quite simple. It helps you understand the most effective marketing channels for your business (and least effective channels as well). But the truth is, it isn’t as simple as that.
As far as your primary website (or your marketing site, your homepage) is concerned, a simple overview of the traffic sources that perform the best is good enough. But when it comes to your content, things take an interesting turn.
Not all content is created equal. Not in their messaging, their format, their structure, and most importantly the audience they would attract. So when it comes to content, while the same rules of least and most effective marketing channels will apply overall, there are finer layers involved. While you will always be able to list down - in order of efficacy - the marketing channels for your marketing site, for your content, the most effective marketing channel can vary from content to content. When one piece of content is getting the most traffic and conversions from search, at the same time another could be getting the most results from social traffic. So, to get the most value out of your content, the performance of different pieces of content need to be analysed for different pieces of content and not the overall content pool.
As a general rule of thumb, we want the most traffic to our content being driven from search engine results, but it is a long winded way to the top of search engine rankings. And while we work on making our way up there, it makes sense to get all the help we can get.
And then, there is the catch 22 problem. As we have discussed in past, one of the key factors determining your content’s rankings is how your users interact with your content on different parameters. But how do you drive that engagement, or even get that engagement to begin with, without having some sort of visibility. Intelligent utlization of different marketing channels that are working in favor of specific pieces of content will increase percentage engagement for your content, as well as help you create brand recall amongst your audience leading to them favoring your content even if it is ranked slightly lower on the search results.
So, lets look at some traffic sources metrics today.
#1. Overview of traffic sources
Measuring your traffic sources is the easiest thing to do. You are already accustomed to looking at it in your Google Analytics dashboard. It looks something like this:
The intent is simple. You want to understand if majority of your traffic is coming from search engines, or if your social strategy is stronger than your search strategy. Or, for the lucky ones out there, your brand is so well known amongst your target audience that you get truckloads of direct traffic (direct traffic is someone coming onto your website without any help from anyone - i.e. they opened up a browser tab and typed in your website url).
Where do you find traffic sources reports in Google Analytics?
There are two main ways in which you would look at your traffic sources in your GA dashboard:
- Acquisition → All Traffic → Channels
- Acquisition → All Traffic → Source/Medium
Both show more or less the same information. It is just that when you are looking at source/medium report, you are getting a slightly more granular overview.
How do you check up on traffic sources for different pages/content in your GA dashboard?
This is slightly more complicated. And I wouldn’t recommend going through the process for the simple reason that it takes a lot of time and you would probably end up getting frustrated and give up after getting a splitting headache. But, since I mentioned it is important, here is how you can find the traffic source information for specific pieces of content:
Step 1. Head over to Behavior → Overview. Your top 10 content will appear. You can check up “view full report” to look at the rest of the content pieces. Step 2. Click on the content you want to find traffic sources for. Step 3. Select Acquisition → Source or Acquisition → Medium in the “Secondary Dimension” dropdown menu at top
You will now be able to see how successful different traffic sources are for specific content. You will get an overview of metrics like bounce rate and time spent on the page.
Take time spent on the page with a pinch of salt though. As we discussed yesterday, Google Analytics does not report accurate information for time spent on page, bounce rate and session durations. So while this data may give you an indicator, depending on what bounce rate you see there, the data can be largely misleading. Bottomline? Exercise caution in relying on this data.
So why do I not recommend doing this if I said it is important and plays a part in improving your content’s performance? Because of the sheer magnitude of time involved in the process.
Can you imagine yourself doing this for every single piece of content you have produced? Blogs like Hubspot have tens of thousands of content pieces. Can you imagine someone over there having to do this using Google Analytics? It is enough to drive anyone insane.
How does Benne Analytics simplify the process?
By now, from the last two parts of the series, you already have a fair idea of how our insights modules keeps an eye out on relevant traffic metrics for you so that you don’t have to spend time combing through your data every day. So, you should expect the same here.
Our insights module analyzes how different pages on your website are being found by your visitors and what specific pages are getting traffic from which all sources. And then, any trend that needs to be highlighted, it does so in the insights reports you get.
- a particular blog post getting unusually high traffic from Twitter today
- search traffic dipping for a blog post
- traffic to a blog post from a new external website
Every single one of those insights has its own relevance. Let us look at a different scenario. A blog post was getting fair bit of traction from Twitter, but it has now dropped. Maybe its time for a new tweet linking to that blog post, or even retweeting that same old tweet with some new commentary or context and bringing that traffic chart right back up.
#2. Social shares
Not every tweet or facebook post bringing traffic to your content would be made by you or someone in your team. Your audience could also be sharing something they found meaningful with their network and audience.
Some of those tweets and posts may even be getting some engagement. This is an opportunity for you to jump in the conversation and engage with your target audience.
How do you track it in Google Analytics?
Unfortunately, you can’t. While your Google Analytics dashboard will help you understand how much traffic Twitter or Facebook are driving for you, it doesn’t go any further than that.
How does Benne Analytics improve this experience for you?
Whether it is a retweet, a facebook post, or a social mention, if it is driving traffic to your content, our system keeps a close eye on it for you. It will alert you for new social posts driving traffic to you, as well as sources that are consistently driving more and more traffic to your content.
Different social posts would be having different degrees of priority and criticality based on the engagement they receive, and our system understands that. So, our insights reports always list down social traffic sources based on their importance and influence to your business.
#3. Organic traffic breakdown
When it comes to building a sustainable, long-term, profitable business - especially for a SaaS business, there is no source more valuable than Google (or search engines in general). Hubspot is a $32 billion company, and if you try getting an overview of its traffic, you will find more than 40% of its overall traffic coming in from search. And that figure has been holding true for years, despite the fact that Hubspot receives close to a million visits every day and is a relatively well known brand in its space - which means quite some direct and social traffic as well.
Dominating the search results matters, which is why businesses are so focused on SEO and keyword optimizations all the time.
A good starting point to increase your search engine traffic is to understand exactly what is driving results to you. While you would get some insights into it from your GA dashboard, Google stopped sharing keywords and search query information with business owners a few years back. So, now you can no longer get an exact idea of which keyword a user was searching for when he discovered your content and decided to check you out. Google claims to have hidden this information to protect consumer privacy, but we know better, don’t we? ;-)
What can you do?
Monitor your Google Search Console. While it won’t give you an accurate overview of how visitors are landing on to your content, it still provides quite some insight into it, and will help you understand your incoming organic traffic slightly better.
How does Benne Analytics help here?
This is one scenario where our hands are tied. Given the dominance of Google in the search engine space, most of your organic traffic would be coming from Google, and if Google isn’t sharing data, then it isn’t sharing data. There isn’t much you and I can do about it.
However, we can make the process better for you. Currently we are beta testing an integration of Google Search Engine console with our insights module so that just like the insights module makes every other part of the analysis easy and simple enough for you, it can do the same for organic traffic breakdown. If you would like to be included in the beta program, let me know and I will reach out to you for more information.
(Please note that this feature is still under development, so the results from this beta integration may not be as smooth as the rest of our insights module, but we would be working on it constantly to streamline the overall experience for you.)
#4. Backlink traffic
Backlinks. You can’t talk about SEO and not talk about backlinks.
While I will admit, I personally don’t actively chase getting backlinks for my content, I would not deny their importance in bolstering the position of your content. If you have a backlink from websites with good domain authority and score, Google is going to favor your content more than otherwise. The reason I don’t pursue them is because (a) it takes a lot of time to get backlinks - from quality sources, (b) I would rather focus on creating valuable content for my audience, and as I continue doing that, I will start getting backlinks from reputable websites automatically - in time. As long as I am doing a good job at creating valuable, insightful, helpful content. The second part is completely in my control, so I choose to focus on that.
But backlinks are important. I would never dispute that. We talked about Hubspot earlier. Hubspot’s blog articles enjoy more than 300 million backlinks. Canva.com enjoys more than 6 million backlinks. Canva has always been something of a content machine and they were able to manifest backlinks all over the place. And the results speak for themselves. For both these companies.
How does Benne Analytics help you stay on top of your backlinks?
Every time there is a new website referring traffic to your content (or your site, in general), our insights module does a brief audit of the site to judge its relevance and impact to your business. All such websites are highlighted in your insight reports along with the specific pages that are linking to your content/pages.
In addition, if an external website is sending large volume of traffic to your content/pages, or if it is sending consistent traffic, they are deemed important enough to be included in the highlights of your insight reports.
This way, within minutes, you get a complete picture of what should be the most critical focus areas for you to achieve a faster growth trajectory.
With that, I will wrap it up for the day. We are also close to wrapping up this series and tomorrow’s edition would be the last part of the content performance series. How did you find the overall series? Would you have wanted us to cover some additional topic in here? Did you wish we dove deeper into one of the topics we addressed in one of the issues? Let me know, and I’ll see what I can do about it.
That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.
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