The Three Main Types of Traffic and Why They Matter

I’ve recently been mentoring a friend of mine who’s just getting into the internet marketing world.  He will give me a call or stop by my place a couple times a week with a whole list of questions and topics.  We usually grab some food, sit down and he’ll start throwing topics at me – ‘picking my brain’ as he calls it.

Today’s Post is coming from a guest author Siddharth, a marketing expert.

So, at one of these sessions over the weekend my friend started asking about traffic generating methods and what exactly I do to get traffic to my sites.  Before I could even give him a straight answer I realized I had to start by explaining the various types of traffic that exist.  That quickly had him wondering all of the differences between those traffic sources and if one was better than another.

So, this discussion prompted enough interesting thoughts in my head that I figured I would write a post about what, I see as, the main traffic sources for any website or blog.  And not just that, but also how they impact your web properties in different ways.

Why Traffic Type Matters

Like my friend, some of you might start with the misconception that ‘traffic is simply traffic’, and I think the reason is that, as new internet marketers and website owner’s, one of our first main obstacles is just getting traffic period.  But at some point after getting your traffic you’re going to realize that where your traffic comes from is just as important as receiving it in the first place, if not more.

Here’s a breakdown of traffic types (note: these are my personal definitions):

Google/Organic Traffic

Organic traffic comes straight from the search engine results pages (SERPs).  Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! Search is the main sources, but understand that Google Search is far and beyond the others in terms of traffic volume.  So, when we talk ‘organic traffic’, we’re really talking Google traffic.

Ideally, you want to be on page one of Google in order to attract significant click-throughs to your website.  Getting to page one on the SERPs is a whole different article (or book really!), but a few basic strategies involve:

  • Getting backlinks.  Google puts a lot of weight towards how many and what type of sites are linking back to your site.  Think of it as an (unequal) voting system.  Each link is worth a ‘vote’ to the Google algorithm.  Some links carry more voting power than other links.  This is where things like PageRank (PR) and related websites come into play.  Ideally, you want your votes coming from a site that’s related to your niche and that also carries a high PR ranking.  Example – if your site is in the gaming niche, then getting links from or would be the ultimate prize in helping you move up the SERPs.

  • On-site SEO.  Basic on-site SEO involves making sure things like URLs, keywords, tags, site-structure, and keeping bounce rate down are taken care on the website itself.  This is probably the most basic and oldest strategy you can use for helping your rankings.  In fact, it’s such an old and common technique that it’s become less important over time as Google has shifted its algorithms.  Nonetheless, it’s just something you should learn and always practice because once you know a bit about on-site SEO it sort of becomes second nature when putting up new content.  This has become even easier in today’s day and age.  Especially on WordPress where you can install a plugin like SEO by Yoast and set it up once then leave it.

  • Having great/relevant content.  Of course, none of that other stuff matters if you’re not packing your site with valuable content.  At the end of the day, all you need to do is ask yourself “what is Google’s goal with its search engine?” – the answer:  The goal of Google Search is to provide its users with the best search results possible.  The only way it can do this is to ensure that the sites it ranks on page one have relevant, valuable and (to a somewhat lesser extent) unique content.  This is why you hear ‘Content Is King’ all over the blogosphere.  It’s true.  And going back to the ‘getting backlinks’ section, a key strategy for getting natural backlinks is to have excellent information on your site.  As long as you’re providing value to the ‘consumer’ you’ll have a much better chance at ranking in the SERPs.

So, what’s so great about organic traffic?  Historically and up to right now, SERP traffic is the most targeted, highest converting and lowest bounce rate traffic there is.  If you’re running an online business this is really important to you.  Google traffic is normally very targeted due to the nature of searching.  When a person types in a long-tail keyword like “how to lose weight while maintaining muscle tone for women“, that’s a very specific subject.  If your site has information on that subject, then you’re going to have a customer arrive looking for exactly the answers you can give them.

Referral Traffic

Referral traffic is traffic that comes from links you have on other websites.  Those links point back to a page on your site.  Referral links can be either paid or free but the whole idea is that the traffic is coming directly from other websites and not a search engine

Let’s look at some common ways that a blog or website may get Referral Traffic:

  •  Natural backlinks.  A natural backlink comes along normally when you write some really stellar content and another blogger or site owner recognizes that stellar content.  They might just decide it’s so good that their own readers would benefit from checking it out.  In that case, they’ll probably write about it and link back to your article.  These are the types of referral links you should be going for as a content creator.  They’re natural, Google loves them, and most of the time they’ll be directing traffic to your blog from a site within your niche.  Best way to get these types of links is creating extraordinary content on a regular basis.  No one is going to backlink to a generic article that can be found in two seconds with a Google search.
  • Paid backlinks.  Paying for backlinks or straight up advertisements is another classic way to receive referral traffic.  The only downside is that costs money!  One thing to remember if you’re going to pay for traffic is that you have a lot of options and you would be better off taking the time and doing the research to find other sites worth paying for traffic.  This isn’t a strategy I personally use very often but knock yourself out if you want traffic quickly from a targeted source.
  • Other forms include. blog rolls or ‘blogs I like/read’.  Sometimes you see these on blogs in the sidebar. Just simply suggesting from a related blog about other blogs that the audience may find helpful or interesting.  There are also things like forum links.  If you happen to be active in a forum related to your site you may have the option of putting your website in the signature link.  For some forums, you may be able to suggest and place a link directly into a post.  I will warn you though – forum rules can be very strict these days and getting traffic from forums can be a long process of becoming a trusted and valuable member of the community before seeing any real results.  Lastly, there are blog comments.  If you’re going to post comments on a blog (with a link back to your website) I recommend, just like with forums, actually adding some value in your comments.  Most bloggers are not going to approve a comment that screams spam.  Something to remember with all of these methods really.

The important thing to note about Referral Traffic – the quality depends on the source.  This is a traffic type that will be different for every blog or website.  If you focus on getting as many links out there as possible you might find that your traffic isn’t the most targetted or best converting.  On the other hand, if you take time and care in getting those links in the right place at the right time you can get a lot of quality traffic.  Referral links are best when they’re natural.  Focus on being extraordinary and you will attract a natural interest and spread of your ideas.

Social Traffic

Here it is, the new frontier in traffic sources.  Well.. it’s not all that new I suppose, but it’s certainly the latest ‘big boy’ to come along.  Social traffic comes from any sort of community or connection based website.  Think Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Digg, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, and on and on.

Still, how valuable is Social traffic?  The answer is up for debate but I’ll give you my opinion – Social traffic has traditionally not been great when it comes to conversions (a factoid that also depends on the social network, Pinterest being a horrible source for conversions and Twitter being much better).  However, as social networks are becoming less about just adding random friends and more about building targeted communities and connections around your brand, we’re seeing a shift in value.  The more targeted your social connections become the better conversions you’ll get.

Another key part of this is the power sharing.  Social traffic should be less about conversions to begin with and more about ‘spreading the word’.  The power of shares, likes, etc. is where the real value lies.  This is traffic source that should not be neglected going forward.  It’s paramount to building a personal brand and ensuring long term stability for your online business.

Last Word

I know a lot of other traffic sources exist beyond these major categories.  I’ll work on covering them in the future, but I like the idea of a Back To Basics type of post.  Sometimes it’s the simple things we forget about.


Author Bio

Siddharth Kamble is a Blogger/Copywriter/Freelance SEO consultant since the last 4 years. Also, he is the founder of WebhostChampion which is a website hosting blog niche website. He likes to do research on the internet about digital marketing and blogging.

17 thoughts on “The Three Main Types of Traffic and Why They Matter”

  1. Ofcourse, yes!
    Backlinks does a really great job in improving a site SEO visibility.

    Why? Because it makes google feel your website is giving really what readers are looking for. So generating lots of backlinks from top blogs is highly needed.

    Nice one, Kambie.
    I really love your style of writing.

    ~Sylvester Chidi

  2. Hi Siddharth,

    Welcome to Prosper’s Blog!

    The title of this post caught me that I needed to take a peep to see what’s more. Hey, I’m glad I did. One of the blogs in the blogging niche I noticed Google and other search engines have fallen in love with is ShoutMeLoud and he’s enjoying the blessings.

    For any blogger to get his message out there it is good to learn the search engine optimization techniques. Doing this will not only give a momentary traffic; it keeps coming while people engage with your posts and link back to the blog & posts.

    The social and referral traffic is OK as well. This comes to stay when a blogger builds a community of readers and reciprocating on the blogs of the readers by sharing their stuff, placing relevant comments.

    As a blogger build good quality relationships with other bloggers; the traffic you seek for will come. Thank you for sharing Siddharth and Prosper, the host.

  3. Hi Siddharth.

    I am digging all 3 types of traffic.

    Slowly, I am allowing in more Google/Organic traffic. This is really sweet traffic because it is….organic. Meaning, you set up the blog, put in legwork, and it flows in, passive and targeted.

    But when you do organic right, you get referral traffic and you tend to get social traffic too, because readers who found ya on Google will Tweet and FB share the article, and yep,they will in to you too….giving you referral traffic.

    Win-win-win, right? The blogging triple play.

    Thanks for sharing bro.


  4. Hi Siddharth, great tips here. I love getting organic traffic but I wish there was a way to see what keywords got them to my site. It’s all undermined 🙁
    You are right that it helps the bounce rate and is usually more qualified traffic.
    I love Twitter and Quora for traffic, they seem to stick. StumbleUpon seems to have the highest bounce rate. Pinterest is okay but it worked well when I had a retail website years ago, not so well on the blog.

  5. Hi Siddharth,

    I love organic traffic from Google. It’s taking some time, but I am finally starting to see some organic traffic from Google.

    Personally, I don’t take time to build backlinks to my blog, like I used to in the past. I don’t want to put too much emphasis on SEO as I’ve been burnt in the past.

    My goal is just to provide content that helps people and that seems to be doing the trick. Oh and I also use Yoast SEO and I love it.

    The plugin definitely makes it easy to make sure that my blog post is optimized properly.

    You’re right social media traffic really doesn’t convert very well for me. However, it is part of my marketing promotions. It’s nice when people actually take time to share my content.

    Thanks for explaining the different types of traffic.

    Have a great day 🙂


  6. Siddharth it is nice that you categorize the traffic each of us needs for our websites. I also got some traffic from Quora and Linkedin Groups. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Hey,
    I have question regarding the Fiverr backlink. Google has successfully banned many public networks, so how is paying $5 for a contextual link different from from using services like Build My Rank?


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