referral traffic rocks

Referral Traffic Gems: 4 Unexpected Insights You’ll Find In Your Referrals

Referral Traffic is a fantastically useful source, often attracting your most engaged visitors. But did you know your referral traffic data can inspire new SEO strategies, uncover micro-moments and help unearth pages on your website that need optimization?

These referral traffic gems are easy to find and often simple to act on. The best part? With Google Analytics, you can measure the impact that referral traffic has on your business.

Starting With The Google Analytics Referral Traffic Report

Let’s start with getting the referral traffic data we need. A likely place is the Referral Traffic reports in Google Analytics. To get there, click on the Acquisition menu > All Traffic > Referrals. This report gives you a high-level overview of all your referral traffic.

Google Analytics Referrals Report
Looking At The Right Referral Traffic Data

There’s a lot to unpack in this report. From left to right, you’re looking at:

  1. The referring websites that send you traffic
  2. The number of visitors from each referring website as well as how many are first time visitors
  3. Visitor behavior metrics by each website
  4. Conversions rate for the traffic that each website sends you

The problem is that this report’s data obfuscates a lot of useful information. Let’s say the “best” traffic is the traffic that is both highly engaged with your content and also converts at a reasonable rate. Looking at the above data are you able to say which websites send you the best traffic?

Looking At The Right Referral Traffic Data

Because this report only allows you to sort by a single metric and not a contextual combination of metrics, you get snapshots of web traffic performance but no complete view.

What we need is a web analytics report that, taking all our data into account, shows us which referring sites (and the exact referring pages) are the best. In other words, we need to know which referrals deliver high quality, engaged traffic to our website.

Let’s turn to a Teacup Analytics report called Who are my top referrers?

Teacup Analytics referral traffic report: Who are my top referrers?
Teacup Analytics report: Who are my top referrers?

Take a look at the column called Grade. You’ll notice that each referring website has a grade. This grading is qualitative – it describes the quality of the traffic that visits our website from that referring site.

Teacup reviews each website’s recent history and analyzes the behavior of all the visitors. Then, it compares and grades the current traffic relative to the expected behavior. A grade of B is of average quality traffic, while A and A+ is above average quality. Similarly, C’s and D’s indicate poor quality traffic.

Teacup Analytics referral traffic report grading
Qualitative grading of referral traffic

You can see the grading breakdown by metric under the “grading detail” section. The distinctive advantage here is that, instantly, we’re able to see which referring websites bring me the best visitors.

Good, now that we’ve got that out the way, we can go unearth those insightful gems.

Note: You can use Google Analytics to find the high quality traffic without Teacup. I lay out the methodology here.

1. Find Interesting New Keywords

You can find new and potentially powerful keywords to advertise on by looking at your referral traffic. It’s jolly easy! All you need to do is look at which referring site has a decent grade. Then, drill down to the full referrer URL, like this:

Discover keywords with the full referrer URL
Discover keywords with the full referrer URL

Next, take that high quality URL and pop it into Google’s Keyword Planner here:

AdWords Keyword Planner
AdWords Keyword Planner

That’s it! Google AdWords will do some magic and pull some keyword gems out of that referring page’s content.

This trick works because you’re effectively discovering the keywords that others consider relevant to your website. While I might describe myself as having brown hair, my friends might think my most distinguishing feature is my propensity to wear Aloha shirts. That same idea applies to your website. A referring website might think that their audience gains value from your site because of feature X while all this while you were advertising on feature Y. Oh, and by focusing only on high quality referrals, you’re assured that these new keywords themselves are associated with high quality traffic.

2. Referral Traffic Helps Uncover Micro-Moments

Understanding micro-moments requires a lot more ink that I can include in this article but once you’ve got the basic idea down, referral traffic reports can help find new micro-moments for you to win.

Winning micro-moments means meeting your customers at the intersection of intent and immediacy. Intent means your website is providing the value your visitors came for. Immediacy is frictionless experience and visitors getting that value quickly and easily.

With Teacup’s referral traffic report, you’ll be able to get a sense of what visitors are looking to learn in that micro-moment. Let’s look at an example below.

A few months ago I contributed a post for the GoDaddy Garage titled The 5 Google Analytics reports your clients want . This article, as shown in my referral report indicates that visitors want to know more about which Google Analytics reports are best for clients of web designers rather than other topics. So if I were to meet the I-want-to-know micro-moment, I’ll need to craft more articles for web designers.

Referral Traffic Helps Uncover Micro-Moments
Referral Traffic Helps Uncover Micro-Moments

The Referral traffic report is providing inspiration implying which micro-moments I should be considering. For a more detailed article on micro-moments, see the article titled Measuring Micro-Moments With Google Analytics.

3. Content Marketing Inspiration From Referral Traffic

Seeking fresh ideas for captivating content can certainly be challenging. Referral traffic data can be that catalyst of creativity in two clear instances.

The first is quite obvious. Take a look at the content of the referral pages. If you’re seeing high quality traffic coming to your website to read about certain specific topics then the clear action is to write more on that idea. If something works, do more of it!

The second instance of inspiration can come by exploring the referring website. If you’re receiving engaged visitors from a certain website, it may pay dividends to explore that site and see what else appeals to that audience. By understanding the referring site’s community and subject matter, you’ll find new opportunities to be relevant and referred.

This strikes me as a lovely opportunity to build a deeper relationship with the referring website. Partnering on ideas that provide value to your mutual audience is a classic win win situation.

4. Optimizing For Referral Traffic

Optimizing your website experience for traffic becomes a useful task when you’re seeing a high volume of traffic but particularly poor results. Take a look at this referral traffic report below:

Optimizing For Referral Traffic
Optimizing For Referral Traffic

Notice that the traffic from Reddit and Vice are significant enough to be important but the quality of those referrals has a grade of D. By looking at referral traffic, we’ve just discovered an opportunity to improve our website experience for those visitors.

The reasons that those audiences might not be engaging with the website could vary but the referral traffic report’s other details can put us on the right track by answering these questions:

Is the landing page meeting the referring page’s expectation – are visitors expecting to learn about one thing but your page contains irrelevant information? Take a look at the device type row. Is the low grade exclusive to mobile traffic? If so, you might need to improve your mobile experience.

Referral traffic serves as an indicator of problems and encouragement to improve! What a gem!

Why You Should Review Your Referral Traffic Monthly

With these insights and advantages hidden in your referral traffic reports, I recommend reviewing this report monthly. At the very least, you’ll be confident regarding how others view your website. At best, you’ll find new ideas and opportunities every month!


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