The Teacup Analytics guide to understanding your traffic channels and traffic quality.
This grand report is a Teacup Team favorite. In fact, once you’ve grasped the multi-faceted opportunities for insight available in this report, you’ll be considered a modern day Solomon. Understanding your traffic channels, their segments, and their quality requires a ready intelligence but we’re confident in your abilities.
You may begin by feeling somewhat like some frail eggshell engulfed by a whirlpool. Don’t worry, the feeling won’t last. As you explore more, the depth of this report will feel enlightening, not baffling.
Let’s take this step by step. If you follow a thread of enquiry, an avoid getting pulled in other directions, you be delighted by the insights!
How To Read This Report
Section 1: The Graph
At the risk of complicating things right off the bat, this report has two types of graph: A bar graph and a time series. Each graph provides complimentary information and they work well together. I’d like to mention right away, that the main graph we’ll focus on is the bar graph. The time series is there to add a longer term contextual view so you feel like you’re making decisions with enough data.
The bar graph lists your traffic channels, starting with the largest by volume up top and moving down from there. You’ll notice the channel names along the y-axis and the number of visits along the x-axis. As you look at the bars, if you hover over any of them, you’ll get a tooltip with the exact number.
If you flip over to the trend graph, you can see each of the channels volume but over the last twelve weeks. This 12-week period compliments the bar chart by showing you that what you’re looking at this week is, in fact, in line with normal performance or if there is something peculiar going on with any channel.
Both graphs do a good job of showing the relative volume of your traffic but the bar graph does it a little clearer and, of course, it’s focused specifically on this week, which is the time frame we’re most concerned about. By noting the relative size, it can bring into picture the importance (or irrelevance) of your traffic channels.
Section 2: Primary Metrics
The Primary Metrics section of Where Did My Traffic Come From Last Week has quite a lot of information to digest. This is because it’s providing the grades for six different channels, each with multiple components.
Rather than simply browsing through the various channels’ grading components, Teacup’s analysts recommend picking one particular channel and looking at the other channels in comparison. This will help keep everything simplified and help focus the mind – trust us.
Like the graph, this section is ordered from largest in volume to smallest. What you’re seeing, along with the number of sessions, is the grade of each channel and the breakdown of that grade by its quality components. Teacup also includes a colorful arrow to indicate whether there’s been a change over previous weeks in that quality component.
The best way to read this section is to review it methodically. Ignoring the quality components for now, glance, from left to right, along the Primary Metrics. If a grade stands out to you, click on it. Now take a look below to that channel’s quality components.
The quality components can tell you if there is particular aspect of your traffic behavior that are dragging down or pulling up your grade. We’ll discuss what this might mean to you later on in this guidebook.
Next, keeping that impactful quality component in mind, cycle through the Primary metrics with an eye to comparing the specific component to that of other channels. This adds a wider context and let’s you know if, for example, your amazing bounce rate, is unique to this one channel or if it’s normal.
The reason we recommend this method of focusing on one item is to avoid getting your analysis jumbled up by the multiple primary metrics and their related quality components.
Now that you’re focused on a specific channel, that channel’s grade, and the grading components too, you can look at it with the following perspective. Do you want to grow, or improve?
The grow option is best if you have a lower traffic volume but a great grade. This means that traffic from this channel is high quality, so it’s worth your time to get more of it.
The improve option is the opposite. You have a high traffic volume but a lower quality grade than you’re comfortable with.
So, what’s next? Well, you could click on the Achievable icon in the top right corner of the Primary metric right now and get to work growing or improving. Or you could investigate further by looking at the Details Breakdown section.
Section 3: The Details
In the Details Breakdown section, we get granular. Here we look at the same information you’re seeing in the Primary Metrics area but segmented. You can see each channel’s traffic grouped by device type, whether they’re new visitors or return visitors, by which landing pages they’re starting on and more. We’ll review each segment and the implications – they’re all quite different.
Let’s just take a quick step back first and understand why this information matters. When you’re looking at your traffic volume for a specific channel, say perhaps, direct traffic, by knowing whether your traffic make up is almost all new visitors suggests a different course of action to if your traffic was mostly returning visitors. Similarly, if you’re thinking of improving your bounce rate for the organic search channel, taking a quick glance at the device type will tell you if it’s mobile visitors who’re getting a weak experience and dragging down that grade. In summary, the Details Breakdown informs your next steps by shining a light on the exact problem area. If you remove uncertainty, your actions are more likely to lead to successful results.
An simple little design element in this area can help explore the same metric across all channels. If you click on a row in the last column of the Details Breakdown, you’ll notice it becomes highlighted. If you then click on other channels in the first column, Teacup keeps that respective row highlighted. Thus you can cycle through the channels but keep the specific metric you’re investigating in focus.
You’ll also notice a sparkline next to each row in the details area. Sparklines are tiny graphs that nevertheless can be jolly helpful when making decisions. These sparklines give you a sense of your traffic channel’s volatility without needed to pop up to the trend graph. It’s context at your fingertips.
Insights and Inspirations You Might Find
My goodness but there is a lot of potential packed into one little report. While this report may be a favorite of ours, it can certainly pack a wallop and cause a slight throbbing about the temples.
A top use of this report is to aid you in finding your best opportunities. These may be opportunities to grow an under-appreciated traffic source. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to improve and optimize your site for a major channel. You may even find that you don’t need to worry about a traffic channel in it’s entirety but by making a small change aimed at a mere segment of a channel, you’ll achieve greatness.
When To Think About Growing Your Traffic
Teacup reports are not just about telling you what happened. They’re about showing you what could happen if you take action. This report, Where Did My Traffic Come From Last Week, is fantastic in this regard.
To start with, do you notice any traffic channels with a great grade? It’s likely that you do. These are great channels to try and grow because they’re already of a high quality. Let’s use Organic Search traffic as an example. Perhaps you notice in your Primary Metrics area that traffic via search engines brings you great visitors with a good bounce rate, alright conversion rate and stellar site depth. This indicates that this traffic is totally engaged with your website. It also implies that you’re ranking for the right keywords!
So what do you do next? Well, you could simply set an achievable to grow your Organic Search traffic, decide to do some search engine optimization and churn out more content and inbound links and start tracking whether your SEO strategy worked.
Or, you could try to learn more before acting by looking at the details breakdown.
In the details section, you can learn a lot more about your Organic Search traffic and make sure that when you do act, you’re doing so from a position of knowledge and confidence. I like to first look at landing pages. Now you know where visitors are landing on your site and you can make sure they’re welcomed with helpful information that helps them to achieve the goals you want.
Don’t neglect Device Type and User type either. Knowing whether your traffic is searching for you on their mobile devices and whether they’re new or returning can inform your actions. If you have very little mobile searchers, then you know your SEO strategy could focus more on that area. It’s easier to make big gains by starting at your weakest point.
If your Organic Search channel is made up mostly of new visitors, with very few return visitors, you can consolidate your SEO strength by optimizing for site depth, perhaps by adding a clear link to a page that explains your site to first time visitors. This indicates to Google that visitors are not just bouncing and thus Google keeps you ranking high.
Oh, and did you notice that you’ll see a correlated improvement in grade? By improving your bounce rate and site depth, you’ll be improving your Organic Search grade. Nice how holistic every improvement is, isn’t it?
Sadly, Keyword isn’t super helpful since Google hides the details of any of their logged in users’ searches however, there’s still some learning to be done here in the keywords you do see. You could extrapolate somewhat and from the keywords that are visible or rely more on the landing page information to guess the keywords visitors are searching.
There are more involved steps to figuring this out but for now, let’s keep things simple.
When To Think About Improving Your Grade
You may have heard the term “optimize” tossed about online. All too often, it simply refers to getting more “conversions.” These conversions could be more subscribers, or more purchases but that leaves out important aspects of optimization. At Teacup Analytics, we believe in looking at optimizing your site in a more holistic way.
By thinking of your ideal traffic behavior and seeking to enable such ideal behavior, you’ll likely see great, long term results. If you decrease the number of customers bouncing off your sight right away, you’ll likely see a higher conversion rate. Similarly, by working to improve your time on site or site depth, you’ll see a lower bounce rate. See? It’s all connected.
For this reason, we created the grade and grading components. Teacup shows you the overall quality of your traffic and, if you’re so inclined to go granular, the grades of the smaller components.
When is it time to work on your grade? When you have a channel with large-ish traffic volume. If you’d like to get the most worth out of improving your grade, focus on those channels that already bring you significant traffic. Then, if you improve one component, like your conversion rate, it’ll actually have a visible impact on your bottom line. The one exception here is your Paid Search traffic. It’s always worthwhile looking at your grade there. That traffic is costing you money, so by finding your opportunities to improve their visit behavior and experience, you’ll increase your return on your Adwords investment.
To start, head over to the Primary Metrics area. The best place to begin is with any overall grades that are below a B. These are channels that need attention most. By clicking on that grade, you’ll see the grading components and their grades. Now, you can see exactly which area of audience behavior is dragging your grade down and where you can work to optimize your website.
What you do next is up to you, depending on your website, goals and effort. You might make your checkout process better, you might add a pop-up to better engage new visitors. There are many different things you can do, depending on which component you want to improve anf for which channel. The Teacup team is always around to help kick some ideas around and there’s a wealth of information and ideas in the web analytics community. Once you know what to improve, the how is often evident.
Once you’ve thought up a plan of action, use Teacup’s Achievables to make sure you’re making the right decision. By setting a target and tracking whether it worked, you’ll be able to know, for certain, that you made positive long term changes to your visitors’ experience!
Sometimes, however, you need to go even deeper before acting…
Diving Deeper Into Your Quality Grade
Treating all traffic uniformly, even if it’s from one channel, occasionally can lead to missing an opportunity. To better understand the threads that make up rich tapestry of your audience.
In your Details Breakdown section, it could become clear that you don’t have an issue with Organic Search bounce rates. Rather, your issue could stem specifically with mobile searchers. The solutions here are different than if it were the whole channel. If mobile searchers are not finding the information they’re looking for, you could start by making sure that your site looks great on mobile devices. Then, work on making sure that your mobile centric information is obvious, like directions to your store and phone number.
The same applies to all your various segments. Perhaps referral traffic is generally good but the conversion rate from one or two referrers is the issue. By exploring their sites more, you can make adjustments to your content to better serve those visitors.
Here, in the details area, you can understand who you need to optimize for. It’s often possible to go even further in other, more focused reports, if needed. In those more focused reports, you can work within a more streamlined report that includes only the information you need to understand that segment and the ability to set Achievable targets on grading components of traffic segments.
Is A Traffic Channel Worth Your Efforts?
It’s been touched on at other moments in this guidebook, but I’d like to highlight this thought. Not every channel is worth investing time and effort in. Sometimes, it’s obvious what you need to do to improve a grade, for a specific channel and yet, that channel only makes up a small percentage of your overall traffic. So, if you’re able to improve your bounce rate for referral traffic but referral traffic only makes up 5% of your overall traffic, your optimization will only result in a tiny, possible insignificant impact to your bottom line.
Invest your time, and efforts, where you’re most likely to make a return. Pay attention to the volume of traffic and ask yourself if you improve this segment of this channel, what overall benefit will you experience. If the answer isn’t exciting, then it might not be worth it.
Find Your Lynchpin – Which Channel Or Segment Can Have An Outsized Impact
On the flip-side, this report can show you where your lynchpin is. When looking at your top traffic channels, then diving into the Details section, you can find larger segments of your audience. Then you can take small actions that cater to big groups of your audience.
Perhaps you’re seeing a significant amount of traffic coming from referrals to a specific landing page. A simple pop up that welcomes that referral traffic and invites them to take an action, could have an outsized impact on your bottom line. By knowing who the referrer is, and even visiting their site and connecting with them, you can cater to that audience and build relationships and improve your grades.
The same goes for all segments of traffic like new visitors, mobile traffic, whatever. By finding the areas where a small change can impact a lot of one type of visitor, you can get great results.
Bite-Sized Food For Thought
- Which channels are preferred by mobile visitors? Test on your own devices to make sure they’re getting a great experience.
- If you notice a traffic channel with a quality issue, you can use the details section to dive down to find out if the issue lies overall or with a specific segment of traffic like new visitors.
- Note any opposite movement in the time series graph. Did something spike when everything else dropped? Find out why.
- Seeing each channel by volume puts things into perspective.