Looking at how people are finding you online can give you an insight into how popular you are, how you measure up to the competition, and what your service users and supporters know and trust you for best. Not just online, but more generally too.
There’s three places your website visitors can come from:
- Direct: typing your web address in their web browser.
- Search engines: like Google, Yahoo and Bing.
- Referring sites: by clicking on a link to your site from another website.
Your web analytics tool will tell you how many people came from each, and what the proportions of traffic are, like in the pie chart above from Google Analytics.
If you do a lot of offline marketing, printing your web address on leaflets, posters or TV ads, you’ll find you get lots of direct traffic.
If you’re well regarded by other people, organisations and perhaps the media, you’ll find lots of referring site traffic. Social media success also boosts referred users as links on people’s Twitter feeds or Facebook walls are counted just like a link from The Guardian’s website.
You can see a list of all the sites that point to yours, and how many people they send your way. Look at this list and think about how you can get more links on the kinds of sites that send the most traffic. Also, are there any gaps? Perhaps you’re doing great on national newspaper websites, but you’re seeing no traffic from social media sites, indicating people just aren’t talking about your organisation online.
If you, or the things you write about, are things people seek out and want to know more about, you’ll find you get lots of search engine traffic, of which there are two kinds.
Branded search traffic means visits from people typing in your organisation name or acronym into Google (or any search engine). Whilst this is great, and shows people know or are hearing about your brand, it’s not developing new awareness.
Unbranded search traffic means visits from people searching for information on a topic. This is the best kind of traffic, as it connects people looking for support information, or to take action, on your cause and connects them to your brand.
If you’re seeing very little unbranded traffic then it’s a sign that your organisation might be internally focused, and talk more about itself than the cause it works towards in its marketing and comms. It’s also likely your competitors are benefiting from lots of new awareness whilst your audience remains more static.