One of the best things about using web analytics tools for your business is tracking user activity; namely where your visitors are coming from, be it social media, other websites, or simply by visiting your site directly.

Knowing your traffic sources is essential for improving your business since it helps you evaluate the effectiveness of your search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, and other marketing methods. There are plenty of analysis tools on the web for getting these insights, but Google Analytics is the most popular solution.

If you’re already using Google Analytics you’re probably gathering this information already. Of course, while having data is helpful, it’s worthless if you don’t understand what’s going on. Fortunately, learning where your traffic is coming from isn’t too difficult. Follow the tips below and you’ll understand how to use this invaluable information.

Traffic Source Type

The primary types of organic traffic for websites:

  • Direct: Visitors who access your site by typing it in directly, or accessing it via a bookmark. Sometimes this traffic is misclassified organic traffic.
  • Referral: Visitors from other websites. Within this category you can view webpages that are linking to your site.
    • Don’t be surprised if you see a bunch of fake or spam sites in this list. Unfortunately referral spam is an issue for most webmasters, but there are ways to filter it out.
  • Organic Search: Visitors who reach your site through search engines (Google, Bing, etc.), excluding paid ads.
    • Google Analytics shows you impression counts, clicks, click through rates (CTR), and the average search position for the queries.
    • While Bing shows you the exact keywords that trigger clicks to your site, Google stopped doing that awhile back due to spam concerns. Despite this, there are ways to improve your keyword targeting.
  • Social: Allows you to analyze how your site performs on various social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Google+.

Viewing the Data

Now that you know the basic terminology for your traffic sources, you can go to the Acquisition tab of your dashboard and use the tools to view the information from there. If you have paid search campaigns on Google, you can also view that data under Acquisition > AdWords.

Taking the Analysis Further

Viewing general trends within Google Analytics only does so much to improve your operations. In order to really stand out from the competition, you need ways to interact with your digital prospects and customers, one on one. This is where review analysis, social media monitoring, and campaign monitoring help your business. Combined together, this comprehensive digital arsenal will boost your company’s marketing efforts.

Want to learn more about Google Analytics for your business? Check back to our blog throughout the month of October.

Charles Costa is a content strategist specializing in product marketing and business & technology writing. Charles is also a contributor to the Connectivity blog