It’s easy to get caught up in vanity metrics when trying to grow a website’s traffic.
Users, page views and session counts are meaningless if they don’t reflect your site objective; attracting thousands of visitors with the wrong profiles won’t impact your bottom-line as much as attracting a few hundred good leads.
Finding the best traffic sources for your site means continuously testing new sources of traffic.
As well as you think you know your users and customers, you won’t be able to tell whether a traffic source will bring qualified traffic without actually testing.
Understanding the Two Parts of the Equation
To go beyond vanity metrics, you have to know what you’re trying to achieve with your site. Without a goal, you’ll have difficulty separating good and bad traffic sources.
Now, whether your goal is sales, lead generation, signups or page views (for a site relying on advertisements), you always need to understand what ‘qualified traffic’ means for you. Who are you really trying to attract?
Although we’ll dive deeper into what makes an ideal customer in a future post (Sign up to our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out), the best way to define qualified traffic is to look for the people who have already completed your website’s objective:
- Sales: Who are your best customers? What’s their profile?
- Leads: Which leads are the most likely to close and become long-term buyers?
- Signups: Who uses the product and finds the most value?
- Page views: Which parts of your audience are most valuable to advertisers?
Once you know what your site objective is and who you’re trying to attract, you can start experimenting with traffic sources.
Gathering Data on the Best Traffic Sources
Using your ideal customer profile, you’ll want to map out several hypotheses for traffic sources. You can use our list of platforms to promote your site content as a starting point.
What you’re basically looking for are watering holes – places where your prospects gather for pleasure or for work. These can be forums, communities, groups, blogs, YouTube channels, social media, etc.
You’ll want to run at least three experiments per topic per platform. These tests will help you understand whether the topic of your content makes sense on that specific platform.
If the content is good, people will share it and promote it. This, in turn, will help you discover additional traffic sources.
How to Find the Best Traffic Sources from Your Analytics Data
Once you’re starting to have some data, you’ll want to analyze traffic sources post by post and topic by topic. To this end, it’s often best to start producing content around a single topic before broadening the scope of your content marketing.
Several analytics tools will give you data on traffic sources and conversions.
Google Analytics will allow you to analyze the performance of your pages as pure entry pages using the landing page report (Home > Behavior > Landing Pages):
After selecting your post, you’ll be able to add ‘Source/Medium’ as a secondary dimension (Acquisition > Source/Medium):
This will help you understand the main sources of traffic for a specific post. You’ll want to look at:
- Goal completion: Are you getting leads, sales or signups?
- Secondary goal completion: If you’re not getting leads, sales or signups, are you at least getting signals that your visitors are engaging with your offering?
- Attention: Are visitors sticking around long enough (bounce rate and session duration) to consider your content?
- Volume: Are there enough people entering the funnel to justify the effort?
You’re looking for the balance between high traffic (volume), low bounce rate (stickiness) and high goal completion (conversions). Once you find the traffic sources at the intersection of these 3 criteria (something Highlights was designed to do), you’ll create a sharing profile with your best traffic sources.
For example, after doing this analysis several times, we focus the promotion efforts for our popular email marketing teardowns on:
- Designer News;
- Web Designer News;
We re-visit this list monthly and experiment with new traffic sources every time we publish.
What the Best Traffic Sources Have in Common
The best traffic sources have a predicable relationship between effort and result; the more you invest in those platforms, the more traffic you can get.
Although you can get a lot of blog traffic from being featured in a newsletter or a tweet from an influencer, these strategies may be repeatable, but the specifics probably can’t be repeated (e.g. Gary Vaynerchuk won’t Tweet all your articles! 😬).
To that end, the best traffic sources are also scaleable; they can repeatedly send traffic to your site.
Doubling-Down on Your Best Traffic Sources
There are two levers you can play with to grow your acquisition funnel:
Highlights will help improve the different steps in your acquisition funnel, and the above ☝️ process will help you increase the amount of qualified traffic you get to your site.
To make this process work, you have to treat it like a process.
As an example, we share every blog posts we publish to the platforms we already know perform.
We test new platforms and channels each time we share a blog post. We track performance per traffic sources and refine our sharing profile as we learn about what works and doesn’t.
This makes sure we’re focused on our best traffic sources, and that our content promotion processes continuously improve.