While there is no doubt that a whole lot of people use search, a lot, they also use the web and their web-enabled devices in a variety of other ways.
Plus, we know that search engines are constantly making tweaks and changes that may impact your visibility within their results.
Relying too heavily solely on search engines for your traffic can lead to huge vulnerabilities when search engines make changes. Do you really want all of your client development eggs in the search engine basket (or any other single basket for that matter)? I would suggest that your answer ought to be no.
In fact, depending on your approach and goals, search engines might not even be your best source of visitors (blasphemous, I know).
Which is why I would suggest that you focus on increasing relevant visitor traffic from a variety of sources.
Increasing Traffic Source Diversity
Like most things web, increasing your traffic source diversity has to begin with an understanding of how your target audiences use the internet. Do they:
- Enter website addresses directly into their browser’s address bar?
- Bookmark pages in their browsers?
- Use search engines?
- Go directly to familiar sites?
- Consume news content?
- Participate in social media and networking?
- Subscribe to blogs?
- Subscribe to email updates and newsletters?
- Watch watch videos?
Here’s a recent traffic break down by source for my personal blog:
As you can see, search engine traffic makes up only about 25% of the total traffic to my blog. Another 22% of my traffic is direct. And over half of my total blog traffic comes from referring websites.
And when we dive deeper into my blog’s web analytics, we can see more specifically from where my traffic comes:
While Google organic traffic is the largest single source of traffic (remember my total search engine traffic is only about 25% of my total traffic), 8 out of 10 of my top traffic sources are other websites (h/t to Lawyerist at #4).
So how am I generating this referral traffic? Here are a couple of ways:
- Direct: Direct traffic might be visitors typing in the URL in the browser, accessing my site from browser bookmarks, clicking on links in email footers or newsletters or clicking on links in office documents like Word, Excel, Powerpoint, or PDF documents.
- Twitter: t.co is Twitter’s URL shortener.
- Lawyerist: Comments I add or clicks on my profile on Lawyerist.
- LinkedIn: Clicks on my profiles, links that I’ve shared, or group discussions that I have participated in.
- Matt Cutts: Comments I have left on his blog.
- Lawyernomics: Clicks on my author resource link after posts I have contributed and comments I have left.
- Kevin’s Blog: Comments on his blog.
- Hootsuite: Another type of twitter referrer.
- Twitter: Self-explanatory.
As you can see, there are a variety of additional ways people are finding my content in addition to search. And in fact, in aggregate, these non-search ways greatly exceed my search traffic.
It’s worth noting that while a lot of my traffic comes from blog comments and tweets, I’m not suggesting that you run around (or worse hire someone to run around) leaving spam comments and creating spam tweets on your behalf. That is a recipe for reputation, and perhaps ethics, disaster.
What I would encourage you to do is to find a couple people that publish on topics relevant to your practice. Subscribe to their blogs. Read their posts. Leave comments where you can add to the discussion. Follow them on Twitter. Engage them in discourse there. Find LinkedIn groups relevant to your practice. Share ideas and content there. Start developing content yourself. Share it with those that you’ve connected with online. Link to their content in your content.
Traffic Source Diversity and SEO
That’s right, increasing your traffic source diversity can also help your content perform better in search! In fact, SEO master Rand Fishkin suggests that traffic source diversity is essential to SEO:
Search engines want to reward sites that “naturally” attract traffic from other sources – those who get clicks on the links that point to them, who have social media sharing happening aroud their content and who aren’t simply a “farm” for search visits.
So, even those of you who are hyper-focused on search should be working to increase your traffic source diversity!
Increasing traffic source diversity to various forms of web content will help you attract more links from a variety of quality sources.
As the way people use the web, and search engines, continue to evolve, increasing the number the ways that people can find your practice will only become more and more important in terms of developing your practice’s web profile.