Are You Realizing the Potential of Your Referral Traffic?

If you’ve ever been asked, “How did you hear about us?” when paying for your goods at a local shop, take a second to answer what seems like idle cash register chit-chat. Because it’s not.

For a business owner, it’s worth risking a polite intrusion across the cash register to find out how you found your way into their business – is their advertising working? Is her mom still bragging about the shop at book club? Were you a guest at another customer’s catered party?

In our world of digital marketing, paying attention to referral traffic has a potentially even greater return on investment. And the other bonus, of course: you can pry your customers for loads of information without even disrupting their experience.

Look at the past to see the future

A referral path shows you the specific page that featured your website and is a gold mine for identifying your top influencers (Is it a particular writer or a general website that loves you?). You’re tracking all of your links, right? Campalyst Tweet Lookup Plugin can help you identify those shortened twitter links to identify an exact tweet that brought in your traffic.

Unexpected traffic spikes

After you refresh the Google Analytics page and the Mt. Everest-like pageview spike is still there, you can allow yourself a mental high five. Now it’s time to find out where these visitors came from. Did something you wrote or feature go viral? Were you linked from a high-traffic website? Either way, you’ll want to isolate what connected with this particular website (or websites) and re-create the content magic to help flatten the other end of that traffic spike. Or, if the budget allows – start a paid campaign on that site.

Sharing is caring

Shortened links (we discussed earlier how to read shortened links, but as for creating them: bitly is a fave), Pinnable images (with meta descriptions!) and embedded “Share” icons reduce the complexity of your viewers sharing your content with their social circles. And even though this Mashable article says you shouldn’t expect social to drive sales, social is often a great channel for brand value, so consider how you’d like your content to be shared when you go live.

Listen to what your referral traffic is telling you about what visitors want, who is talking about you, and what they’re saying. Ignoring where your visitors are coming from is like letting a customer walk out the door without finding out why they were interested in your business in the first place. Just as you optimize sign-up flow and sales funnels, you can use the data gathered from your referral traffic to create stronger ties to your off-site partners and ensure that the content on your site meets expectations after an initial off-site introduction.

Start optimizing referral traffic, and may all your conversions be merry and bright!

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