Website Traffic Sources: 8 Essential Types (+ Growth Hacks)

Computer displaying website analytics (website traffic sources)

Website traffic sources: if you’re not leveraging them, you’re missing out on revenue opportunities. And if you don’t diversify them, you’re putting all your digital eggs into one basket. All of this spells trouble for your bottom line.

Imagine this scenario: you’ve put tremendous effort into crafting a visually stunning website, generating compelling content, and offering an exceptional product or service. However, without a steady stream of visitors, it’s akin to having a hidden gem tucked away in a quiet corner of a bustling city. In other words, you need prime downtown real estate, a giant lustrous billboard, and sign twirlers ready to sing your praises to anyone within hearing distance. A long-winded metaphor, but you get the picture. Fortunately, there are several website traffic sources available to help you get the word out.

Whether you’re a seasoned marketer wanting to optimize your traffic generation or a business owner trying to figure out the best sources for your specific niche, this blog post has got you covered. We’ll address common questions, provide valuable insights, and guide you toward effective strategies to increase your website’s traffic. So, buckle up and get ready to explore the world of website traffic sources and unleash the true potential of your online presence. Let’s dive in!

businessman with a tablet managing website traffic sources

Website Traffic Sources: The Basics

The key to leveraging website traffic sources boils down to three things: understanding the different types of traffic sources and how to optimize your digital strategy for each one, diligently monitoring your website traffic in order to become intimately familiar with your strengths and weaknesses in traffic generation, and diversifying the streams of traffic your website brings in to maximize your online presence.

Odds are, between paid traffic, organic search traffic, referral traffic, and the myriad of other sources within the website traffic pantheon, you’re going to find that two or three of them are more effective for your particular business model and target audience. Take your time and really fortify your traffic generation strategies in those areas, but don’t neglect other sources of traffic due to unfamiliarity, especially from the get-go.

When it comes to website traffic, it’s a good idea to aim for a balanced approach. Diversifying your traffic sources will help you enjoy more stability, as well as greater reach. With that being said, let’s take a look at some of the more common and effective website traffic sources.

The 8 Different Website Traffic Sources

Okay, technically, there are 18 different traffic sources as defined by Google Analytics:

  1. Affiliates
  2. Audio
  3. Cross-network
  4. Direct
  5. Display
  6. Email
  7. Mobile Push Notifications
  8. Organic Search
  9. Organic Shopping
  10. Organic Social
  11. Organic Video
  12. Paid Other
  13. Paid Search
  14. Paid Shopping
  15. Paid Social
  16. Paid Video
  17. Referral
  18. SMS

But, in the name of brevity, we’re going to go over the eight main categories. Some of these sources overlap in terms of their uses and importance to certain marketing initiatives, so we’ll focus on the high-level source categories to help you zero in on the best traffic sources for your business.

Let’s get started!

1. Organic Search Traffic

Organic search traffic refers to visitors who find your website through search engine results pages (SERPs) like Google or Bing without any paid advertising. In other words, this type of website traffic comes from people who type in specific queries, like best sci-fi novels of 2024 or how to remove cat hair from furniture and discover your website from the assortment of organic (meaning, not “sponsored”) search results. Only the top handful of search results ever get picked by our discerning internet explorers, and that’s where SEO comes into play.

You’ve probably heard the term “SEO” before – this is the magic bullet of organic traffic-boosting methods. It stands for “search engine optimization,” and many basic SEO strategies really aren’t hard to implement.

SEO is an attractive prospect to website owners because:

  1. It doesn’t cost any money to improve website rankings.
  2. It’s a long-term strategy that will continue to generate traffic for years.
magnifying glass over blocks that spell out "SEO"

The downside of SEO is that it requires patience and consistency – it can take months or even years to see the results of your efforts, which is why many website owners grow bored of SEO and opt to focus on other, quicker sources of traffic. Still, we highly recommend putting at least some of your eggs in this basket. It’s a smart way to ensure your website receives steady traffic over the long run.

Increasing Organic Traffic

So, the way to increase your organic traffic? Start with SEO. Focus on creating high-quality, informative content that aligns with user search intent and optimizing your website for relevant keywords. In addition to keyword optimization, implement on-page optimization techniques such as image compression, page speed improvements, and internal linking. Also, don’t forget to set up your website for search engine crawlers by creating an XML sitemap and submitting it to Google Search Console. Lastly, make sure to regularly monitor your traffic stats so you can adjust your strategy accordingly.

Check out our full guide to organic traffic!

2. Paid Traffic

If SEO is the tortoise in the race for generating website traffic, then paid advertising is the hare. The only difference is that, unlike the hare, you can actually win with paid advertising – but you’ll have to invest a bit of money.

Paid advertising is a digital marketing strategy where businesses pay for ad placements on various platforms to drive targeted traffic to their websites. It encompasses a range of channels, including paid search (e.g., Google Ads), social media advertising (e.g., Facebook Ads), display ads, and video ads (e.g., YouTube ads). Each type of paid advertising offers unique targeting and ad format options to effectively reach specific audiences and achieve marketing goals.

Paid advertising falls into two broad categories: paid search and display advertising. Search engine ads (e.g. Google Ads or Bing Ads) are placed in the SERPs based on user search terms, and display ads get served up to users through targeted networks like Google Display Network or social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, etc.

The main benefit of paid advertising is that it generates results – quickly. However, it forces you to shell out money consistently in order to stay competitive and remain top-of-mind for your target audience.

Increasing Paid Traffic

The best method for increasing website traffic through paid advertising is going to depend on a couple of things, namely:

  1. What type of paid advertising you’re trying (paid search or display advertising)
  2. What kind of budget you’re working with
  3. The channel you’re using to run your ads (e.g., Facebook, Google, etc.)
  4. What you want your customer to do (e.g., buy a product, download an ebook, sign up for a newsletter, etc.)

It’s best to start with where you think your customer base is spending the most time, and then build out from there. For example, if your customer base is mainly looking for your products or services on Instagram or Facebook, opt for display ads on those platforms to get in front of their eyes.

Search engine advertising will be most beneficial for businesses that are getting a lot of search-related traffic, such as hotels, marketing companies, and software platforms – anything that requires users to type in specific queries into a search engine.

Optimizing Paid Search Advertising

To make the most of paid search advertising, start by diving into thorough keyword research. Discover the keywords your target audience is searching for and bid strategically to ensure your ads show up when it matters most. Craft compelling ad copy that grabs attention and entices users to click through to your website – make sure that you’re including not just keywords in your headlines, but exciting benefits and irresistible features.

Google search results for query, "how to remove cat hair from furniture" that displays a well-made advertisement
Example of a paid search ad that speaks to the target audience’s desires.

Don’t forget to optimize your landing pages, ensuring they provide a seamless user experience and nudge visitors toward conversion. Oh, and don’t be shy about monitoring your campaigns’ performance and making data-driven adjustments to maximize your return on investment.

Check out our full guide to paid traffic and how to increase it!

Optimizing Display Ads

Display ads will typically rely more on design than search engine advertising. To captivate the attention of users, design display ads that are visually stunning and impossible to ignore. Craft messages that speak directly to your target customer and their needs, and incorporate visuals that draw the user in.

display advertisement examples

When it comes to optimizing display ads, it’s all about testing different elements of the ad until you get a winning combination. Try experimenting with multiple images, copy variations, colors, and placements to see what works best for your business. This type of split testing will help you identify the best design for your ads and get the most out of your display ad spend.

And remember, targeting matters! Select relevant websites and audiences that align with your brand and offerings. Keep a keen eye on impressions, clicks, and conversions to fine-tune your campaigns for optimal performance.

3. Social Media Traffic

Social media platforms have become a driving force in website traffic generation. By effectively leveraging platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others, you can reach a vast audience and direct them to your website.

Social media platforms offer a variety of ways to generate website traffic, including organic posts, sponsored ads, influencer marketing, and more. Organic content can be used to build awareness for your business and drive direct clicks to your website. Sponsored ads allow you to target specific audiences based on their interests or demographics – this is a great way to drive highly targeted traffic to your website. Influencer marketing is an effective way to reach a wide audience and drive more traffic, especially if you partner with influencers in industries related to yours.

Increasing Social Media Traffic

Social media is not just a platform; it’s a gateway to an audience that craves authentic connections and engaging experiences. To harness the true power of social media traffic, you must go beyond mere presence and actively engage with your target audience.

  1. Know Your Audience Inside Out: Before embarking on any social media strategy, immerse yourself in understanding your audience. What are their pain points, desires, and interests? Tailor your content to resonate with their needs and preferences, making them feel heard and understood.
  2. Create Captivating Content: Stand out from the crowd by crafting visually stunning and compelling content. From attention-grabbing visuals to informative videos and inspiring stories, every piece of content should evoke emotions and encourage your audience to take action.
  3. Leverage the Power of Video: Video content has taken the social media world by storm. Embrace live videos, captivating stories, and educational tutorials to capture your audience’s attention and lead them toward your website.
  4. Engage and Interact: Don’t just post and disappear; actively engage with your followers. Respond to comments, answer questions, and participate in conversations. Building meaningful relationships with your audience fosters loyalty and drives traffic through genuine interactions.
  5. Optimize Posting Times: Timing is crucial on social media. Identify when your audience is most active and schedule your posts accordingly. Experiment with posting times and analyze engagement metrics to find the sweet spot that maximizes traffic.
  6. Utilize Social Media Analytics: Rely on social media analytics to gain invaluable insights into your audience’s behavior. Analyze performance metrics, track click-through rates, and identify high-performing content to refine your social media strategy continually.

4. Referral Traffic

Referral traffic occurs when visitors land on your website through external sources such as other websites, blogs, or social media platforms. To gain referral traffic, you have to create content that users or other industry resources want to share and link to. This could include blog posts, videos, podcasts, case studies, and more – anything that adds value to your target audience and encourages them to refer others.

buttons that spell out "referral"

A good amount of referral traffic is also a great way to increase your domain authority, which is a game-changer for improving your organic search engine rankings. Establish relationships with other industry websites and collaborate to create shareable content that both parties can benefit from. Also, take advantage of high-traffic forums, Reddit, Quora, and other Q&A sites – they often drive lots of referral traffic when used correctly.

Increasing Referral Traffic

The first and most obvious way to increase referral traffic is to create high-quality content consistently. This might seem straightforward (it certainly can be) and many marketers might think they have this in the bag, but it’s important to dive into what constitutes “high-quality” content.

Your content needs to be useful, informative, or entertaining — if it fails on any of those counts, you risk losing out on potential referral traffic. Check your website stats and analytics regularly to see which content is driving the most referral traffic – this will tell you what users are finding “useful” and what they aren’t.

In addition to creating high-quality content, you should also actively build relationships with other industry resources and influencers. This could include guest blogging, collaborating on content, or simply networking (think LinkedIn, industry events, conferences, etc). Whenever you come across an article that relates to your industry, comment and share the article — this will help build rapport with other professionals in your field and increase the chances of them linking back to your website.

Finally, you should take advantage of social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn to engage with your target audience. Posting content regularly helps keep the conversation going and encourages users to visit your website. Promote your content through other channels like email newsletters or influencer marketing campaigns — this increases visibility and drives more referral traffic to your site.

5. Traffic From Emails

You might be hesitant to consider email marketing an effective method for generating website traffic. After all, you have to have already established a relationship with someone before you can send them an email, right? What’s more, these users have likely already visited your website before. With that in mind, can you really consider them fresh, untapped traffic to potentially drive revenue from?

Just because a stream of traffic isn’t fresh doesn’t mean it’s any less valuable. In fact, email marketing can be an incredibly effective way to drive website traffic — and conversions — despite the fact that users have engaged with your site before.

Welcome to the world of upselling, retargeting, and cross-selling. Email marketing is a great way to engage with customers who have already made a purchase or engaged with your website in some way. You can use email campaigns to not only keep them coming back, but also encourage them to make more purchases, refer their friends and family, or consider additional related products/services.

person on mobile device managing prospects through email marketing

Increasing Email Traffic

Here are some strategies for leveraging email marketing:

  1. Leverage Automation: Automated emails provide an effective way to send timely messages and personalize content for subscribers. Take advantage of triggered messages such as welcome emails and abandoned cart reminders to drive website visits.
  2. Utilize Segmentation: Personalization is the key to resonating with your audience. Segmenting your email list based on various criteria, such as demographics, purchase history, or engagement level, allows you to target your messages with precision. When your subscribers receive content tailored to their specific interests, they are more likely to open, engage, and click through to your website.
  3. Provide Incentives: Offer discounts, incentives, or exclusive content to motivate subscribers to take action. This helps build a better relationship and encourages subscribers to visit your website more often.
  4. Optimize for Clicks and Engagement: An optimized email campaign can significantly impact click-through rates and drive more traffic. Ensure your emails feature compelling calls-to-action (CTAs) that prompt subscribers to take action. Integrate interactive elements like quizzes, polls, or surveys to increase engagement and encourage clicks. Moreover, prioritize mobile-responsive design to capture clicks from users on any device, enhancing their overall experience and driving more traffic to your website.
  5. Create Personal Touchpoints: True personalization goes beyond generic greetings. Dive into understanding your subscribers’ preferences and deliver content that aligns with their individual needs. Utilize dynamic content and smart tags to customize email content based on their interactions with your brand. By providing a personalized touch, you can build trust and loyalty, enticing more traffic to your website as subscribers seek more of the tailored experiences you offer.

Email marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to drive website traffic, and when done properly, it can be an incredibly powerful tool. With the right strategies in place, you can use email marketing to engage with your audience and attract more visitors to your website.

6. Direct Traffic

Direct traffic is a unique type of website traffic that doesn’t come through search engines, social media, or other external sources. Instead, it occurs when users directly enter your website’s URL into their browser or click on a bookmark they’ve saved. Essentially, these visitors are intentional and know exactly where they want to go.

Well, that’s the commonly used definition, anyway. In reality, traffic can be considered “direct” for a few other reasons. According to Google Analytics, direct traffic occurs when users land on a website without referring information or a defined source. This could include users coming from unexpected sources, such as mobile applications or links in email campaigns. Direct traffic can also include visits from “soft” sources like PDFs, documents, and other downloads that don’t have a clear source of origin — such as visitors who type the URL directly into their browser.

Why Direct Traffic Matters

Direct traffic is a valuable source of website visits, and understanding the unique behavior of these visitors can help you optimize your marketing efforts. Direct traffic often has a low bounce rate, indicating that users are more likely to spend time on your website once they land there. It also provides an opportunity to track users directly accessing specific pages or content — such as those coming directly from your newsletter — allowing you to better measure the performance of campaigns.

Increasing Direct Traffic

man typing "www" into a search engine

Here are a few practical ways to drive more direct website traffic:

  1. Strengthen Brand Awareness: To boost direct traffic, focus on building a strong brand presence. Consistent branding across all marketing channels, including your website, social media, and offline materials, helps people remember your URL and come back for more.
  2. Encourage Bookmarking: Make it easy for visitors to bookmark your website. Place a prominent “Bookmark this page” button on your site or provide clear instructions on how to add your site to their browser bookmarks.
  3. Offline Marketing Efforts: Don’t neglect offline marketing, such as business cards, flyers, and print ads. Ensure your website URL is displayed prominently in all these materials.
  4. Email Signature: Add your website link to your email signature. This simple but effective step can encourage recipients to visit your website.
  5. Compelling Content and CTAs: Create engaging content that leaves a lasting impression on your audience. Include clear and compelling calls-to-action (CTAs) throughout your website, encouraging visitors to return or explore further.
  6. Use Branded URLs: If you have specific campaigns or landing pages, use branded URLs that are easy to remember and type directly into the browser.

By focusing on strengthening brand awareness and providing memorable experiences, you can increase direct traffic and cultivate a loyal audience that regularly returns to your website.

Check out our guide on direct vs organic traffic for more information.

7. SMS Traffic

Traffic from text messages is pretty similar to traffic from emails, but it has one major difference: immediacy. SMS is one of the most direct methods for getting your message out to prospective customers, and since the average person checks their phone more than 150 times a day, you can be sure that they’ll see it in no time.

Increasing SMS Traffic

If you’re housing your email and SMS automations within the same platform, you can easily increase SMS traffic using many of the same strategies you used for your email marketing campaign.

Just like with your emails, you should create compelling content and CTAs, optimize for clicks and engagement, and use personalization techniques. Additionally, it’s essential to build trust with your subscribers to encourage them to take action from the text messages they receive.

Here are a few more tips for maximizing SMS traffic:

  1. Create Convincing Opt-in Copy: Make sure that your opt-in copy is compelling enough that users will want to click through to get more information.
  2. Use Persistent Messaging: Keep your messaging consistent and timely, but don’t be too frequent or pushy with your messages.
  3. Use Urgency: Leverage time-sensitive language and offers to encourage users to act quickly on your messages.
  4. Offer Incentives: Offering incentives such as discounts or exclusive content can also help draw in more users.

Text messaging is one of the most effective ways to reach your audience, and by leveraging these strategies, you can quickly drive more traffic to your website from text messages. So don’t be afraid to get creative and use all the tools in your arsenal to maximize SMS traffic.

Man using a laptop at a desk

8. Traffic From Affiliates

Affiliate traffic is a powerful way to extend your online reach and attract new visitors to your website through partnerships with other businesses or individuals (affiliates). In an affiliate marketing arrangement, affiliates promote your products or services on their platforms, and in return, they receive a commission for every sale or action generated through their efforts.

How Affiliate Marketing Works

Affiliate marketing operates on a performance-based model, meaning you only pay affiliates when their efforts result in conversions. These conversions could be sales, leads, sign-ups, or any other predetermined action that aligns with your business goals.

Affiliates use various marketing techniques, such as blog posts, social media promotion, email marketing, or YouTube reviews, to attract their audience to your products or services. By leveraging their existing reach, you tap into a wider audience that might not have discovered your website otherwise.

Increasing Affiliate Traffic

  1. Offer Competitive Commissions: Attractive commission rates motivate affiliates to put in more effort and promote your products passionately.
  2. Nurture Relationships: Cultivate strong relationships with your affiliates by providing timely support, engaging content, and exclusive offers.
  3. Run Promotions: Launch special promotions and limited-time offers to give affiliates an extra incentive to promote your products.
  4. Monitor Results: Regularly analyze affiliate performance and conversion data to identify successful strategies and areas for improvement.
  5. Encourage Content Creation: Encourage affiliates to create valuable, authentic content around your products or services. User-generated reviews and testimonials can be particularly impactful.


Driving website traffic is essential for any business looking to increase its online presence and boost sales. To do this effectively, it’s important to understand the different web traffic sources and how they can be leveraged. From SEO to email marketing, there are many strategies for increasing website visits. By utilizing the right tactics, you can monitor traffic data and maximize your website traffic, ultimately reaching more customers.

Are there any other tips or resources we should include in our blog post? Let us know in the comments below!

Picture of Kouressa Smith

Kouressa Smith

Kouressa is WGM’s resident website content manager. In this position, she directs the content creation for WGM’s marketing channels. She develops SEO strategies, maps out the overall direction of content per project, and helps facilitate the creation of that content. Kouressa has over eight years of experience writing professionally and gained her bachelor’s in creative writing and technical communication at Texas Tech University.

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