Search engines (mostly Google) are still the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to generating clicks to your website. But ignoring referral traffic from other sources like directories, social media, and other websites would be a huge mistake.
This is especially true as younger audiences increasingly search for businesses on social media and as referral traffic increased from 3% to over 10% of total traffic for the average website in 2022.
In this guide, you’ll learn the most popular sources of referral traffic, how it helps your business grow, and what you can do to get more clicks from places outside of search engines.
Referral traffic refers to traffic coming from a link on a site that’s not your own. If you clicked the link we added to the introduction of this guide, the website you landed on would count your visit as referral traffic.
By comparison, the other common website traffic sources are search and direct traffic. Search traffic comes from visitors clicking on search engine results. Direct traffic is from visitors that go directly to your website, like if they type your URL into their browser.
Examples of referral traffic sources can include:
Social media apps like Facebook or X (formerly known as Twitter)
Online directories like Yelp or Angi
Just about any non-search engine website like a blog post
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If you want to grow your business, attracting more referral traffic is an important step. Here are three reasons why.
At the most basic level, increasing referral traffic means increasing the number of potential customers who visit your website.
But it’s not just more people coming in through your virtual door. It’s people that found you by actively clicking a link that interested them. So if the backlink they clicked is relevant to your website, those visitors have a high intent to learn about, and maybe purchase, what you sell.
Backlinks from high-quality websites are a signal to search engines that your website is trustworthy.
Backlinks are still an influential search engine ranking factor, as shown in this graph from FirstPageSage.
As your backlink profile and referral traffic grow, you’ll land on more search engine results pages and generate more traffic from them.
Google is a fantastic source of traffic. But relying too much on a single source is dangerous—especially as Google’s constant updates can greatly affect your traffic overnight.
Headlines like this one from Search Engine Journal show why it’s important to diversify your website traffic sources.
As you diversify your sources of referral traffic, you gain more control over the success of your site. If one source, like search, takes a hit, you can buffer the dip with more traffic from another source like directories.
So generating more referral traffic is important. But how do we go about getting more of it? Let’s dive in.
Online directories are like the phonebooks of the digital age. People look to websites like Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, and Angi (formerly Angi’s List) to find the services and business they need.
Yelp is one of the most popular business directories, but there are dozens of others that will help increase your online footprint.
Ideally, you want exposure on as many directories as possible. But you also want to make sure that your information is current, so no one gets frustrated trying to reach you. You can even optimize your listings with things like images, service descriptions, and reviews.
🚨 Not sure if your directory listings are up to par? Use our free Listings Grader to instantly check your listing information across 20+ top online directories.
It’s best to focus your guest posting efforts on sites that are related to your business, which means your content will be in front of a relevant audience providing top-notch referral traffic. If you can set up a regular guest posting schedule, all the better, because that allows you to keep your referral traffic from those sources steady over time and increase traffic to your website.
Press releases are a quick and easy way to get a wave of fresh traffic from referring URLs. It’s a great idea to do a press release for an event you’ll be hosting or to announce milestones like executive changes, earnings releases, acquisitions, and product launches.
A press release is great for promoting new products or events while generating valuable referral traffic from the publications that pick it up.
But to be honest, if you are paying for a press release, you can write about pretty much anything and pretend it’s newsworthy. Some businesses even send out press releases whenever they get a new client.
Social media sites are also natural contenders for bringing in referral traffic. Plus, there are several options to fit your brand and audience.
Facebook, for example, is fantastic for an older audience and organizing events. TikTok caters to a younger crowd and lets you show off your video flair. And of course, there’s LinkedIn, if your target customer is of a professional mindset.
No matter which social media platforms you choose, make sure your posts have a clear call to action that leads people to your website. That’s how you drive referral traffic from social media apps.
Depending on the platform, you can add CTA links, buttons, or text in the caption.
If you want to catch backlinks and increase the traffic you get from other websites, you need the right bait. In this case, we’re talking about content that other websites want to link to.
Here are a few types of content that writers and marketers love to link to:
Original data: Statistics from a survey or data your app captures
Infographics: A roundup of statistics or a visual presentation of a process
Opinionated blog posts: A fresh take on a common question in your industry
Once you’ve created your backlink magnet, share it with publications and thought leaders in your industry so they can link back to your site.
Referral traffic is an important source of new potential customers. As search engines get more finicky, and more people search social media platforms, referrals will be an even bigger factor in your success online.
As you think about how to get more website visitors from more places, remember these five quick and easy ways to get more referral traffic:
Get listed in online directories
Submit guest posts
Write press releases
Get active on social media
Create link-worthy content
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