[Answered] Which reports indicate how traffic arrived at a website?

Nov 21, 2022

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Whilst there are a couple of different ways to look at how traffic arrived at a website, everyone has their favourite tools so we’ll be taking you through what we think is the simplest but will also suggest some alternative reports if you want to dive deeper into this topic.

Get started with Google Analytics

First of all, great job on getting there! Because once you’re looking at which reports indicate how traffic arrived at a website it means that you do have some traffic coming to your website and it means that you’ve done many things right and now you want to make it even better.

My favourite tool explaining how traffic arrived at a website is Google Analytics.

There are many reports inside Google Analytics and if you don’t know your way around and are not a web analytics super nerd, it can get a little overwhelming.

Therefore, by far my favourite report showing how traffic arrived at a website is also the simplest report and you can find it under the Acquisition tab.

From the acquisition tab, move down to All Traffic and then click on Channels as shown in the image below.

Google Analytics - Acquisition Report
Navigating to the report

What you will see is a report that will usually show you five to seven different rows. Each of these rows represents a channel of how traffic arrived at a website as you can see in the example below.

How traffic arrived at a website
The Google Analytics Channels report

Direct Traffic Report

When you see the word Direct, it typically means that these website visitors knew your URL and directly typed it into the browser.

For example, if I give you my business card with the URL: thetrafficninjas.com and you have that in an offline form (not electronic) and decide to look up the website, you will just simply type it into the browser as you can see in the below example.

Typing the URL directly into the browser is an example of Direct Traffic

Everyone who does this counts inside the Google Analytics report as Direct traffic. And usually, these visitors are return visitors or someone who has your business card or has seen you at a conference or local crafts markets.

However, something to keep in mind is a scenario where you advertise your URL on social media but your audience doesn’t click on the post or an ad – instead, they type the URL into the browser, they would count as Direct traffic although they might originate from paid ads.

Organic Traffic Report

The Organic Traffic report is an indication of how many website visitors arrived at your website from organic search engines, such as Google.

These are either people who put your business name inside the search bar or they could be also people searching for a solution or a product.

As a business owner, ideally, you want to have more people finding you when they search for a solution or a product rather than typing your business name into the search bar, as those searches are more likely to turn into leads and sales and ultimately represent the oxygen flow for your business.

If you’ve got it set up right, you can click on that report and it will indicate further how traffic arrived at a website down to the search terms these website visitors used to find you. It’s a super powerful report and definitely worth connecting to your Google Search Console so that you can be on top of all of the search queries when looking at website traffic.

Paid Traffic Report

The Paid traffic is self-explanatory and it indicated running campaigns either on Google, YouTube or Social media such as Facebook or Instagram.

Depending on what type of business you have, one thing you might want to be paying attention to is what return you got out of those paid traffic efforts.

For paid traffic, you want to be measuring either cost for every lead or how much it costs you to make a sale so that you can evaluate how profitable is this sales channel and if you want to invest more or less.

Email Traffic Report

The Email traffic report indicates which traffic arrived at a website from your email efforts. If you’re sending email campaigns, it will show you how many clicks to your website are these emails generating and if you have an eCommerce store, how it leads to transactions.

For most businesses, this will be one of the smaller traffic sources as most businesses either focus to drive traffic to their website from paid sources or organic search sources and hence email traffic just ends up being an auxiliary source.

Referral Traffic Report

The referral traffic report can be, for some businesses, a very interesting report indicating how traffic arrived at a website from any partnerships or affiliates.

If your business links to any other website or if you partner with a blogger or an affiliate or perhaps even if you’re doing a lot of work on social media sending your audience to Linktree or linkpop or similar pages, it will get registered under the referral traffic report.

In this way, you can check which partnerships work well for you in terms of giving you the traffic volume but also which partnerships work for you in terms of value. By value, we mean giving you higher-quality visitors who not only browse, but actually buy.

Alternative reports indicating how traffic arrived at a website?

If you have an eCommerce store and are running it on a Shopify platform, for example, you can also see inside the tool various reports indicating how traffic arrived at a website.

The simplest way to go there is by clicking on Analytics and then scrolling down through the middle of the page to see the report showing ‘Sessions by traffic source’.

The Shopify Sessions by Traffic Source on the Analytics Dashboard

On other platforms such as WordPress, it’s eCommerce store plug-in Woocommerce or other eCommerce platforms such as Weebly will have similar reports – although, for some of these platforms, you might have to install separate analytics tools to be able to get to this level of information.

Therefore, if you ask us how to find out where traffic arrived from – our favourite report by far will be the simple Google Analytics report as it’s very accurate, easily accessible and once you know how to read it, also simple to understand and make informed business decisions.

After all, you want to get your marketing efforts right and grow your business profitably and sustainably.

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Silvia Myers

Silvia Myers

Traffic Ninja & eCommerce Coach

Silvia is co-founder of Traffic Ninjas, teaching product makers and brand builders how to sell their incredible products online without having to discount or spend their hard-earned cash on things that don’t work.

Together with her husband and co-founder, Kristen, Traffic Ninjas equip eCommerce stores with an underground Ninja method specifically designed for small business owners, teaching them how to be profitable and sustainable and actually earn an income from selling their products online.

The Traffic Ninjas community has grown from Sydney, Australia to 35+ countries around the world with small business owners achieving amazing results.


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