Identification of your Traffic Sources

Reading time: 7 minutes

An important dimension of the web analytics, is the analysis of the performance of each of your traffic sources. As a webmaster, you must know that your traffic can be from many different sources, and that it is a priority to measure the performance of each of these sources. Even more if you are paying for it.

What are the basic traffic sources

We know that there are many traffic sources that can bring traffic to your website. Here is a list of the most important ones:

  • Direct access: As you can guess, the “direct access » is the traffic source that represents all the people that came on your website by typing your Domain Name directly on their search bar, or from their favorite. However, this traffic source has to be handled gently, since the people coming directly to your website are your employees, partners, etc. Unless you notoriety is very high.


  • Social traffic: This traffic obviously regroup all the traffic that comes from any social network such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, …


  • Organic traffic: This traffic source is divided in two sub categories, with first, the Natural Organic Traffic, which represents all the audience that comes from your natural referring on search engines (SEO), and next, the Paid Search Traffic, that regroups all the traffic that comes from search campaigns (ppc) such as Google Adwords, Bing Ads, etc.


  • Email Traffic: This traffic represents all the audience that you get from your email campaigns, newsletter, etc


  • Referral traffic: This traffic represents all the audience that comes from other websites than search engine or social networks. This is usually super good for your SEO, because it means that other websites have an interest in your content. (It can be a link from another website, but also a link from a comment in a blog)


Some Web Analytics tools have their own auto-classification of website hosts into some of these category. So, automatic classification may be different for one single hostname depending on the web analytics tools.

Why it is important to identify your traffic sources

As any other dimensions in Web Analytics, the audience you bring from one specific traffic source can have a really different approach and behavior on your website than any other one. Also, it is very important to focus on the analysis of your traffic sources, because you are usually spending money or time on each of them, and you want to be sure that each of the traffic source is correctly tracked, and that you can have a day to day follow up of what is happening.

One of the most used KPI to measure the success of your campaigns, is the CPA. By identifying each of your traffic source, and tracking correctly your website, you will be able to optimize each of the traffic source separately, and decrease each of your CPA, as well as increase your ROI.

How to identify your traffic sources?

Following the web analytics tool you are using, the mean to identify each of the traffic source differs, but the way it works remain the same. We will first see how to do it with a technique that works for most Web Analytics tool, and then how to do it on Google Analytics

The most common way to identify your traffic source is by using UTM. A UTM is a code that is added to your URL, which will help you identify a bunch of variables. Here are the 5 variables that can be identified thanks to the UTM:

  • utm_source : The UTM source represents the traffic source that is sending you an audience. This this variable is set manually, it is you that decide how to name it. (For example, you can name it « Adwords »).


  • utm_medium: The UTM medium represents the medium that sent the audience to your website. For example, a medium could be: utm_medium=banner.


  • utm_campaign: The UTM campaign is the variable that carries the name of your campaign. If your website sells shoes, a campaign name could be: utm_campaign=shoes_man.


  • utm_content: The UTM content represents the content that displayed your link to your audience. It could be: utm_content=homepage.


  • utm_term: The UTM term is the keyword that the user used to reach your website. A good example would be: utm_term=shoes_for_man.


On Google Adwords, you can also use the « auto-tagging ». The auto tagging is super effective because it will collect all of the variables listed above, automatically, in your Google Analytics account. You will not have to set up anything. Then, Google Analytics will automatically identify each of the variables, and display them naturally. Moreover, the Auto tagging will give you (on Google Analytics) other datas such as the time of the day, the position of your keywords, and many others.

The analysis of each of your traffic source will help you to “micro-manage” your ROI, with as a main goal, the increase of your global ROI. With the development of the Internet, more and more traffic will appear, and keeping an eye on who is coming on your website or application is mandatory if you want to keep control of your spendings.





Stay updated! Join our newsletter for webanalysis tips