When people visit your website, they visit it for a reason. The methods for which people search for your site varies from user to user, whether it be organic search, referral sites, paid searches or direct traffic, one way or another they found your site.
Almost always, visitors have different reasons for coming to your sit. Generally speaking, if someone has come across your site through search engines it is because they are looking for an answer to their question.
If you look at the pre-purchase process of consumer behaviour and why people buy, most consumers now a day first start the pre-purchase process online gathering information, answering questions they may have, and comparing costs and product information. Essentially industry experts say that if someone comes to your site via organic search they are more likely to stay on your site and read the content that is available to them. In general, this means you’ll generate more page clickthroughs from organic search engines.
If you find you are getting the majority of site visits from direct traffic this is a good thing for your brand. This means people are typing your url into the web browser, meaning they know your company website already and that your site url is memorable enough for people to recall it. Because this type of traffic mainly consists of past visitors returning to your site, you can assume they liked the content they saw the last time they visited your site. This is also a bad thing in regards to clickthrough rates. Repeat visitors are more likely to miss ads or promotions because of tunnel vision.
The one traffic source I find to be the most interesting is the social media traffic. From my experience, people who use social media are either there to connect with friends of to be entertained. This generally leads to high bounce rates because they generally find information that interreges them, they read your blog, than they leave. Stumbleupon is a great example of this, where users are often encourages to bounce from one site to the next. Don’t get me wrong, social media is great for getting your content out there and getting the clickthrough traffic that most are looking for.
Referral traffic is the main form of traffic that most people strive to achieve because of the positive page grades that people receive from search engines. In one of my previous blog posts I discussed what happened with JC Penny when they used a link farm to create large amounts of referral traffic. The problem with referral traffic is visitors don’t have the same level of knowledge as to who you are as someone who visits your site through direct traffic or organic traffic. Therefore, referral marketing generally leads to higher bounce rates, and lower page clickthroughs on your website. If, however, you have great referral links from trusted sites, visitors are more likely to stay. But be careful with this, such things as link farms can actually have links to your site from pornography sites.
Each of these different traffic sources do different things for your web site. Depending on what you are looking to get out of your traffic sources, that is the area you should focus your efforts on. From my experience social media is more of a brand awareness tool, where organic searches and direct traffic are more lead generating and information gathering for your target market.