One of my favourite reports in Google Analytics is the traffic sources report. By observing data in the Google Analytics traffic report we better position ourselves to find marketing opportunities online.

An overview of the Google analytics report


As you can see the report is broken down into four main areas of

  • Search traffic
  • Referral traffic
  • Direct traffic
  • Campaigns

As you can see in the above example search traffic is a major pillar strategy of this particular website (74.9%), which is quite a common attribute of any successful website.

But let us look more specifically at each category of the Google analytics traffic sources report and find what the key things we can learn are.

Search traffic


This is an absolute treasure trove of marketing data because you can see what keywords are your top keywords and then look at improving your rankings in search engines to create an immediate bump in your traffic.

Let us look at an example:

In the above screenshot the keyword “Top Gear Specials” is the number one keyword and when we look at its rankings in Google it currently resides in position 5. Not bad but with a little more work it could get the top position. When it does it could get anywhere between 2-3 times more visitors from that keyword because it is no.1. 

Do you see how powerful this is?

At a bare minimum you should look at your top 10 keywords in the above report and then look at your current positions for all of them in Google. If you are not number 1 already, then you know what, a major opportunity exists for you to specifically target that keyword in your SEO work.

Referral traffic

The referral traffic report is an interesting one because you can see which websites are actually bringing in traffic to your site. The big social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter also are represented in this report alongside numerous other websites. If they have a link to your website and some traffic has come from them they will show up in this report of yours. 


How can we benefit from this knowledge?

Well there are a number of things that we can notice. For example in the above report you can see a number of Google results, which you may be wondering, “Why is that in this report and not the search report?”

That would be a very savvy question indeed!

The interesting thing I have noticed is that this Google data actually represents traffic coming in from Google image search, which seems to be treated in Google Analytics as referral traffic. So this tells you whether all that hard work you have been doing optimising your image ALT tags has been working!

On this report you will also get to see what the social media dynamics of your website are and whether people are sharing you on social networks like Twitter. In the above case Twitter does appear lower in the report but Facebook is very much king.

Another top tip

The other very important area of this report I would draw your attention to is the “Avg. visit duration” column that shows you how much time people are spending on your website from these referral sources.

Websites that show a higher amount of time spent on a website with lower bounce rates could be fantastic opportunities for you to reach out and nurture the relationship more with the referring website owner and get even more qualified traffic to your site.

Also make sure to check out the social report which gives even more details about the effectiveness of websites such as Facebook in relation to conversions.

Direct traffic

The direct traffic report is a simple one that shows you how many people typed in your website directly into their browsers to land on your website. This is good to have to measure your brand recognition online because if people are typing in your address directly they must remember you for some reason. Hopefully positive and not negative reasons! A good online reputation management system would help you determine that but that is a blog post thesis all in itself.

Now typically your home page will be the number one result on this report as can be seen below. 


However other pages that appear in this report can also offer valuable data as it shows the type of things people are really interested in when visiting your website. This is helpful in terms of future content planning to keep giving your audience what they truly want!

 Finally the campaigns report

To be quite honest with you I never look at this report for myself personally and occasionally look at it for my clients.


Quite simply it shows you the data from your Google Adwords campaigns, which you can already see when you are logged into your Google Adwords dashboard.

So yes there is a convenience factor of being able to view the data within Google Analytics but for me personally I still use the Google Adwords dashboard when looking for opportunities.

Maybe a suggestion for Google in the future would be to add other major advertising options such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter too. Being able to see that data within Google Analytics alongside Adwords would be great!

But being Google and wanting to primarily promote their own adverting property Adwords, I doubt that will ever happen.

So there you have it! I hope this little overview of the Google Analytics traffic report is helpful to you in your own marketing research. Let me know your own personal stories and ideas on how you use it in the comments section for the benefit of all our readers here.  

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