When we begin the analysis of a site, we are always looking to segment visitors by their intent. This helps us better analyze visitor behaviors and identify ways to improve the visitor journey.
Yet recognizing the visitor's intent is not always easy. Site analysts often look towards internal and external search phrases, as well as clicks on display banners, which sometimes allow the visitor to literally say what they are trying to do. For the majority of visitors that do not declare their need via a search phrase, a web analyst will need to get a little more creative in determining the visitors final objective.
For many traffic channels, a web site owner is actively attracting visitors by publishing content out on the web via paid search listings, display ads, or possibly email campaigns. In these cases, the site owners are often pushing content that is unique to a specific offering on the website (i.e.: an industry-specific campaign). In most cases, if a visitor clicks on the external content, they are giving the site owners a hint as to what their interests are. Site owners will use this data to drive visitors to specific landing pages, segment the audience for individual analysis, or to drive onsite personalization. This works well in paid traffic acquisition. But there is one popular organic traffic acquisition channel that is often overlooked when it comes to individualized analysis and personalization.
If you are looking to analyze an audience based on the task they are trying to complete, visitors from organic referral links can be one of the best audiences to analyze based on the types of links they are clicking on to get to a site.
In my personal analysis of over 100 sites across a variety of industries, I have found that site traffic from organic referring links can account for 25 to 50 percent of all traffic. Depending on how well the site is designed and implemented, referring traffic often has lower bounce rates and higher levels of engagement (i.e.: pageviews per session, time on site, scrolling) than other traffic groups such as non-branded search. Looking at the source of the referring link for a visitor can often give a hint (sometimes a loud hint) at what the visitor is trying to achieve in their journey across sites.
Check out these different types of referring links and the possible intent exposed about the visitors that click on them:
This is a sample listing of the types of links we typically see in referring reports. While web analysts spend a significant amount time analyzing the differences in SEO and PPC segments, the audiences from referring links are often an untapped treasure trove of user information.
As we create segments to glean important behaviors, segments based on referring links often show consistency in behaviors that enable web analysts to make small updates to navigation and content which help visitors more easily accomplish their goals.
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Mark leads the analyst team to develop ROI goals, data strategies, digital channel reporting, and establish processes for data analysis for EXTRACTABLE clients. Since joining EXTRACTBLE 14 years ago, he has worked on numerous high-profile websites including Yahoo, DirecTV, Visa, FedEx, and HTC. The most trafficked web page that he's ever worked on received 15 million unique visitors in one day, he has run analytics analysis on over 150 sites, and the biggest ROI he's ever seen on a corporate website redesign was > 800 percent. He is an active member of the Digital Analytics Association and has contributed to the DAA Education Committee for over five years.
March 19, 2014