8 Elements of a Proper Website Traffic Report

Do you know what to monitor in your website traffic report?

We’re constantly reading and writing about how to drive website traffic, but how often do we discuss the website traffic report that all of us should be pouring over to see whether or not our hard work is going anywhere?

Anyone who has installed monitoring and reporting software in an attempt to measure what’s happening on their website knows you can easily become dazzled by the number and variety of variables. There are dozens of reporting systems you can use to make decisions, but you risk being overwhelmed with too much data.

So we’re big fans of what we call “Management by Exception,” which means regularly reviewing a standard set of daily, weekly, or monthly metric reports, and looking to see if something is above average, way above average, or way below average. The idea is to manage the things that are coming out differently than they have in the past or than you thought they would.


As recently as five years ago, website publishers’ primary concerns were search engine optimization (SEO), email performance and website traffic. A typical website traffic report consisted of only a few main sources. Now our website traffic reports have expanded into many different social networks.

  • Organic Search Traffic: This part of your report comes from a combination of keyword research using the Google Keyword Planner, the limited information available from Google Analytics Organic Keyword report and often Google Webmaster Tools Search Queries. It should tell you which keywords are driving the most traffic to your website. It can also tell you which articles are driving the most organic traffic, that is, traffic that you’re not paying for. We build something called a Google Visibility Report for our clients which elaborates for them the keywords they rank for, and ones that they can target in the future. The Google Visibility Report (GVR) enables you to target, track and manage your SEO efforts and results. Over time, it will reveal whether you have correctly evaluated the risk of a particular SEO keyword and will enable you and your online publishing team to discover the best SEO keyword phrases to target for attracting the most high quality organic traffic to your website.
  • Paid Search Traffic: If you pay for clicks from search engines it’s important to track how much traffic you’re getting from the keywords you’re buying. If you can get better at SEO, you may be able to reduce or eliminate PPC from your overall traffic driving strategy.
  • Direct Traffic: In Google Analytics direct traffic refers to those who type in your URL manually and is usually split between your employees (if you haven’t blocked their IP from web tracking) and any others. Also, it comes from email links that aren’t properly coded, QR codes, traffic from secure browsers, app traffic, some mobile traffic, and any other traffic that Google can’t figure out where it came from.
  • Email Traffic: For publishers, email is typically a leading driver of traffic, especially if you send it daily. Any publisher can see how many clicks they’re getting on each email and every link in their email campaigns by using UTM Codes. We also built the Email Performance Report Plugin for our clients that reveals pertinent data by campaign on opens, clicks, the number of emails sent and revenue generated per email sent, right in their main CXMS dashboard.
  • Social Traffic (Twitter & Facebook): Twitter and Facebook both offer analytics. Facebook Insights is built right into the dashboard of every page, and Twitter Ads offers an analytics dashboard as well – whether you’re buying ads or not. In addition to the visually appealing dashboard within Facebook, they also offer a downloadable spreadsheet that gives you data for an extended timeline and shows you extra information on how people consume your content. You can also gain traffic insights through Google Analytics’ Social report.
  • Non-Social Referral-Traffic: If you’re partnering with other blogs to offer guest posts, or are participating in any other PR tactics for driving traffic, monitor all of these items separately, so that you know what’s worth your time.
  • Other Online Advertising Traffic: If you syndicate content through third-party content publishers like OutBrain, then those sites will also become a new source of traffic for you.

Once you have the numbers for all of these sources, you can put together a list and pie chart that tells you your greatest sources of traffic. Our most SEO-savvy publishers get up to 74% of their traffic from search engines, while news-based publishers that thrive more in social media than search see most of their traffic through social networks.

We think that most of your efforts should be spent in keyword research and optimization. However, this chart can tell you where you’re wasting time and money with PPC, or not spending enough time with social media too. It can also give you clues as to whether or not your links are click-worthy in emails, or if you’re giving too much away!

You live these numbers every day and you might not even know it. Since there are so many numbers to look at, manage by exception – looking for warning signals and only dive in when necessary!


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