This guest post is by John Burnside of moneyin15minutes.co.uk.
When people arrive at your blog, they’ve all come from somewhere on the World Wide Web. They could have found you on a search engine, they could have known about your site already, or they could have come from any one of a million other places.
But all of these different types of visitors have a certain frame of mind when they visit your site. Almost always, they will have a different reason for coming to your site. In this post, I’m going to explore those reasons from a psychological perspective so that we can understand the actions people generally tend to perform when they come to your site from a certain traffic source.
Search engine traffic
When people find a site through the search engines, they’re generally looking for answers to a specific question, or information on a certain topic.
Consider the very nature of search engines: you type in what you want, and hopefully the answer comes up. This means that visitors who come from the search engines are likely to be visitors who want to stay and read your content to find the answers they were looking for. If they don’t find those answers in your content, they may find the answer in one of your ads. In general, this means that you’ll tend to get higher ad clickthrough rates from search engine visitors.
A study performed by iProspect showed that in recent years, people have begun to trust the results from search engines, and this can have a knock-on effect for your site. If you are at the top of the search results for a particular search term, that can increase the awareness around your brand.
This study also showed that if you are the number one for a particular keyword then a small majority of people will perceive you as an authority in your niche. This can affect the way that people react when they come to your site. If you are perceived as having a good brand before new visitors come to your site, then you already have a small element of trust from them—and that might encourage them to do things like sign up to your emailing list or your feed.
Direct traffic is traffic that comes from people typing your website address directly into their address bar. This is a good form of traffic because if people already know your website address, that means that your site was memorable enough for users to recall it.
Because this type of traffic consists almost entirely of past visitors, you know these people are coming to your website to see what your latest content is. That means that the probability of this kind of traffic clicking on your ads is low, because they may have ad blindness (a topic I mentioned in one of my other guest posts about click through rates).
What they are likely to do, if they haven’t already, is to get more involved in your blog by joining your various social networking groups and subscribing to your blog feed. Also, users coming to your site as direct traffic are the most likely to leave comments on your posts, because they want to try and shape their favorite blog a little with their own personalities.
Social media traffic
The psychology around the whole social media revolution always seems to fall back on the desire of the user to be noticed and have their own personal space online. There are some very interesting points made in this article which discusses what people are looking for when they are searching on social media sites.
The gist of it is that people who use social media either want to be sociable with friends or to be entertained. This usually leads to high bounce rates for those types of visitors, because once they’ve seen your blog, they’ve got their quick entertainment and are ready to move on. This is a particular issue on sites like stumbleupon, where users are encouraged to quickly flit from one site to the next.
The thing that social media traffic is good for, however, is getting your content to go viral. Because of these users’ tendency to quickly browse from one site to the next, if someone does find something that they really like, they’ll share it. As soon as you get people talking about your content, product, image, and so on, they will spread it for you, because it’s entertaining or particularly useful.
There are some similarities between referral traffic and social media traffic but I have made the distinction because I believe there is a difference in being told about something by a friend or being told about something by a web developer.
When you’re told about something by a friend, you’re generally going to check it out, because you want to see what information or fun it can give you, rather than because you trust the friend’s advice. If a web developer that you trust tells you about it, you are going to look at it in almost the same way, except that this time the advice is coming from a trusted professional. It is a little bit like being told about an illness by a doctor and a friend who has read about the illness in a book. You trust both, but somehow you will edge towards the doctor’s opinion.
That analogy doesn’t work for all kinds of referral traffic, however. When you click through a link in a blog roll, for example, you trust that the blog owner has chosen a good partner site, and you are going on the anchor text keywords provided.
Traffic that comes to your site in this way is much more likely to have a higher bounce rate, and lower interactivity with your site, because these users don’t have much information to go on before they visit. If, on the other hand, they’re being referred by a link in the content or a link from a guest author, then they’re much more likely to stay because they have heard from a trusted source (the referring blog owner) that site has something useful on it, or they are interested in more of what the guest author has to say.
For these last two types of referral traffic—guest posts and in-text links—the most likely things these visitors will do is read a bit of your content to see if that helps them. If it does, they may be encouraged to interact with your site by signing up to your Twitter account, RSS feed, and so on. The key with referral traffic is that you have to either catch the visitor’s interest, or answer a question that they have, before they will add you to their social network.
I won’t say much about this form of traffic because it is very similar to search engine traffic from a psychological perspective—but it does have one key difference.
People who click on these links don’t mind clicking on ads. There are some people who refuse on principle to click on any ads; others who don’t want to will do so on the odd occasion. But a visitor who comes to you through an ad is likely to click on ads on your site. There is the problem, however, that if they have already clicked on one link and not found the answer to their question, they will click away. This is why most people who use paid advertising do it with one-page sites that contain instant and direct calls to action.
Which traffic methods are for you?
Each of these different traffic generation methods has its uses and, depending on what direction you would like your blog to take, you should target each appropriately.
If you’re after new visitors, and you’d like more advertising clicks, then target search engine traffic. But if you would like to have more email sign ups and blog interaction, then I would suggest seeking referral traffic through, for example, guest posting. This way is the best to ensure that you get traffic that is already interested in both blogs in general and, more specifically, your topic.
For a more specific type of blog, like a photo or video blog, social media traffic is probably your best bet because visual content can attract a lot of attention from the difficult-to-please social media audience, who are, after all, often looking for distractions.
Have you found any particular trends to come out of your traffic from different sources? Can you think of any other sources of traffic that have different behaviours from these?
This post was written by John Burnside, an expert in the making money and Internet marketing niche. To read more of his content or find out about ways to make money online, please follow him on Twitter @moneyin15.