The different sources of traffic on Google Analytics

Understanding your website traffic is an essential step in knowing which acquisition channels to optimize. Indeed, all your webmarketing levers do not have the same impact on your site traffic Measuring the different sources of traffic after installing Google Analytics is therefore often necessary to identify new areas for improvement.

The different acquisition channels on Google Analytics

In the Google Analytics reports, a maximum of 8 different sources of traffic can be distinguished  . However, be aware that you will not see sources where you have no traffic in your dashboard. Here are the acquisition channels to know:

Organic traffic

Organic traffic corresponds to visits from search engines like Google or Bing. It should be noted that this source only takes into account traffic from natural results and not from links sponsored by Adword which are in a separate category.

You should know that the organic traffic obtained by natural referencing is a significant lever to consider in order to generate a large number of visitors and make your site profitable. For that, it is essential to know on which keywords to position oneself in order to create the adapted contents answering the requests of the Net surfers.

However, you will quickly realize that by wanting to obtain more details on organic traffic, Google Analytics is muddying the waters with the mention “not provided” on the main requests. Fortunately,Google Search Console and other tools provide more data.

Direct traffic

Direct traffic is one of the most frequent sources of visits to your site. As the name suggests, it is defined by visitors who come directly to your site , for example by entering the website URL manually or by coming directly from bookmarks.

The data for this traffic should be taken with a grain of salt because in many cases it comes from internal employees, partners or current customers who come through your site to connect to their account. But it is also indicative of excellent notoriety if users spontaneously come to your site.

Referral traffic

Referral traffic is used to describe visitors to your site who come from links from other sites other than search engines and social media.

For example, other sites that view your content as a credible source may link to your site. But these links can also be links from blog comments, forums or directories.

Also called backlinks in SEO jargon, these links have a significant role for SEO on Google. A link obtained from a high authority and contextualized site will have much more weight and value than a simple comment or forum link.

Social traffic

This is of course the  traffic obtained from social networks. Previously this traffic was not distinguished from referrer traffic on Google Analytics. Being a big source of traffic for a lot of publishers, Google has made this possible.

Google Analytics therefore allows you to see where visitors are coming from from Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or other social networking sites. As the ROI of this channel is often controversial, the advantage with Google Analytics is that you can set goals, measure conversion, and benchmark against other acquisition channels.

Paid traffic

In the Google Analitycs dashboard, paid traffic usually appears as “cpc” or “ppc” . This data will only appear if you have run Adwords campaigns on Google and are disassociated from organic traffic. These numbers are only traffic indicators and do not replace Google Adwords for the performance of your campaigns’ ROIs.

Paid traffic also includes display network if you have opted for this option in ad targeting.

Mail traffic

Finally, mail traffic obviously concerns visits to your site from your e-mailing campaigns and your newsletters . This type of traffic, often highly qualified if it is your own contact base, should not be overlooked. This is why it is necessary to monitor the data of this channel in order to measure the impact of your campaigns.

Analyze the sources of traffic.

Traffic sources allow you to understand where visitors come from, but it is also important to know how to analyze their journeys in order to improve your marketing strategy.

Look first at which channels are bringing the most traffic to your site in order to focus your efforts. For example, if you use Facebook and Google SEO to promote your e-commerce site, you can compare which channel brings in the most quantity and traffic.

However, this is not always enough because the most important thing is to see which channel brings the most conversion, especially for online sales sites. From there, it is necessary to configure your Google Analytics dashboard by recording goals. This can be the purchase of a product, reservations, creating an account, downloading, subscribing to a newsletter, etc.

To do this, go to Administration> Objectives  > New Objective. Once this is done, you should regularly check these numbers in the funnel by going to  Conversions> Goals> Funnel Visualization .


Data from Google Analytics is ultimately an excellent way to measure the performance of your website in order to have leads on the levers of traffic acquisition to explore. However, it should be kept in mind that organic and social traffic will always be preferred to generate the most visitors. Direct traffic, often synonymous with excellent notoriety, will only reflect all the work accomplished.

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