How To Demystify the Origins of Your Website Traffic

September 18, 2013

At every digital marketing conference I attend, there are multiple presentations filled with dealers asking where online traffic is coming from. The truth is this information is readily available to you — if you know where to look.

If Internet shoppers don’t look at your cars online, they are unlikely to come to your showroom to buy a car. That’s why it’s not enough to know how much traffic you’re getting — you need to know how online shoppers are reaching you.

Typically, there are three top sources of traffic:

  1. Direct traffic. This is your best source of traffic. Because these are the shoppers that entered your website address to go directly to your site, they bypass any opportunity for your competitors to intercept them. Some of this traffic may come from returning customers, but it’s often driven by other forms of advertising. That’s why direct traffic is a great way to gain insight regarding how your traditional and digital ads are working. It’s also a critical reminder to emphasize your website address in your advertising materials.
  2. Organic search. These are visitors who find you through search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. This traffic typically comes from two sources:
  3. Those who typed your company name into a search engine, which means they were familiar with your brand
  4. Those who typed a term that led them to your website, such as “Phoenix Chevrolet dealers,” indicating strong search engine optimization performance for that term. I’ll talk more about this in a future post.
  5. Search engine marketing. These are the sponsored links that appear above and to the right of organic search results (Google AdWords are the most popular type). This is an underleveraged opportunity for dealers that we’ll dive into in my next post.

If you’re interested in finding out the sources of your website traffic, talk to your vendor about how to use Google Analytics, which can tell you where the traffic from your site is coming from. You can then go into the dealer analytic portals of, and other sites to compare with each other and your website. Since this can be labor intensive it’s easiest to have it in one place with a tool such as MAX that combines the various sources in one location to help you measure and manage your online traffic.

My next post will cover optimizing spend and testing.