News Flash: No one is looking at your law firm website.
It’s true. Many lawyers don’t realize this. They equate “having” a website with people “visiting” their website. Ask if people are visiting the site and they say, “Of course.” Ask about web analytics traffic data and you get the puzzled puppy look. How do they know people are visiting their website? “I just know.”
They’ve built it, people will come. That’s how it works, right? Wrong.
Since there seems to be a pretty significant gap in knowledge on this subject, a post about website traffic seems warranted. But we’re going to take it slow and try to dive deep. So, I’ve broken it up into a series. I hope it helps.
Understanding Web Traffic
Before we even begin to get into how to actually drive web traffic to your law firm’s website, we need to spend some time talking about what traffic is and where it comes from. Here’s Wikipedia on web traffic:
Web traffic is the amount of data sent and received by visitors to a web site. Since the mid-1990s, web traffic has been the largest portion of Internet traffic. This is determined by the number of visitors and the number of pages they visit. Sites monitor the incoming and outgoing traffic to see which parts or pages of their site are popular and if there are any apparent trends, such as one specific page being viewed mostly by people in a particular country. There are many ways to monitor this traffic and the gathered data is used to help structure sites, highlight security problems or indicate a potential lack of bandwidth … not all web traffic is welcome.
For our purposes, you can think of web traffic as visitors to your pages from a variety of sources. Understanding your web traffic answers these questions:
- How are people finding my web pages?
- What are they doing when they visit my web pages?
We’re going to focus on the “how they are finding” part.
Sources of Web Traffic
For this series, I’m going to rely heavily on pages from Google’s Analytics Help (GAH). It’s an exceptional resource, especially if you’re just getting started with collecting, analyzing and acting on web traffic data. Here’s how GAH defines a traffic source:
Every referral to a web site has an origin, or source. Possible sources include: “google” (the name of a search engine), “facebook.com” (the name of a referring site), “spring_newsletter” (the name of one of your newsletters), and “direct” (visits from people who typed your URL directly into their browser, or who had bookmarked your site).
Put simply, a source is really just where the visitor came from. You’re probably already familiar with some of the most common sources, like search engines and referral traffic. Nonetheless, let’s break the major traffic sources down and look at them individually.
Direct traffic. Direct traffic represents visitors who arrived at your pages by entering a URL in their browser or using a browser bookmark. Unfortunately, direct traffic is frequently overlooked by webmasters to their detriment. As digital marketing genius Avinash Kaushik explains: “In a nutshell these are people who show up without invitation (email, display, social campaigns), or they are people who already know you. There is an extra motivation connected to their visit which causes them to type your url or find the bookmark they made.”
In other words, direct traffic visitors tend to be some of your “best” traffic. They are often:
- People who know you in real life
- People who are, or have been, clients
- People who refer business to you
- People who admire and respect you
- People who care about what you have to say
- People who are actively trying to get in contact with you
While direct traffic might not seem as “exciting” as traffic from other sources, I contend that it can be an especially helpful metric for lawyers. If what you’re creating online is motivating people to bookmark your pages and type your site name or URL directly into their browsers, you’re probably on the right track.
Referral traffic. Referral traffic represents visitors who came from other websites. For example, if someone clicks on a link on another website that points to your web page, they would become a referral visitor from the domain where they clicked the link to your page.
Referral traffic can also be a really good indicator of the effectiveness of your online activities. If people are clicking on links you’re sharing on social networks, comments you leave on other sites and editorial links pointing back to your site, there’s a good chance that they’re interested in what you have to say.
Search traffic. As you may have guessed, search traffic represents the visitors who have arrived at your site from search engines. The two major types of search traffic are:
- Organic (aka natural or unpaid)
- Paid (AdWords, pay-per-click, PPC)
Organic search traffic comes from clicks on organic or universal search results. Paid search traffic comes from clicks on paid search ads.
Search traffic has quickly grown to be considered the holy grail of web traffic. After all, it’s probably the most popular way that people search for information online. But really understanding search traffic means understanding the search traffic that drives new business. We’ll talk a lot more about search traffic later in this series.
Campaign traffic. Campaign traffic represents visitors who have arrived from an Internet marketing campaign. One very common example would be an email marketing campaign that drives visitors back to your website.
Tagging segments of your traffic with various campaign metrics can help you understand how well your campaigns are working (that is, whether they’re generating a return on investment). Campaign tagging can provide very detailed information about what offerings, ad copy, landing pages or even graphics are the most effective at meeting a specific marketing goal.
Okay, that provides a decent overview of the major types of web traffic. Next time, we’ll take a look at collecting and analyzing your web traffic data.
Meantime, I encourage you to spend some time on the GAH pages. Also, please feel free to post your web traffic questions below in the comments.
Gyi Tsakalakis helps lawyers put their best foot forward online because clients are looking for them there. He is a co-founder of AttorneySync, a digital marketing agency for law firms. You can find more of Gyi’s writings in his “Optimize” column on Attorney at Work, on Lawyerist and on Avvo’s Lawyernomics blog. You can ask him a question (or just say hi) on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.