Internet Traffic Sources Described As Types of Party Guests

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Everyone loves to talk about list-building. Not everyone likes to talk about traffic sources. But the truth is that where traffic comes from makes as much of a difference to your organization’s digital strategy as what happens once folks land on your site.

The first step in understanding what tactics to employ for each traffic type is understanding the sources themselves. In this “traffic source as party guest” analogy, we’re going to answer two questions:

  1. Who are you?

  2. Why did you come here?

Those two questions are key in understanding how to get someone to stay for a couple more hours, or come back for your next party. They’re also key in getting someone to leave ASAP, which isn’t typically a need that organizations have online, but we’ve all had that need at a party, so we’ll cover that too.

Ok, here we go.

Direct Traffic

  1. Who is it?

    If direct traffic were a guest at your birthday party, they’d literally be your best friends. They know your address, came to your house for your party, and also come to your house all the time without asking.

  2. Why did they come here?

    They made you routine part of their life, and they’re here to stay—no matter how you behave. Forgot to put on pants? No problem. No snacks out to share? They’re happy to bring their own. These guests are just here to hang out because they liked you a long time ago and guess what, they still like you, even though they could list all of your faults.

Organic Search

  1. Who is it?

    You know those people who are looking for something to do on the weekend, so they google local events? That’s not exactly who we’re talking about here, because chances are—if you’re reading this—you’re a nonprofit of some kind. The people we’re talking about googled something like “Mom’s eggnog recipe with nutmeg” and didn’t like the first 8 results that showed up, but found your party details instead and decided to attend.

  2. Why did they come here?

    In other words, they’re not really interested in you, specifically, but they definitely want to see your eggnog recipe and also, where’s the eggnog? These folks are only going to stick around if you deliver on the eggnog and they have a hunch that your other recipes might also be good. It’s on you to make that case. It’s also on you to decide if it’s worth all that effort.

Referral Traffic

  1. Who is it?

    This guest is your friend’s friend. You know, the person who had another party to go to tonight but figured it wouldn’t hurt to stop by and check out what all the fuss was about? Hi. Nice to meet you.

  2. Why did they come here?

    Now that they’re here, actually, this place is pretty cool. But they usually go to this other place on Christmas—except the ice sculpture you had carved to look just like Santa’s sleigh really speaks to them: Is that something you have themed to match every holiday? If so, they might be back. But only because they like your friend. And only if you plan to have more of these sculptures.

Social Traffic

  1. Who is it?

    “Hi! One of my friends—well, we’re more like acquaintances now—from high school said they’d be here. Have you seen them? I only came because they shared your event and if they like your parties, then I probably will too.”

  2. Why did they come here?

    It’s not exactly that this person showed up because they’re interested in you. It’s that they showed up because they’re interested in what you mean, what this whole experience means, to their friend. More to the point: “This party is actually pretty cool, and that person over there kind of looks like Ariana Grande. Wait… is that her? Does this party have a hashtag?”

Wow. Can’t believe that’s how I decided to spend the last 20 minutes. Hopefully this extended metaphor helps your list-building strategy somehow. I can already feel myself holding back from employing this analogy in daily conversations.

Bottom line is this: Getting traffic to your site is kind of—relatively speaking—the easy part. Keeping people there and getting them to come back? That’s where the elbow grease comes in. The most important thing to remember is that you can’t always control who comes to your party. And you can’t always control what happens when they’re there, or how they feel when they leave. But you can damn sure try.