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[New Study] Top Traffic Drivers, By Industry

Study Examines Search, Social, Direct & Referral Traffic By Vertical

For a high percentage of organisations, in both the public and private sector, driving website traffic is the lifeblood of their digital marketing strategies.

However, what is the most effective means of driving traffic, and does this vary by industry?

Well, wonder no more, because the clever kids at Alexa (which is part of Amazon) have released an in-depth report unlocking the answers to the above and more.

Alexa gathered data on the sources of web traffic to 450,000 domains, before splitting out the organisations by vertical. It then siphoned off the top 10% of sites in each category attempting to identify the unique traffic characteristics of the best versus the rest, on an industry basis.

Alexa’s data echoes similar findings from BrightLocal’s small business Google Analytics study released in 2019. Finding that not only does search dominate all comers, but social media languishes in the doldrums in all, excluding publishing whereby it drives 12.2% of traffic on average.

As per the graphic above, search dominates every vertical, ranging 35% – 60% of total website traffic.

Best Versus The Rest

Curiously, when delving into the top 10% of sites in each vertical, the reliance of social media as a traffic source is even lower still.

For example, if we stick with publishing, according to Alexa’s data the top 10% of News, Weather & Information sites only draw 8.5% of traffic from social, whereas the category at large draws down12.6%.

Across categories, the top sites tended to enjoy a greater percentage of direct traffic, speaking to the importance of top of the funnel awareness and brand building.

In recent years, as investment has poured into online channels, much has been directed towards performance media, often at the detriment of brand awareness. Although fine in the short term, many organisations are now grappling with the longer term implications, and shifting budgets more towards brand building in 2020.

Additionally, the top sites typically obtained a higher percentage of traffic via links from other domains.

In the business vertical, for example, 24% of traffic to top sites was referral traffic, whereas the other sites in this category obtained just 14% of their traffic in this manner.

A dynamic reflecting the influence and authority that the top sites command, with other websites treating them as valuable resources, sending visitors their way.

On a more practical level, it also demonstrates an additional upside for consistent public relations and SEO link building activity for driving traffic.

The Roles Of Social & Search

Social media’s domination by search speaks more to the respective roles that social and search now play in both online journeys and modern marketing strategies.

Rather than one being good and one being bad.

For example, automotive, home and garden, and travel sites, over-index on search, receiving around 55% of traffic via this means. Which, if you think about it, makes good sense given users’ search intent. If you’re looking for the perfect car, couch, or cruise, your hunt is likely to start with a search engine query?

However, what makes someone think about going on holiday in the first place? What creates the desire or demand to travel? Search rarely does.

That is increasingly where social channels want to play… "serendipity".

Layla Amjadi, Instagram Product Lead, Verge podcast, November 2018:

“On one end of the spectrum, we have what we call “serendipitous shopping”… in that moment, you didn’t have the intent to shop, but you were inspired to do so, and that’s the serendipitous case, that’s where we are today with shopping and feed.

You open up Instagram for a whole host of reasons, and then you’re inspired to explore more based off of the brands you’re following in your Feed.”

Therefore, to what extent your organisation desires awareness or website visitors will perhaps dictate where the 2020 marketing focus resides.

After all, according to Alexa’s study, the top sites ranked for several times as many keywords as the other domains in their verticals, something that will rarely occur by accident.

While some of this difference may be attributable to branded keywords, the overwhelming conclusion is hard to ignore: Powerful domains rank well for a wide array of relevant queries, whereas lesser sites appear for a more limited set of terms.

In other words, if traffic is a marketing priority this year, boring ol’ keyword research, website copywriting and external link building will yield far more results than fabulous Instagram photo montages.  

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