Go to Blog

The Value of Referral Traffic, and Where to Get It

Barrie Smith

In last month’s blog post I touched on the importance of getting referral traffic to your website for both traffic and potential conversions.

The Google Penguin algorithm update that was announced 20 months ago has certainly changed the way many marketers conduct their marketing activity online. Sensible marketing no longer revolves solely around trying to rank in Google. And where some used to “spam” their way to the top of Google to drive traffic to their website, this no longer works.

Although I’ve seen examples of many companies and marketers still paying for links, producing generic content and submitting to low quality directories, smart marketers and business owners aren’t fully or heavily relying on ranking in Position 1 on Google these days.

Don’t be mistaken. Ranking Number 1 in Google for your keywords is still fantastic for traffic, branding and conversions. But as marketers, we cannot afford to be so narrow in our marketing moving forward.

Social marketing has expanded, content marketing is booming and paid search is heavily pushed by Google — there are more methods than ever to pick up traffic. That means there are more methods than ever to pick up sales. This blog post concentrates on one of those: referral traffic.

Where do we get referral traffic from?

There are several places to get traffic and potential customers to your website. Here are sites I target for myself, my employees and my clients:

1. Social Networks

From my limited experience of social media marketing, running offers on Facebook and Twitter led to a good deal of sales. Running competitions led to a lot of data collection, but how many of those went on to make a purchase? …Not so many.

As for building your following on social networks?I don’t have an exact answer to that. But it appears the more "famous" I become, the more published I have become, the more followed I’ve become. Or maybe I feel more famous that I have more than five Twitter followers now.

2. Social Bookmarking Sites

Now, it must be said that in all my years of marketing I have yet to have an inquiry from traffic provided by social bookmarking sites, such as Digg and Reddit. I’ve also never been on the front page of Digg, but I have seen some of my sites crash from the traffic provided from these.

If you’re looking for exposure and a traffic increase, these are great places to go. Or, in an ideal world, a great place for other people to submit your work because they love it so much and they feel the world needs to see it.

I don't have a Reddit account, but here are examples of some traffic received when the occasional article of mine has been published on there (nothing exciting, but an example):

[caption id="attachment_7456" "aligncenter" width="628"]referral traffic Referring traffic from Reddit.com between June14-July 5, 2013[/caption]

3. Commenting

Don’t believe you can get traffic and inquiries from leaving comments on blog posts? Think again. Leaving intelligent and useful comments on blog posts can easily be picked up by someone looking for that information.

If you’ve answered someone’s query in a comments section, there’s a possibility of them remembering you or even directly replying to you to inquire about your services. Just think of the size of your potential audience if you’re commenting on popular blogs and news sites.

An example I have for you is a comment someone else left on Page 5 of a BBC sport article back in March. Eighty-eight clicks and a couple of emails came off the back of this:

[caption id="attachment_7457" "aligncenter" width="628"]referral traffic Referring traffic from bbc.co.uk between March 17-24, 2013[/caption]

4. Forum Contribution

Social networking and the improvement on Google results seems to have killed the popularity of forums these days. Or maybe that’s my bleak view on them? You won’t find me on many forums anymore.

But if you don’t have any friends or contacts in a field you’re looking for an answer or a service for, and you don’t like the Google organic and paid results, where else do you go? Some people still use forums out there – and if you can find one relevant for you or your service, it may be worth investing time to become an authoritative figure on them. Or at least offer your best advice for others’ queries.

5. Banner Advertising

Running out of ideas but have money to spend? Why not try banner advertisements on websites who have the audience you’re looking for?


That can be purchasing advertising space on external websites (make sure to follow Google’s guidelines so you don’t get penalized!). It can be Google’s Display Network advertising, or Google’s Remarketing. If you have the budget and a good banner developer, then this can be a good path to go down.

6. Guest Blogging

Guest posting has been blown out of proportion over the past year or two. It’s been used primarily as a link building tactic: people producing content with their own benefit in mind. The benefit being an anchor text link of a keyword they want to rank for in Google.

If we continue to abuse this, it’s only a matter of time before Google acts. For now, guest posting is still good.

Karon Thackston

Here's an idea: have a better purpose in mind when you’re guest posting. Do it to increase your exposure. Do it for traffic. Do it for conversions. Do it for the good of the world. Don’t just do it for the sake of a link – it’s not 2011 anymore.

7. Newsletters

Produce regular content? If you produce enough insightful content on your blog you may wish to consider starting a newsletter. If you are attracting visitors to your website, whether they are new or returning, give them the option to keep in touch with a big, bold “Sign up to my Newsletter” prompt on the page they are on.


Make it obvious and make it easy for them to sign up (you only need to collect an email address, though you may wish to collect a name). Any more information at the initial point of contact is likely to be too much to ask for, but you can always collect that information at a later date.

If you can increase your newsletter readership on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, it will give you a bigger audience to speak to every time you send it out. And the bigger the audience is, the larger an opportunity you have to sell your services.

8. Affiliates

If you have an affiliate program for your product or can produce one and get other people/bloggers to sell your products for you, this can produce more traffic and inquiries.

People who sign up for your affiliate program are trying to make money through selling your product. So they’re going to do their best to drive relevant traffic that they hope will make a purchase (or two, or three).

Essentially, affiliate marketing is someone else doing your advertising on your behalf!

9. Media Coverage

Getting a mention in any media outlet that has a substantial following, whether it’s online and/or in print is huge for building your brand.

This is about getting in front of a journalist and giving them something of substance, something worthy of being published in the media. Something their audience is going to want to read. This could be research or a quote, for example.

media coverage

It doesn’t have to cost much to get a mention in the media. And getting a link within the story has the potential to reach many. Then it just comes down to their audience, and whether they click through or not.

Time to Refer Traffic

Follow the above steps and watch the referral traffic to your website increase! In the meantime, perhaps you can send some referral traffic my way by clicking the link below and checking me out.

Author bio:

Barrie Smith is an SEO consultant for Receptional Ltd. You can connect with him on Google+. His last article for SEMrush was "Get the Most Out of Link Building, and Get Traffic."

Like this post? Follow us on RSS and read more interesting posts:

Author bio:
Barrie Smith is an SEO consultant for Receptional Ltd. His last article for SEMrush was “Protecting Yourself From the Penguin."
Share this post


2000 symbols remain
I found your blog very late but really wonder full things,I came your blog by any other blog,You describe very well about guest blogging as well. you have already said all about guest blogging, which was said by Matts, Really interesting things I got here. Thank you