Which Traffic Source Is Best For Your Website?

Once you manage to attract a good amount of traffic to your website real question strike afterward is how to analyze it? As there exist different traffic sources such as direct traffic, search traffic, display traffic, email traffic, and referral traffic. Hence, deciding which among these traffic sources is good for your website growth is a challenging task.

Also, how these traffic sources create an impact on each other? Like, does increasing search traffic volume also mean an increase in direct traffic? Or how traffic from E-mail affect search traffic?

Having answers to these questions is important to develop a traffic strategy.

To find out an answer to these questions I conducted research for top 80 competing websites in for Finance domain( India).

I study all the traffic data these sites are getting from different traffic sources and find out how they are correlated with each other.

I mostly focus on how other sources of traffic are correlated with Direct Traffic and Search Traffic. Personally, I think Direct traffic as a product of branding and hence pays in the long run.

Types of Traffic Sources

Before directly going into the result of my research lets first clear the basics. What exactly are the different traffic sources?

Traffic which you get to your website constitutes of Direct Traffic, Organic Traffic( Search Traffic), Referral Traffic ( Links), Display Traffic, Social Traffic ( Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc)

#1: Direct Traffic: If a user types a URL into their browser’s address bar or clicks on a browser bookmark, then traffic generated by this action can be considered as Direct Traffic ( There is a lot more to it 🙂 that we will discuss in the last section of this article)
#2: Search Traffic: Traffic from search engine results is called Search Traffic. This traffic is heavily dominated by Google.
#3: Email Traffic: Traffic generated from email marketing that has been properly tagged with an email parameter.
#4: Links/Referral Traffic: Traffic that occurs when a user finds you through a site other than a major search engine. This also means traffic from links; off page SEO helps a lot in generating referral traffic.
#5: Social Traffic: Traffic from a social network, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram. Social traffic is dominated by Facebook followed by Twitter and LinkedIn.( It is observable that, the duopoly of Google and Facebook is a reason for concern for all publisher as their model currently changing to pay to play )

Total Traffic Distribution Chart

After working on all the available data; Here is what I found.

Of all traffic sources “Search Traffic” is the most preferred traffic. Hence for most of the business search engine is still a key to get their customers.

Search Traffic is 52.4 % of the Total Traffic and Direct Traffic ranks second with 31.4 % of all available traffic.

Correlation: Direct Traffic Vs Other Traffic Sources

Now as we have understood what are the different types of traffic sources lets dive into my recent findings.The first figure shows a correlation between Direct Search traffic and Other traffic sources.

Below are the correlation figures; where Direct/Email traffic tops the list with 0.84 correlation coefficient.

Direct TrafficOther Traffic SourcesCorrelation Coefficient
Direct Social0.60

Main Takeaway

#1: Direct Vs Email Traffic shows the highest correlation; which indicate apart from usual focus on Search traffic your focus should be on Email List optimization.

As it directly affect the Direct Traffic hence, spending on Email Marketing can grow your direct traffic in the near future.

#2: Even from popular opinion where we consider; display network helps in creating awareness about the brand. But as an obvious result here shows Display/ Direct Traffic correlation 0.21 is lowest among all.

Hence,even if it showing positive correlation. Spending on other traffic sources, like social media for branding can be a better option which having 0.60 correlation. So just think before how much money you are spending on the display network.

Correlation: Search Traffic Vs Other Traffic Sources

Search TrafficOther Traffic SourcesCorrelation

Main Takeaways

#1. Search/Email Traffic shows the highest degree of correlation that is 0.84; here also the main key is Email Marketing focusing more on email marketing can give you better result.

#2. Search/Social Traffic shows the second highest degree of correlation that is 0.75 it means investing on social media is good spend;  as it directly affect the search traffic.

#3. Search/Display Traffic shows the least correlation that is 0.39 so against the popular opinion. So spend on display network will not give good result compared to other sources.

What is NOT Direct Traffic

While calculating the correlation between Direct Traffic and Other Traffic Sources we find out that all traffic sources have a positive correlation with Direct Traffic & Search Traffic.

As, you all know when someone directly search for your site on address bar or bookmark page and by that, reach to your site this is constitute direct traffic but in reality not all traffic which we see as direct can be said as direct traffic because ; many times when Google doesn’t understand the source of the traffic it directly shows that traffic as direct traffic.

So, below are the reasons behind the wrong direct traffic figures in Google Analytics.

#1: Non-web documents

Links in Microsoft Word documents, slide decks or PDFs do not pass referrer information. By default, users who click these links will appear in reports as direct traffic. Clicks from native mobile apps (particularly those with embedded “in-app” browsers) are similarly prone to stripping out referrer data.

#2. Improper redirection

don’t use meta refreshes or JavaScript-based redirects — these can wipe or replace referrer data, leading to direct traffic in Analytics. You should also be meticulous with your server-side redirects, and — as is often recommended by SEO — audit your redirect file frequently. Complex chains are more likely to result in a loss of referrer data, and you run the risk of UTM parameters getting stripped out.


When a user follows a link on a secure (HTTPS) page to a non-secure (HTTP) page, no referrer data is passed, meaning the session appears as direct traffic instead of as a referral. It’s part of how the secure protocol was designed, and it does not affect other scenarios: HTTP to HTTP, HTTPS to HTTPS, and even HTTP to HTTPS all pass referrer data.

#4. Missing or broken tracking code

Let’s say you’ve launched a new landing page template and forgotten to include the GA tracking code.

Users land on this page without tracking code. They click on a link to a deeper page which does have a tracking code. From Google Analytics perspective, the first hit of the session is the second page visited, meaning that the referrer appears as your own website. If your domain is on the referral exclusion list, the session is considered as direct. This will happen even if the first URL is tagged with UTM campaign parameters.


#5. Dark Social

Essentially it refers to methods of social sharing which cannot easily be attributed to a particular source, like email, instant messaging, Skype, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger.


After going through all correlation data between Direct Traffic/Search Traffic & Other Traffic Sources I find out these results.

#1 All the traffic Sources are having a positive correlation with Direct Traffic & Search Traffic which means spend on any traffic network will eventually increase search & direct traffic. It just a matter of relativity investing in which traffic network will give you a better result.

#2 Email Marketing is key here, having the highest correlation with Search Traffic & Direct Traffic makes it the most important traffic sources if invested wisely.

#3 On contrary to accepted belief display network traffic show least correlated among all. So one should be cautious about the marketing spend on the display network.




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