Google Analytics: The Importance of Referrals in SEO

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For many of us our websites act as our shop front to potential customers and those interested in our services/products.
Websites can also act as a talking point for people who are becoming more and more used to the idea of social marketing.
It is therefore critical that you know who is talking about your website and where your website is being displayed - whether that's on social networks or business directories, blogs or news sites.
Referral traffic is your bread and butter to understanding this.
It's an important element which allows you to find where you are online and what people are saying about you and your business.
How do you find your referral traffic? You can find your referral traffic in Google Analytics, if you don't have your website connected to Google Analytics yet - it's imperative that you do.
1) Log on to your Google Analytics account and navigate to the left hand side, here you'll find 'Traffic Sources' - click on it.
2) You'll see it drop down and find the secondary tab 'Sources' - click on it.
3) At the bottom, you'll see 'Referrals' - clicking on this will show where people have come from to land on your website, it's as easy as that.
What do I do with this information? Here's a story for you: Our website was receiving a large amount of referral traffic from the hugely popular social site Reddit.
I knew already from my years in Social Media Marketing that Reddit means either good or bad news - it's rarely down the middle and depends completely on which 'sub-reddit' we're being posted in.
I clicked through to discover that one of my articles had been posted in the Automotive sub-reddit - as this is our industry you can imagine I was pleasantly surprised.
Someone had taken the time to read my article and enjoy it so much that they believed it was worth sharing - unique content is always a winner.
I registered on Reddit under the company name and began to engage with the discussion about my article, answering questions on where I had got my sources and what I thought about it in a more meaningful and deeper way - people liked the fact that a seemingly faceless organisation had an engaged marketing team who were genuinely interested in their thoughts and feelings.
Before I engaged with Reddit users, our referral traffic from this article sat at 46 unique views.
After engaging with the discussion, it jumped to just shy of 600 - many of which went on to other pages and some even requesting quotes from us.
This again snowballed into not just potential sales, but more of our content being shared by the sub-600 who began to happily sharing other posts I had written up - this was a win-win situation for everyone.
Referral traffic isn't just great to spot potential social engagement, but it also allows you discover the bad and the ugly things being said about your business too.
As a prime example, someone had posted our website on a less than tasteful forum - whilst it was a genuine discussion about our product it was not a website that I wanted our brand to be associated with - I doubt the spiders and Google would like it either.
I contacted the webmaster of the forum and requested that it was removed from their website; they were happy to oblige.
So, what exactly do I have to do? Monitoring your referral traffic ensures that you can wear both the social hat and the SEO hat too.
If you engage with meaningful comments about your product, service or blog post, you show to the consumer that you don't just treat people as sales targets.
You can find traffic which is potentially damaging to your reputation and put a stop to it - it's all about brand awareness.
You don't have to join in every discussion, sometimes it's not needed - but any social platform that your website is being referred on is an opportunity for you to engage with people in our ever-growing social world.
You add authority to your posts, you show readers that you're an engaged business with a vested interested in opinions and thoughts - not just your wage packet.
The ultimate gains from doing this are easy to see.
You receive more trusted and engaged visitors, you give your company a social voice on different, previously unheard of platforms and you can spot danger areas to reduce risk that your name is being tarnished on a bad website.
Often Directors and Senior Managers are interested in just one metric, Return-On-Investment - it's now your job to show them the value of Return-On-Engagement.
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