Skip to content

The Different Types of Web Traffic: Explained

Understanding your website traffic sources is a vital component of your marketing strategy. When you understand the different types of traffic, and what channels attract visitors, you are better able to make informed decisions and fill gaps, where needed.

In this article we’re going to take a look at what website traffic is, as well as the different types of website traffic.

Let’s kick things off with delving into what website traffic is.

What is website traffic?

Website traffic refers to the web users that visit a website. This traffic is mainly measured in visits, also known as sessions. Website traffic viewership helps marketers understand the popularity of a website, channels, and more.

Before we get into the different types of web traffic, we need to understand the different acquisition channels. Here is a brief overview of Google Analytics’ acquisition channels:

  • Source – This is the origin of your traffic, such as a search engine or a domain, for example, google.
  • Medium – This is the general category of the source, for example, organic search, cost-per-click, referral.
  • Source/Medium – This is a dimension that combines both Source and Medium

Now that we have a clearer understanding of Google’s acquisition channels, let’s get to the part you’ve been waiting for.

Five types of website traffic

Here are the five main types of website traffic.

Organic traffic

Organic traffic refers to the traffic that came to your website using a search engine and clicked on an organic search result (not a paid advertisement).

When a user types in “pizza near me”, they will be provided with millions of links that are deemed relevant to their query. Unless specified as an Ad, all these links will fall under Organic Search.

Paid traffic

Put simply, Paid traffic is the exact opposite of Organic traffic; this includes visitors that visited your website via online advertisements such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Display Ads, and more.

When a user types in “pizza near me” the first few results labelled “Ad” will fall under Paid Search.

Direct traffic

Direct traffic, as it sounds, is traffic that arrived at your website by typing your website URL directly in their address bar.

When a user knows which nearby pizza restaurant they want pizza from, they will type directly in their search bar


Referral traffic

Referral traffic is when a user finds their way to your website through another referring website. This takes place via a backlink that when clicked on, leads the user to your website.

If a user is reading an article titled “Top Pizza Restaurants in [area]”, and they click on a link that leads them to the website of one of the pizza restaurants listed in the article, this will fall under Referral.

Social traffic

As the name suggests, social traffic comes from social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more.

If a user was browsing Facebook and saw that their favorite pizza restaurant posted about a two-for-one special, redeemable via their website with a supporting link, when clicked and directed to the website, this would fall under Social.