Check out the updated version of this post: Organic Search Is Actually Responsible for 64% of Your Web Traffic.
As any online marketer of any length of time knows, there are many ways to slice up an inbound marketing budget pie. One can focus on the hot new thing and invest heavily in social, spend a great deal on paid search, make a strong SEO play, or any combination in between.
Here at Conductor, we often get asked by our enterprise SEO clients where they should be when it comes to the percentage of traffic coming to their website from natural search. We don’t necessarily think there is a one-size-fits-all answer, as many factors can influence channel spend, including type of vertical, product/service type, organizational culture and more. However, we do think that it would be helpful for many site owners to understand where one’s distribution fits relative to others in their industry.
To get a sense of the distribution of inbound traffic across industries, we analyzed 30 websites across six industries. We looked at inbound traffic over a one-year period, analyzing over 310 million visits in total.
Natural Search Drives Nearly Half of All Web Traffic Visits
Our analysis showed that natural search drives the most traffic of all channels, responsible for nearly half (47%) of all visits. In breaking out social visits from overall referral visits, we can see that referrals drive 15% of visits, while social actually drives 2%.
Looking at the same distribution across specific industries, we can see that the consumer electronics, online retail and education industries all share similar channel distributions of traffic, with between 53-56% of traffic sourced from natural search. The other channels also share similar ranges of traffic distribution.
Interestingly, the banking/finance industry sees a larger portion of their traffic coming from direct visits, likely due to a greater percentage of users logging-in to online banking or trading platforms through direct site access.
Although natural search – like the other industries analyzed – is the largest driver of traffic for the travel industry, paid search drove a significantly higher amount of traffic in travel compared to the others. Given the hyper competitiveness of search in the travel industry due to the large average visitor value, paid search has historically commanded among the highest CPC values and the highest investment of all industries. Our analysis confirms this trend, with 18% of traffic coming from paid, the largest percentage of all industries analyzed.
Compare Yourself to Your Industry Baseline
Many factors—both offline and on—can affect the distribution of traffic to one’s website. While there is no one-size-fits-all formula for how a web site’s distribution should look, knowing how inbound traffic flows for others in your industry can give you a baseline for comparison against your own traffic. If, in performing the analysis, you decide to place a renewed focus on SEO as an inbound channel, check out this recorded webinar to get started on an SEO success plan: 10 Step to Achieve SEO Success.
Ed Note: As AJ Kohn pointed out on Google+, the analysis was not adjusted for the dropped search referrers from iOS6+ and Android 4+. Had we done so, natural search traffic likely would have account for greater than 50% of overall traffic.