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Where Marketers Go to Grow

December 18, 2008 // 7:36 AM

Are All Your Referral Eggs in One Basket?

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Eggs in a basketFor the past 10 years I've been running a small educational website with helpful essay writing tips for college applicants. My site has a Google page rank of 6 and ranks #1 for multiple keywords and dozens of long tail keyword phrases. All-in-all I think I’ve done an impressive job at search engine optimization with over 60% of the site’s traffic coming directly from Google.

While marveling at my site’s ability to outrank large .edu behemoths such as Petersons, Princeton Review and the College Board I often ask myself the question, "What if there were no Google?" In one fell swoop I would lose the majority of my site’s traffic. Like thousands of other small businesses, if my livelihood were dependent of Google, I would have to find some other means to eke out an existence.

Depending on one traffic source is really risky!

Diversify your Portfolio
Now don’t get me wrong. I do not think Google is going away and I get a ton of inbound links from other sites (though aggregated the volume of traffic from those sites is negligible next to the amount of direct traffic I get from Google).

But like any prudent person who likes to diversify their stocks in a bad (or healthy) economy I’d like to diversify my portfolio – my web site traffic portfolio that is. It just seems like the smart thing to do.

Now here's a snapshot of diversified referrals to hubspot.com:HubSpot traffic sources pie chart

At HubSpot we do a very good job at drawing traffic from a multitude of sources on the internet such as direct traffic, SEO and social media. The pie chart you see above is a snapshot of Hubspot’s site referrals for the past 30 days. Google drives a mere 10.7% of HubSpot’s traffic. While the prospects of losing 11% of your site’s traffic is significant it probably isn’t as devastating to your business as losing 60% of your traffic.

Create a Mosaic
It seems that the more mosaic the above picture, the more your risk is spread. If you invest in generating traffic from a variety of sources there is less likelihood of your business being in peril due to the loss of a single traffic source. So here are some helpful ways to diversify your traffic portfolio:

  1. Create a network of sites between your company website, blog and other microsites and web assets. For example the HubSpot site, blog and our various graders all link to each other and drive traffic to each other. A good chunk of our traffic (~40%) comes from web assets that we own and control.
  2. Use Social Networks: Connecting with people on social networks such as FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter can help drive much needed traffic to your site. Answering questions on LinkedIn for example allows you to leave much desired inbound links to quality content on your site.
  3. Leverage your databases: If you have a good email database or permission based list make sure you are driving them to call to actions on your site. Once people have signed up for your offer they may stick around to browse more information. A monthly email or newsletter will ensure you have a steady stream of visitors from that source.
  4. Share your content online: Use social media such as YouTube, SlideShare, iTunes etc. to spread your content across the web to help generate more traffic to your site. Users have individual preferences for digesting content so make sure you publish your content in multiple formats such as audio, video and text.
  5. Continue the great work on SEO: Although Google is the dominant search engine, there are plenty of other search engines and directories where you can maintain a listing or a presence. Nurturing other sources will give you a steady stream of traffic over time.

Are there other ways you can think of for driving traffic to your site? What are your thoughts on driving visitors to your site from multiple sources? Please continue the discussion in the comments.

Photo credit: B. Tal

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