Referral Traffic: 7 Ways to Drive It (And Get More Leads!)

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Michael Kiel


Referral traffic is a powerful and often overlooked way to give your website a competitive edge.

In the never-ending quest for more traffic, marketers turn to search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click advertising (PPC), blogging, and social media marketing.

The problem is that SEO takes time to work, PPC is expensive, Google is oversaturated with blog content, and it’s tricky to prove ROI with social media. That’s where referral traffic comes in.

So, what is referral traffic, and how can you use it to generate more leads? Today, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know — why it’s important and seven steps you can take to improve yours.

What is referral traffic?

Why is referral traffic important?

7 Steps to Generate More Referral Traffic

1. Publish Your Website To Online Directories

2. Get Published On Review Websites

3. Publish Guest Blog Posts

4. Leverage Social Media

5. Comment On Blogs

6. Be Active On Industry Forums

7. Publish Infographics

Next Steps


What is referral traffic?

When visitors land on your website from sites other than the major search engines, that’s referral traffic.

When someone clicks a link on a website or social network, and it takes them to another site, tracking software, such as Google Analytics or HubSpot, counts that visitor as referral traffic.

The originating website is the “referrer” since it refers to traffic from one website to the other.

HubSpot’s marketing analytics tools can provide you with insight into your referral traffic. You can isolate this traffic from other categories and determine your best referral sources.

With this information, you can measure the effectiveness of your strategies to boost referral traffic.

what is referral traffic

Get started with HubSpot's traffic analytics.

Why is referral traffic important?

Referral traffic is valuable to inbound marketers because it sends potentially qualified visitors to your website. This, in turn, gets your content in front of new people, giving your website the opportunity to convert that visitor into a lead.

Your sales team will take it from there, as they then have the opportunity to convert that lead into a new customer.

That’s not the only reason referral traffic is helpful, however. Referral traffic also has SEO benefits. When someone visits your website from another site, they are usually clicking on a link or completing some type of social activity.

Google and other search engines consider these links and social signals as positive ranking factors — as long as they are coming from trusted websites.

why is referral traffic important for marketers

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Sounds pretty good, right? Well, let’s get started on getting you some juicy referral traffic so you can brag about all the hot leads you have rolling in.

7 Steps to Generate More Referral Traffic

Ready to increase your referral traffic? Start with these seven tricks.

1. Publish Your Website To Online Directories

Submitting your website to online directories is one of the easiest ways to get referral traffic, but you don’t want to publish your website to every directory out there.

Instead, focus on the ones that are most relevant to your industry or generate the most traffic. Whether you’re a veterinarian in St. Louis or an assisted living facility in Daytona Beach, Moz has you covered.

It offers a free resource for finding the top directories by category and city.

Once you’ve submitted your website to the top directories for your city and industry, focus on finding directories that can generate some serious traffic. How do you know which directories will accomplish this?

It’s as simple as performing a Google search.

The directories that appear at the top of the search results should, in theory, generate the most traffic.

For example, if you do a search for “personal trainer in Los Angeles,” there are three directories that show up on the first scroll of the search results: Thumbtack, Yelp, and FitnessTrainer. Focus your efforts there to start.

what is referral traffic? top google search results for “personal trainer in los angeles”

You can’t use SEO to pass up these directories in the search results overnight. What you can do, however, is use these directories to your advantage.

List your website on these directories in order to generate quality traffic and get some free SEO juice.

After all, if someone is looking for a personal trainer in Los Angeles and finds your website via Yelp, that referred visitor is just as valuable to you as them landing directly on your website.

2. Get Published on Review Websites

Review websites are another tried and true tool you can use to increase referral traffic. These visitors have already completed the awareness and consideration stages of the buyer’s journey.

They’ve now reached the decision stage and are comparing vendors or products. What better time to get your product or service in front of them for consideration?

Getting listed on a review website can vary depending on whether you are a B2B or B2C company.

If you perform a search for “St. Louis roofing company reviews,” there are seven websites that you would want to be listed on if you were a roofer: AngiesList, Yelp, BBB, This Old House,, Houzz, and Porch.

referral traffic, top google search results for “st louis roofing company reviews”

By adding your website to these seven directories, you’re increasing the likelihood of your website being found during the decision phase of the buyer’s journey.

The next step, however, is getting those reviews. If you’re operating a respectable roofing company that treats customers fairly you should have no problem standing out from other roofers that have not-so-positive reviews.

B2B businesses will find that it is more difficult to get featured on review websites.

A lot of times, you have to “pay to play,” meaning you will basically have to pay to be featured toward the top of the review listings. For example, if you do a Google search for “top mobile app developers,” the first search result is

They showcase a list of mobile app development firms with reviews, but if you look closely, you’ll notice that they are “sorted by sponsor.” Essentially these companies are paying to have their website and reviews featured first.

It’s a slick way for Clutch to make money but also maintain its reputation as a respectable source for reviews.

what is referral traffic? list of mobile app development firms’ reviews

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3. Publish Guest Blog Posts

Guess what? You’re currently looking at step three of seven for increasing your site’s referral traffic. That’s right — you’re reading a guest blog post by Agile & Co, a HubSpot Partner Agency.

Guest blog posts create numerous opportunities to get referral traffic to your website. External links (like the two in this paragraph), author bios, and calls to action (like the one at the bottom of this post) are typically present on most blogs.

If you can get a post featured on a well-known industry website, you’ll benefit from the referral traffic and links coming to your site.

It’s best to focus your efforts on websites that are considered thought leaders in your industry. Since we’re an inbound marketing agency, HubSpot is the perfect place for us to contribute a guest blog post.

I mean, HubSpot literally coined the term inbound marketing.

Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind when guest blogging:

  1. Focus on websites related to your industry. No one wants to read about fall fashion trends on a blog about dogs. In most cases, the dog blog wouldn’t even give a fall fashion post an okay.
  2. Keep the target audience in mind while writing. Most blogs have strict guidelines in place for guest bloggers.
  3. Write content under your own name. You deserve to get credit for your work. Plus, with enough blogging, you can establish yourself as a thought leader in the space.
  4. Link to influencers. They will notice and might even help promote your guest blog post, which in return will increase the referral traffic it generates.

4. Leverage Social Media

According to Social Media Examiner, a whopping 86% of marketers indicated that social media generated more exposure for their business. Additionally, 76% found their website traffic increased as a result of their social media efforts.

Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok were the top six social media platforms used by B2C marketers.

However, most B2B marketers ranked LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok as their top social media platforms.

Being active on social media isn’t just for fun — it’s a tactic most marketers are using to get more traffic, leads, and sales. And if you’re not leveraging it, you’re seriously missing out.

benefits of social media marketing survey bar graph for referral traffic

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Every time you tweet, share, like, or pin a piece of content, you are creating an opportunity to drive referral traffic to your website. Plus, you’re increasing the likelihood of your content showing up at the top of Google.

76% of marketers using social media reported improved search traffic, and 55% reported improved sales. As mentioned before, referral traffic not only brings more potential customers to your website but also helps with SEO.

5. Comment on Blogs

A question that comes up a lot is, “Does blog commenting help SEO?” Not only can it help with SEO, but it can also generate more referral traffic for your website.

According to Neil Patel, his 240+ comments on blogs have generated close to 4,000 visitors to his website.

Commenting on blogs will definitely increase your referral traffic — just make sure you’re not filling the interwebs with more spam. Here are a couple of tips for the newbie blog commenters out there:

  1. Make sure your comments are valuable. No one likes a complainer or bragger. If your comments are negative or promotional in nature, just keep them to yourself.
  2. Focus on blogs that allow links in the comments. Remember, you’re trying to get more traffic. In order to do that, you need to add a link to your website
  3. If you aren't first, you’re last. Just like search engines, if your link is at the top of the comments list, you’re more likely to generate more clicks and traffic.

6. Be Active on Industry Forums

Online forums are a great source of potential leads and customers but are often overlooked as a marketing tactic for generating traffic.

Similar to blog comments, you should focus your efforts on forums in your niche and always try to add value without sounding too promotional. Here are a couple of steps and tips below for getting the most out of forum marketing:

  1. Make sure the forum is active. Don’t waste your time on a forum that hasn’t had a new post for a month.
  2. Register using your brand name. You want to make sure people associate your comments with a memorable brand name.
  3. Create a signature with a call-to-action link. This is how you’re going to drive traffic to your website.
  4. Participate. You’ll want to participate in the areas of the forum where you have the most expertise.
  5. Use real-life examples, don’t just offer your advice. Try to provide value using your personal experiences.
  6. Share your resources and start a new thread with a link to a resource you think could benefit the group. If you’re proud of a particular piece of content, it’s likely others will enjoy it too.

7. Publish Infographics

When asked to select the social media platforms they want to learn more about, 68% of marketers selected YouTube and Instagram, which are heavy on visuals. The reason is pretty simple.

Humans have attention spans shorter than goldfish, and it’s easier for the brain to consume an image than a bunch of text.

Plus, you’ve probably noticed that an image of a cute puppy gets liked and shared more than a 100+ page industry report.

referral traffic, attention span of internet user infographic

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The great thing about infographics is they can help people understand complex data with simple visuals.

The goal is to get your infographic shared, liked, and pinned on social networks and have others embed it in their articles (like I’ve done above), thus creating links to your website.

In addition to your own website, there are several websites where you can post an infographic. One of my favorites is Instagram, which 37% of marketers rank, along with Facebook, as the best platform for developing loyalty.

Instagram gives you the option to link your infographic to your website and makes it easy for it to be shared on other platforms.

Next Steps

Once you start receiving additional referral traffic, you’ll want to make sure your website is ready for these new visitors.

Download the FREE eBook below to learn some best practices for ensuring your website is set up to convert visitors into leads for your business.



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