Learn about seven types of web traffic, discover their characteristics, and start attracting visitors to your website by “driving down digital roads”.

Seven types of web traffic: driving down digital roads

What goals are companies, business owners, and entrepreneurs trying to achieve via digital marketing?

There are numerous answers to this question.

For instance, companies, business owners, and entrepreneurs may be trying to attract more customers to their businesses on the Internet.

Their goals might also be to approach and get to know better a new target audience, and build or strengthen their brand reputation.

However, what do they need to achieve their goals?

This time, the answer is only one.

What they need is web traffic.

In other words, all businesses that are trying to meet their goals via online marketing should do their best to attract visitors to their corporate website, webshop, blog, etc.

Without visitors, it’s practically impossible to sell products online or win over potential clients.

Since web traffic — Internet traffic — is so important, I’ll write about its types in this post.

To be more precise, I’ll answer the following three questions:

  • How many types of web traffic exist?
  • What are their characteristics?
  • What do digital traffic and physical roads have in common?

Would you like to get the answers to these questions and learn more about the types of web traffic?

In that case, keep reading!

Seven types of web traffic

In the very beginning, let’s see what web traffic is:

Website traffic refers to web users who visit a website. Web traffic is measured in visits, sometimes called “sessions,” and is a common way to measure an online business effectiveness at attracting an audience.

What is Website Traffic and how to interpret it, BigCommerce

Speaking of the types of web traffic (or Internet traffic), there are seven of them, each one with its characteristics and particularities:

  • Direct traffic;
  • Paid traffic;
  • Referral traffic;
  • Organic traffic;
  • Email traffic;
  • Social traffic;
  • Offline traffic.

Direct web traffic: a free drive on a highway

Direct navigation traffic is by far the most highly targeted form of web traffic available.

Marc Ostrofsky

Direct web traffic is the first type of web traffic. This type of traffic is achieved without intermediaries.

Direct traffic is produced when a person accesses a website, webshop or blog after:

  • Typing its URL into the address bar of a browser;
  • Saving it as a bookmark and accessing it that way.

The main characteristic of this type of web traffic is that it’s direct and free of charge.

Namely, a website can receive direct traffic without investing money and time in attracting visitors.

In the end, direct traffic is essential for positioning a website on search engines because it indicates that the site is relevant to visitors. 

On the contrary, they wouldn’t bookmark it.

Direct web traffic is like a free drive on a highway. You can reach your destination quickly and without paying, only by working on your content and making it relevant for readers. Is there anything better?

Paid web traffic: a drive on a highway

Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does.

Steuart Henderson Britt

Paid web traffic is the second type of web traffic. This type of traffic is achieved via advertisements, promoted posts, sponsored content and news, etc.

Simply put, paid traffic is a synonym of online advertising.

Many platforms make this type of Internet traffic possible:

  • Search engines – Google Ads, Bing Ads, Yahoo Ads, and others;
  • Social networks – Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, Twitter Ads, LinkedIn Ads, TikTok Ads, etc;
  • Digital media – sponsored content, banners, and PPC campaigns.

The main characteristic of this type of digital traffic is that it’s highly efficient, as long as there is an advertising budget.

In other words, when a daily advertising budget runs out or an SEM specialist stops the campaign, ads and banners are no longer visible.

Therefore, it’s essential to set a budget for the campaign and regularly monitor the results.

Only that way, issues that may arise along the way are avoided. One such issue occurs when money is spent due to bot clicks.

In the end, paid traffic is a great option for those companies that have one-page websites.

Namely, one-page website owners often need a rapid influx of visitors, without having to make a significant investment in content strategy.

Paid web traffic is like a drive on a highway. It’s mandatory to pay for the use of the road. In consequence, visitors reach the desired destination quickly and safely. We could even say that this type of traffic is for those who consider that time is money.

Referral web traffic: a drive on a national road

People influence people. Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a trusted friend. A trusted referral influences people more than the best broadcast message. A trusted referral is the Holy Grail of advertising.

Mark Zuckerberg

Referral web traffic is the third type of web traffic. This type of traffic is achieved through digital referrals.

Referral traffic means that visitors arrive at a website by clicking links placed on other online sites. Those sites might be blogs, forums, webshops, online directories, digital glossaries, virtual encyclopedias, etc.

To enhance traffic that comes from referrals, it’s necessary to work on Off-Page SEO.

Working on Off-Page SEO includes creating and executing an off-page optimization strategy (Off-Page SEO).

The strategy can include:

  • Guest posts publication;
  • Link building;
  • Comments posting and debating;
  • Participation in digital forums;
  • Website registration in virtual directories.

The main characteristic of referral traffic is that it is qualified traffic.

In addition, this type of web traffic is free, although more and more sites are charging to include links or publish guest posts.

Referral web traffic is like a drive on a national road. This type of traffic is neither the most expensive nor the most affordable. It is not the fastest nor the slowest. However, driving on a national road represents a safe and reliable way to provide a website with web traffic.

Organic web traffic: a drive on a regional road

The best place to hide a dead body is the second page of Google search.


Organic web traffic is the fourth type of web traffic. This type of traffic is achieved when search engines become intermediaries between visitors and websites.

Organic visits are produced when Internet users use a search engine to make a query on the Internet.

Then, they choose a result that Google returns as a response to the query, click the link and visit the website.

The main characteristic of this type of traffic is that it’s free.

In other words, it’s impossible to pay search engines to have a website page or blog post on the first page of results for a keyword.

However, even if organic traffic doesn’t require any financial investment, it’s crucial to regularly craft, optimize, and index the content.

Content optimization for search engines is known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

This type of optimization is different from Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

There are two types of search engine optimization:

  • On-Page SEO;
  • Off-Page SEO.

Both types of optimization are essential for a web positioning and organic traffic and can’t lead to positive results separately.

In conclusion, SEO doesn’t require financial investment but time and effort to generate results.

However, the investment is worth it because organic web traffic, though generally of less intensity, is incomparably more stable than paid web traffic.

Organic web traffic is like a drive on a regional road. The drive is free of charge, whereas the destination can’t be reached very quickly. The drivers should know the road well and adapt the trip to the existing conditions. However, regional roads are necessary for those who understand that stable web traffic requires a time investment.

Email web traffic: a drive on a high-occupancy vehicle lane

There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.

Roger Stauchbach

Email web traffic is the fifth type of web traffic. This type of traffic is achieved via email marketing.

How does email traffic work?

  • For email web traffic to be possible, the first step is for visitors to reach the website in some other way. They can land on the website by clicking on an ad, a promoted post, or one of the organic results.
  • Then, if the visitors like the content published on the website, they could decide to subscribe to a newsletter via a subscription form. Often, they decide to subscribe to a newsletter in exchange for free content or some other benefit. The content might be, let’s say, a whitepaper or an e-book, whereas other benefits may be a free content audit, etc.
  • Upon registration, the visitors begin to receive emails from the business to whose list they have subscribed. Those emails usually consist of promotional offers, special discounts, recommended content, etc.
  • In the end, if they like the offers and decide to make a purchase or hire a service by clicking the CTA button. That type of traffic is called email web traffic.

The main characteristic of email web traffic is that it’s highly qualified.

Being highly qualified means that the visitors know the business very well and are interested in what it offers. Otherwise, they wouldn’t subscribe to the newsletter and other types of mail.

Last but not least, email web traffic is particularly significant for online stores. This type of business often achieves remarkably positive results via email traffic.

Email web traffic is like a drive on a high-occupancy vehicle lane. Only those who have “high-occupancy vehicles” and decided to subscribe to a newsletter can visit the website via email.

Social media traffic: a drive on a local road

The social media traffic is the sixth type of web traffic. This type of traffic is achieved via Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin and other social networks.

Social web traffic is one of the indicators of how engaging is the content created for social networks.

For instance, if the content is interesting, whilst the shared information is relevant, it’s highly likely that, at some point, the followers decide to visit the website or web of the brand they’re following.

However, it’s critical to keep in mind two potential issues concerning social media traffic.

  • The first problem that can arise is that, in digital analytics, a part of social traffic is measured as if it were referred traffic.
  • Another one is that the goal of the business does not have to be to increase traffic from social networks.

Many brands, for example, find it much more profitable to practice social selling than to direct visits to their webshop. 

Others see social media simply as a channel to attract potential customers, connect with them, and establish the first contact. The social media traffic is not one of their priorities.

Social media traffic is like a drive on a local road. To achieve it, it’s necessary to know very well how each social network works. Furthermore, it’s essential to keep in mind characteristics and habits of those who drive on “a local road” and use a particular social network.

Offline web traffic: a drive on a forest road

Offline traffic is the seventh type of web traffic. This type of traffic is closely related to direct traffic.

Offline web traffic occurs when a person visits a website or a webshop after they spot its URL in:

  • The traditional media (for instance, in print media or on television);
  • Some another way that is not related to digital marketing.

Offline web traffic is like a drive on a forest road. It’s neither the fastest nor the safest way to drive traffic to a website or a webshop. Moreover, potential visitors might get lost in the “404-error forest” while trying to enter the URL of a website in the address bar. Still, it’s possible to reach the desired destination even if there’s no other road but the forest one.

Seven types of web traffic, seven types of “digital roads”

Before finishing the post, let’s go through some of the most important aspects of web traffic.

The goals that businesses want to meet by investing in a website or webshop are different, whereas the most common one is to achieve or increase sales through digital channels.

However, to meet this or other objectives, it’s essential to choose the most appropriate source of web traffic. Without web traffic, it’s not possible to close sales.

Concerning online traffic types of web traffic, there are seven of them. These are seven “digital roads” driving down which visitors can reach a website or a webshop.

In short, driving down these “digital roads“ can be fast or slow, economical or not so economical, but always, despite everything, it’s necessary.

A Writing-Friendly Question: What type of web traffic would you like to improve so that your business could meet the goals you set?

My name is Stasa Durdic. I’m a content writer and a “driver” on a “regional digital road”. If you would like to know more about me, please read my story or visit my LinkedIn profile. On the other hand, in case you want to get in touch with me, I’ll be happy to offer you my help with content writing.

From NO to YES, there is only one CLICK. Please share this text.


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