How to Increase Your Website’s Referral Traffic: an 8 Point Guide to Success

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New guest on the Colibri blog: Affise. Trusted by over 1,000 happy customers worldwide, Affise is an all-in-one platform for data-loving marketers. 

A website is a shop window, and a communication channel between business and client. But a website is only as effective as the number of customers and potential customers who engage with it. The priority for any website owner is driving visits to their site, and more importantly, having those visits result in purchases or hiring services.

So, how can you increase your website’s traffic? Well, social media marketing and blogging can both be effective, and of course, search engine optimization is a mainstay. There’s no doubt that the best SEO tools will significantly boost the site traffic. There are also pay-per-click (or PPC) advertising options, although these can be expensive.

But there’s another solution that is sometimes neglected, and that is increasing referral traffic. But what is referral traffic?

Referral traffic is basically one website recommending another. It happens when someone clicks on a link on one website that takes them directly to a different site. Following links in this way is of course the internet’s MO, it’s how the ‘everything-is-connected’ world works. But how can you make this work for you and your business? Well, there are various referral tools available. Let’s take a closer look at how to grow and understand your website’s referral traffic.


1. Understand your referral traffic using Google Analytics

So, how can you find out if and when referral traffic is hitting your website? The answer is analytics. Through analytics, you can arm yourself with the information you need, to assess where your referrals are coming from.

Google Analytics basically tracks website traffic. It can identify by default: organic traffic (from search engines), direct traffic (traffic from people that type the website or have bookmarked your site), social traffic and referral traffic. Referrers are the sites that carry the hyperlinks that lead to your site. Clicks from these hyperlinks are logged and tracked.

If you run paid ad campaigns, email campaigns, or campaigns on  other channels, these can be tracked as well. You just need to tag the links that will get clicked and bring people to your site.

You can view your referrals and check how visitors are finding your website. Helpfully, and most importantly, it can also show you what those visitors are doing once they get to your site. This is an important piece of the picture when it comes to knowing your website conversion rates.

So, how is this information accessed and presented in practice? There are basically five simple steps:

  1.  Go to the Acquisition tab.
  2.  Go to the All traffic tab.
  3.  Select Referrals.

Referral traffic

At this point you should see a table showing the sources of your referral traffic. You can select any date range, in order to focus on specific time frames.

Referral examples

Now, perhaps you’ve partnered with another site to drive traffic, or you’ve embarked on a new content marketing strategy. Whatever the situation, looking at analytics is enlightening.

You could see how traffic from a specific source evolves during certain periods, how that specific traffic converts. You can even segment by country and device.

Next you could include those good-performing sites into your strategy. Maybe you could publish an article there, decide on a mutual promotion strategy, etc. One way of doing this is developing a referral program. This is a win-win strategy. Here’s more info on best referral programs.

Now let’s look at steps you can take to actively drive that traffic and increase referrals.


2. Get listed inside directories

Publishing your website on online directories is an effective but simple way to drive referral traffic.  The advice here is to be targeted and focused. Don’t publish on every directory available.  

Focus on your industry sector and search out directories that have a high referral traffic rate. It’s also important to think local. Consider which directories cater to your city or geographical area and check which are the most popular. 

And take a look at that, the folks at Moz have prepared a list of such directories, by category and city.


3. Guest blogging 

Guest blogging is another great way to get visits your site. Most blogs have external links embedded in their biographies, stories, and calls to action.

The most useful blogs are going to be on websites specific to your industry. Reach out to website owners and bloggers, and suggest them a topic they can’t refuse. Make sure you research the topic and the current blog content of the website you’re reaching out to.

For example, the folks at ConvertSquad published an article with the title “Psychology Concepts to Apply in E-Commerce Web Design and copy”, on the Design Your Way website.

They published an article that speaks of e-commerce design on a design website. ConvertSquad is a blog that talks about e-commerce. See the relevance of the topic for both sites?

When you blog, remember to use your own name. This may sound obvious, but although hiding behind a pseudonym might be useful at times in the online world, it’s counterproductive when blogging to drive traffic to your company.External link example

When blogging, look at the style of other posts and articles on the site, and consider the audience and what interests them. Look for a way you can both stand out, especially with your blog post heading, yet fit naturally among the other posts.


 4. Commenting to blog posts

Blogging is most definitely time consuming,  but commenting on blogs can also be really effective and much cheaper in terms of your valuable time.

Commenting as often as possible can drive SEO and create referral visits to your site. But be careful about what you say in the comments. You must be relevant and positive, and you should avoid bragging, humble or otherwise, as it’s far more obvious than you might realize to the reader.

Here are a few tips for good practice with comments:

  •  Praise, but don’t gush. Aim to be positive and well informed.
  • Acknowledge the content of the blog. Comment on what it’s about.
  • Mention the blogger by name. Be personal and polite.
  • Reference other blogs they have written, this will go down very well!
  • Commit to sharing the blog if that’s appropriate for you.
  • Link to your website, but make it as well integrated into your comment and subtle as possible.


5. Get smart with your social media strategy

Many marketers recognize social media as the one of best sources of exposure and a valuable way of increasing referral traffic.

Social media use varies when it comes to which platform your target audience or demographic prefer. Doing some homework in this area is therefore advisable. Tag people, businesses and brands in some of your posts to gain more reach and, traffic, in the end. But don’t abuse this. 

Being active on social media platforms is an opportunity to like, share, pin content, and engage with customers. It increases your chances of appearing high up on a search and directly boosts your referral rates.


6. Get your product reviewed on review websites

Review sites can bring a good stream of referrals your way, but it will depend on whether you trade with the public, or with other businesses. Obviously, businesses who deal with private customers tend to get reviewed more often.

Generally, visitors to review sites are serious about making a purchase or hiring a service, they are in the process of researching, in order to make the right choice.

Getting your website linked to from a review site is a great way to send customers your way. But the catch is that customers have to want to review your products and services. The only real way to guarantee this is to make sure your offering is top-notch. But you can also incentivize and suggest that customers comment. Follow-up emails after a transaction can help.


7. Infographics

Infographics are appealing and simple to take in. They cater to the shorter attention spans all of us have these days, and how little spare time many people can dedicate to taking in information. Infographics turn dense data into clear and easily digestible pictures.

What you want is for your infographics to be shared, pinned, and liked on other sites and social media. It’s worth spending the time and resources on infographics as if you can get them embedded in other people’s blogs, articles and accounts, you will drive traffic to your site.

As with the reciprocal nature of blogs, it’s also important to post other companies’ infographics.


8. Show up in industry forums

 This is an area many companies neglect, but online industry forums can be another source of traffic to your site.

 Choose forums that are specific to your business and sector, and make sure the forum is active. There are many forums that are basically frozen in time and essentially abandoned. Don’t waste time posting on these.

 Once you’ve found a relevant and active forum, register with your brand name. Use real life personal examples when commenting, and most importantly, create a signature that includes a link and a call to action. It’s also good to begin threads yourself rather than just adding to existing ones.



The key to increasing your website’s referral traffic as we have seen, is basically arming yourself with data to begin with, then deciding which strategies are a good fit for your business and above all your available time.

Business website owners have competing demands, whether their business is all online or has an online presence. Not every business owner can commit to blogging or reviewing. Finding a level that’s feasible for you and your business is important if it is to be sustainable.

Whichever strategy you opt for, going back to check the stats to find out if your efforts have resulted in referrals, is key. Tracking affiliate marketing is also a valuable activity. Sometimes the analytics throw up surprises, a strategy you weren’t so sure would result in referrals might turn out to be the most productive. The key to a successful website is to check, drive, then check those referrals again.


Sam O'Brien
Sam O’Brien
+ posts

Sam O’Brien is the Chief Marketing Officer for Affisea Global SaaS Partner Marketing Solution. He is a growth marketing expert with affiliate marketing platforms, product management and design background. Sam has a passion for innovation, growth, and marketing technology. Sam O'Brien also published articles for domains such as EuroSTAR Huddle and Marketing AI Institute. Here is his LinkedIn.


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