Want Reader Loyalty? Aim to Convert Search Referrals to Direct Traffic

May 23, 2019

This article is included in these additional categories:

Digital | Email | Industries | Media & Entertainment | Paid Search | Search Engine Optimization | Social Media

There is a positive correlation between the number of times someone visits a website and retention, according to a new study by Parse.ly. In fact, the most loyal readers, people who visit a website most often, are those who come to a site directly – such as by clicking on a bookmark or typing in a URL.

Parse.ly’s study analyzed thousands of sites during one month in 2018, using its network, which covers one billion people who read some 8 million articles. Their analysis found that direct referrals averaged 4.7 sessions per visitor for the month. Social, the category with the second-highest number of sessions per visitor, averaged only 2.7 sessions.

While data from just over a year ago showed that search outpaced social when it came to website referrals, search is the referral category that generated the least amount of reader loyalty, with 2.1 average sessions per visitor. That makes some sense considering that visitors from search are generally intent-based.

The patterns above are also reflected in separate data looking at returning users’ share of total views by referrer. For example, returning visitors represented 39% of total views for direct traffic and 32% of total views for traffic referred from social media. On the other hand, returning visitors only accounted for about one-quarter (23%) of total search-referred views.

Where search does pick up is in engagement. Visitors referred by search averaged 2.7 page views per session, an amount equal to direct traffic. This is far higher than the average number of views per session for visitors referred by social media (1.7), suggesting that readers referred through social are not as engaged in the content as are others.

What this data illustrates, and Parse.ly emphasizes, is that when people use search they are most often in the discovery stage and are looking for information, making them less likely to return to a website through search again. Therefore, for sites looking to build a loyal and engaged audience, it’s important to take steps to try and convert search referrals to direct referrals.

Read more about Parse.ly’s findings here.

About the Data: Findings are based on an analysis of a sample month (in 2018) of data from Parse.ly’s network, which covers thousands of sites and 1 billion people reading 8 million articles monthly.

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