Do you know? If you have a website, it’s something you should know.

Google Analytics is a free tool that makes it easy to find out. If you have Google Analytics installed on your website, you can use the reports in the Acquisition folder to find out.

The traffic coming to your website can be broken down a couple of different ways. First, you can separate it into Paid and Unpaid.

  • Paid traffic is just that, traffic you paid for. This could come via ads on search engines, Facebook or other social media advertising, banners, remarketing ads, etc. It’s traffic that you are paying to acquire.
  • Unpaid traffic, or organic traffic, are people that are finding your website on their own in some way. You are not paying directly to acquire that traffic. They might come from organic search, social media, links from another website, emails, or by typing your URL directly into their browser.

Knowing which traffic is paid and which is unpaid is important for several reasons. First, if you are paying to bring people to your website, you’re doing it with a specific goal in mind. Use Google Analytics to measure the success of your advertising and make decisions about how best to spend your ad dollars in the future.

Second, you should expect paid visitors and unpaid ones to act differently once they arrive there. Paid visitors responded to an advertisement and might be more likely to be in buying mode. Organic visitors might just be browsing or researching. Their behavior will vary depending on how they found you.

Another important way to break down your traffic is by source. Some of the most common top-level sources include:

  • Search – people who found you through Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.
  • Social – people who came your site from a social network like Twitter or Facebook
  • Direct – anyone who types your URL directly into their browser
  • Referrer – someone who clicks on a link to you from another site
  • Email – someone who clicks on a link to you from an email

Each of the above can be broken down further and analyzed. For example, you might want details on which social networks are driving traffic, or which sites constitute your referral traffic.

Knowing where your traffic is coming from helps you in many ways. But most importantly, it lets you measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts over time.