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What Is Website Traffic?

What Is Website Traffic

Date First Published: 3rd February 2023

Topic: Web Design & Development

Subtopic: Web Development

Computer Terms & Definitions

Difficulty: Medium

Difficulty Level: 4/10

Learn more about what website traffic is in this article.

Website traffic refers to the number of visitors and page views a website receives in a given period of time. It is a way of measuring the popularity of a website as the more traffic a website gets, the more popular it is. Website traffic is measured, monitored and analysed using tools, such as Google Analytics. It can also be measured by log files created by the web server, which log information about the requests made by website visitors, but the records can be complex and very long. Since the mid-1990s, website traffic has been the largest portion of internet traffic.


Knowing the amount of traffic a website is receiving is useful for measuring the visibility and popularity of a website. Higher traffic will lead to higher advertising revenue and sales. When ecommerce became popular in the 1990s, web traffic measurement was first viewed as the most important way of measuring the popularity of a website. This was because other measurements did not exist to provide detailed information about the performance of a website.

As of now, it is not only important to measure the number of visitors and page views a website receives in a given period of time. It is more important to find out detailed information about website traffic. This includes:

  • The time on site. Directing huge amounts of traffic to a website is useless if users do nothing and leave after a few seconds.
  • Bounce rate and dwell time. Both of these user interaction metrics can measure user interaction. Bounce rate measures the percentage of users that leave after viewing a single page and dwell time measures the time that a user spends on a page after clicking through a link on a search engine result before returning back to the search engine results page. Although a high bounce rate or a low dwell time can indicate website issues, they are not direct Google ranking factors.
  • Conversion rates. These measure how many users performed a desired action on a website, such as making a purchase or filling out a personal information form. In order for an online business to succeed, it needs high conversion rates.
  • New vs returning visitors. This can determine whether most website traffic is from users that have already visited the website or new users.

Sources Of Website Traffic

Website traffic can come from a wide range of sources. These include:

Search engines

Most website traffic comes from search engines, such as Google and Bing. Millions of people use search engines every day to research different topics, ask questions, and browse products. When a user clicks on a search result, they are directed to the website, data is transferred from the web server, and the visit is counted towards the overall flow of traffic to that website. This type of traffic is known as organic traffic.

Search engines use keywords to help searchers find information relevant and accurate to their search queries. Every search engine has a unique algorithm to determine the order that pages with similar keywords are listed in SERPs. Different on-page (internal) and off-page (external) factors are considered. The higher a page ranks in SERPs, the more organic traffic it will receive. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) describes techniques that aim to optimise a website to appear in search engines.

Paid advertising

Website traffic can be increased by paid advertising. Paid advertising involves the advertiser paying the publisher to place a promotional ad on their website. Paid ads can appear above the organic search results, on social media, and on millions of websites and apps that are part of the advertising network.

Paid advertising is often used when online businesses are struggling to rank in the SERPs. This could be because the keywords are too competitive, they are finding it hard to build backlinks to their site, or they instantly need website traffic.

Direct traffic

Direct traffic is traffic with no referring website or source. The source of direct traffic may be from people that have bookmarked the site or have clicked on links in non-web sources, such as apps, software, and offline documents. Direct traffic does not come through search engines, paid advertising, or a link from another website.

Traffic Overload

If a website receives too much traffic, it can overload the server. This will lead to the website slowing down or becoming unresponsive. Large websites with multiple servers can often handle the traffic required, so it is more likely that smaller servers are affected by traffic overload. Traffic overload can be caused by:

  • DDoS attacks. These force websites to close down by flooding them with so much traffic that they cannot operate. Malware has been used to get other computers involved in a DDoS attack.
  • Sudden popularity. A sudden rise in website traffic can cause a traffic overload. A news item in the media or a link from a popular site may cause a huge boost in visitors and more file requests may go to the server than it can handle.

One-Time Visitors and Regular Visitors

Website traffic can be categorised into regular visitors and one-time visitors. Regular visitors provide steady traffic, whilst one-time visitors are just looking for information on a specific topic and are usually directed to the website through search engines. Unlike regular visitors that may regularly visit to buy a product, they will not regularly visit the website again.


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