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How to Determine Online Community Traffic Sources

As an online community manager, you want to track the sources of the traffic to your community. Your incoming links, or backlinks, tell you a lot more than who is talking about you. They also tell you who is visiting you. Traffic has to come from somewhere, and those locations can be very revealing. You can discover

  • Likes and interests: Backlinks reveal a lot about how your visitors spend their time. If you manage a crafting forum, and a good chunk of your links come from knitting and crocheting communities, you know that the majority of the crafters who visit your forum enjoy knitting and crocheting over all else.

    You should make sure that you have plenty of content and discussion fodder to keep the knitters and crocheters amused, but you also want to be sure that you don’t leave out other types of crafters. This is your cue to reach out to scrapbooking, cross-stitching, woodworking, and other crafting communities to see how you can bring in traffic from those niches as well.

  • Ages: You may be able to estimate the median age of your community members by visiting their haunts. If you’re receiving links from a clothing website, take note of the types of clothes that the website is offering, as fashion choices differ between 20-year-olds and 50-year-olds and also between men and women.

  • Locations: Maybe a restaurant in Muskegon, Michigan, is linking to your peanut-butter community because it uses your product in one of its recipes. If you receive a staggering amount of traffic from the Muskegon area, you’ll want to create some content for that region.

    This is a good opportunity to welcome the newbies to your website too. Many communities have a special greeting for major traffic, such as “Welcome to everyone who is visiting from Joe’s Family Restaurant. Have a look around, make yourself at home, and join the conversation.”

  • Social-network use: You may discover you have more traffic from Twitter than from Facebook, or that Google+ is starting to send some traffic your way. Now you know to spend more time building relationships on these networks.

    Find out where the majority of your community members spend their time, and spend a good portion of your time there as well. Then visit the other places, and work to build up more of a presence there too.

  • Purpose of visits: If you often host giveaways or offer discount codes, you may notice a spike in traffic from freebie and deal-seeking communities whose members like to share deals from around the web. Visit these communities to determine appropriate content, and see how you can convert the traffic from those communities from deal-seeking visitors to full-fledged members of your own community.

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