Does Referral Traffic Affect Website Google Search Rankings?

Many of you know that I love to scour Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics for signs of ranking factors when it comes to Google search. When looking at sites linking to a web entity I noticed this little gem at the very bottom of the page of Google Webmaster Tools:


When clicking the “Referring Sites” link it will take users to the Google Analytics page for referral traffic. When in Google Analytics it looks like this on the left sidebar under “Acquisition”:


When clicking “All Referrals” you will see a chart of the referral traffic for the last three months. You can expand or contract this chart as you see fit. As I was looking at the referral traffic for some of my websites I did a quick comparison to Google search traffic. While the study was not extensive nor scientific I did notice that many of my websites saw a jump in search traffic when there was a jump in referral traffic. So, this begs the question, does referral traffic affect SEO and Google search rankings?

Why Referral Traffic is Important

Let’s just assume that referral traffic has absolutely zero ranking factor when it comes to the Google algorithms. Even with that being the case, referral traffic is extremely important because it means another website has linked to your website in some form or fashion. Some argue that links are the most important ranking factor when it comes to Google search. That is another article for another time.

Therefore, every visitor you receive from another website, through referral traffic, means your website is being seen somewhere else on the web. This is great for Internet Marketing and SEO. If you have seen a steady increase in referral traffic there is a very good chance you have seen an increase in search traffic as well. Go check it out in your Google Analytics and let me know what you find.

One thing I will point out is that many social media and news related websites will see random spikes in referral traffic because a blog post or article goes viral on social media. This is what one of my websites referral traffic looks like:


As you can see, there is nothing slow and steady about this chart. Some of my articles went viral on Reddit, Google Plus, Facebook and Google News. Other jumps were caused by links from major copywriting or social media websites. There is also a spike from a random message board that is not even in English. If you are creating unique content every day there are going to be random spikes. This is absolutely fine.

I would point out that my overall average number of weekly and monthly visitors from referral traffic is slowly rising. There will be weeks in which it jumps because of a viral article. That said, my goal has always been to increase the number of visitors on the low days. On weekends and holidays I want to get to a certain number of visitors.

Remember that your referral website traffic increasing means you are getting links from other websites. This is great when it comes to SEO and Google search rankings. Before getting caught up in the percentage of visitors that come to your website through referring websites I would urge you to note that users must get what they are looking for if you hope to increase your search rankings over time.

How to Get More Referral Website Traffic

Create amazing content. It really is as easy as that! If you are willing to put forth time and effort with content creation the amount of referral visitors will naturally increase. There are plenty of guides and how to’s as it relates to marketing your website online. While it never hurts to throw up a link on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest every now and again, you will do much more with your time if you are willing to produce amazing content in the form of blog posts, photos, audio files or videos.

The more quality content you have, the more likely it will be shared on other websites. You will not only get shared on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, but you will likely be linked to from major news websites as well. If your content is unique and helps serve a purpose there is no way your website will not get referral traffic from natural links.