Traffic Sources for Internet Marketing – Best options for growing your business

Magdalena Bober
traffic sources header

Growing online business has never been easier. There are countless readily available resources and tutorials on how to drive traffic to your website and how to build your brand. 

But if you’re completely new to all of this then you might be quite confused about the basics. Whether you have a website, a product page, or you’re a third party marketer looking to earn money advertising other people’s products, this article is just for you.

Read below and learn about traffic sources in internet marketing and what are the best options for growing your business.

What is a traffic source?

A traffic source, in simple terms, is a means by which people find out about whatever you are trying to advertise. Every time somebody finds your website they are coming from somewhere. And that somewhere, whether it be a recommendation, an ad, or a referral, is a traffic source. 

If you are a media buyer who merely advertises other people’s products, a traffic source will be an ad exchange platform where you buy traffic in the form of clicks or impressions. 

Website or product owners tend to have a wide variety of traffic sources to choose from, whereas media buyers are restricted to paid traffic sources.

What are the available traffic sources?

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether you advertise your own product or someone else’s business, you need to know how traffic sources work. There are both free and paid options which all take a different kind and amount of effort. So, let’s go over all the possible ways in which you can attract people to your website or product. 

Organic traffic (SEO)

Organic traffic is traffic coming from Google searches. What that means is people interested in a certain product or service will use a search engine such as Google to look up whatever questions they have. Sometimes they might be researching something specific so they will enter a keyword, for example, “mountaineering”, and if your website or store ranks high with that keyword, there’s a good chance that it will be found. 

Take a look at these broad-topic well-optimized blogs: HubSpot Blog, Neil Patel’s Blog or the technology-focused Gizmodo.

Organic traffic is a seemingly free option that’s great for building a brand and providing long term value. But it’s not at all as easy as it seems. Having a website is not enough to show up on the first page of Google search results. You need to also have content and use search engine optimization (SEO) strategies to increase the visibility of your page. Unfortunately, SEO tools are where the costs begin. 

Overall, organic traffic is best for building a brand from scratch, starting a serious business that will slowly but steadily increase in size, or creating an informational/hobbyist website with future prospects of monetization.  

Direct Traffic

Direct traffic is not an option you can choose as it comes from user’s typing in the URL of your website from their memory. That means the direct traffic comes majorly from people who have already visited your website. Additionally, most of these internet users might be frequent visitors as typing in URLs by hand requires knowing them by heart. 

The amount of direct traffic you receive is a good measurement of the value your website provides. If you’re selling things, that also means the users who come back have most likely had a positive experience with your business in the past. 

Social Media

Social media traffic offers the most accurate targeting. Besides the commonly available options of GEO targeting, you can also target age, gender, languages, and more specific information. For example, on Facebook, you can target users by interests, connections, relationship status, languages, education, or workplaces. This is a great option for displaying your ads to a small selection of internet users most likely to become interested in what you’ve got to offer.

Unfortunately, Facebook, among other social media platforms, tends to be quite strict. If you don’t follow the rules for allowed creatives, copy, and type of products, then your ads might be rejected, and in the worst-case scenario, you might be banned. But as long as you stay away from shady business practices, Facebook is a good way to advertise products both as a media buyer and product owner.

Email Traffic

Email traffic means people coming to your website after clicking on a CTA button in an email that they received. Obviously, in order to receive an email, they would have to be already subscribed to a newsletter or an RSS feed (a feed that allows users to subscribe to website updates via, e.g. email). 

Did you know that you don’t necessarily have to have a business or a product to have a newsletter? Here is the most popular digital marketing newsletter Stacked Marketer which gathers news about the industry on a daily basis. And here’s yet another interesting news-centered newsletter – NextDraft – which delivers a daily dose of top 10 interesting, weird, or hilarious stories found on the internet. 

Additionally, email is yet another traffic source that does require previous actions to make receiving traffic possible. Preferably using other traffic sources described in the article, you need to first get users to subscribe to your mailing list. For example, you could run a Facebook subscription collection campaign so that people interested in what you’ve got to offer share their emails in exchange for a promise of exclusive discounts. 

Email traffic tends to convert well because people who have chosen to receive your emails have already indicated an interest in your products.

Referral Traffic

Referral traffic is traffic coming from other websites. Just as the name suggests, it means your website is recommended in, for example, a piece of content posted by someone else. 

Referral traffic can be obtained via deals and cross promos. If you want your website to appear on someone else’s website you can strike a deal to exchange content, include each other in your newsletters, or even give each other permanent spots on your websites (e.g. in the form ‘partner recommendations’). Also, there is an option of simply asking a bigger business for a paid recommendation. 

You don’t always have to ask other website owners or businesses for referrals, though. If your product or service is good and your brand has a fine reputation, you will definitely get random free referrals completely out of the blue. 

Referral traffic is a profitable traffic source because your legibility is attested by third parties, therefore making you a trustworthy brand in the eyes of the customers.  

Lastly, we have a very broad term of paid traffic sources which encompasses various types of advertisements. With paid advertising, you can advertise pretty much anything, anywhere you want. It’s perfect for affiliate marketers who want to earn money on advertising other people’s products. 

You can divide paid traffic by various criteria:

1. Pricing model – Affiliate marketer’s side:

    • CPA (Cost Per Action)you get paid for every completed action, i.e. conversion, such as an app download, subscription, credit card number submission, or purchase. 
    • CPC (Cost Per Click) you get paid every time someone clicks on your ad; pricing model used in less common lead generation campaigns.
    • RevShare – you receive a percentage of what the product owner makes from your sales/leads; popular for e-commerce. 

2. Pricing model – Product/service owner’s side:

    • CPM (Cost Per Mille)it’s the price you pay for your ad to be displayed 1000 times (1000 impressions); common for banner ads and display ads.
    • CPA (Cost Per Action) – it’s the price you pay for each time the desired action is completed (someone buys your product, installs an app (CPI), subscribes to a paid subscription, etc.).
    • CPL (Cost Per Lead)it’s the price you pay for every lead in the form of an email address, phone number, or contact data; perfect for promoting newsletters and gathering data.

3. Ad format:

    • Pop Ads – pop up or pop under windows that display thanks to browser extensions users have installed on their devices. 
    • Domain Redirect Ads – websites or landing pages that you get redirected to based on the keywords (including misspellings) entered in your search bar.
    • Push Notifications – notifications appearing on the devices of users who clicked have allowed notifications to be sent to them.
    • Interstitial Ads – full-page ads appearing, for example, in-between game levels in mobile apps.
    • Banner Ads – clickable banners appearing on either side of a website.
    • Native Ads – ads meant to look like an integral part of a website.
    • URL Shortening Websites – ads are displayed while users wait to be redirected to the destination website.
    • Google Adwords – paid ads displaying at the top of the search results.

4. Type of traffic:

    • Adult Traffic – appearing only on adult websites.
    • Mainstream Traffic – appearing only on non-adult websites.

5. Targeted device:

    • Mobile – ads appear on mobile devices including tablets; further divided by browsers, OSes, OS versions, network sources, and mobile carriers.
    • Desktop – ads appear on desktop devices; further divided by browsers, OSes, and OS versions.

traffic sources types

How to choose a traffic source?

When choosing a particular traffic source you will need to consider different variables to best match your business needs. Additionally, you need to take into account your goals and what you aim to achieve. These will be rather different for website or product owners and affiliate marketers. Your choice of a traffic source should be based on:

Marketing strategy 

There are four popular digital marketing strategies that can be easily adopted. It could be said that the strategies in themselves are traffic sources because each strategy refers to the points described above, i.e.:

  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization)a long term strategy in which you focus on optimizing your website via various methods, such as keyword research, link building, mobile optimization, and metadata optimization, in order to rank as high as possible on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

    Best for:
    website owners and bloggers
  • SEM (Search Engine Marketing)is a paid marketing strategy in which advertisers display their ads in search engines such as Google or Bing. While paid SEM ads will appear on the top of the google search results with small [Ad] boxes next to the URLs, organic search results from SEO will appear right underneath them.
    Best for:
    product owners and affiliate marketers
  • SMM (Social Media Marketing) is a paid marketing strategy in which advertisers display their ads on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn; it’s paid on a CPC basis.
    Best for:
    product owners and affiliate marketers
  • SMO (Social Media Optimization) a longer-term strategy in which you focus on building and increasing the visibility of your social media profiles to advertise your business and make it easy for internet users to share your content.
    Best for:
    website owners and bloggers

Targeting in Traffic Sources

When it comes to targeting, there are very advanced options available. Not everyone needs these options, though. Your selection should depend on who you are (business owner or media buyer) and what you’re advertising. 

If you are an affiliate marketer who wants to make money running general ads for international companies, e.g. antivirus, gambling, app installs, or sweepstakes then you can easily go for the paid traffic sources that offer push, pop or domain redirect ad formats. Such ad formats allow you to display your ads on all kinds of websites that have similar kinds of content to what your ad is promoting. In that case, you can target GEOs, languages, devices, and times of the day. 

If you are a business owner with a niche product you should go for more precise targeting offered by social media or search engine paid ad formats. These platforms offer the most accurate targeting based on demographics and interest, and retargeting which allows you to display your ads to people who have already interacted with them. 

Additionally, for the highest effectiveness, all or any of these strategies should be combined together. If you’re running a business and want to put in as much effort as possible, you should optimize your website for SEO, while running social media profiles to strengthen your brand, while simultaneously using paid ads to reach the widest audience possible.

Cost of Traffic

Traffic sources have wide price ranges. Everything depends on the traffic source, ad format, and GEO targeting. The bigger and more developed the country the higher the budget needed to run campaigns. 

Generally, SEO traffic is nearly free. All you need to spend your money on is additional tools that will help you with optimization. 

Paid traffic that you can buy from ad exchange platforms is the next cheap option, usually costing up to a couple of dollars CPM. Pop, domain redirect, and push ads are great and inexpensive options for affiliate marketers. A good starting budget for that kind of traffic would range between $3k-5k.

Native ads, which you can also buy from ad exchange platforms, are slightly more expensive. Cost per mille can differ significantly depending on the traffic network but usually sits at around 3 CPM.

The social media traffic is on the pricier side. Facebook, for example, has an average price of about $7 CPM. It’s also more accurate and often used for selling more expensive products (which leads to higher ad revenue and higher possible earnings).

If you want to learn more about different affiliate marketing pricing models click here.

Rules and restrictions

Before you choose the traffic source, there is one more thing you need to think about. That’s rules and regulations. Depending on what you want to promote, this may or may not be a problem for you.

Facebook and social media tend to be very strict not only about the products you’re allowed to promote but also about the type of creatives you can use.  

Ad exchange platforms offer greater freedom, but it’s still highly recommended to read the campaign guidelines before starting. If you don’t, you might see your campaigns being rejected. 

If you repeatedly violate a traffic source’s rules and conditions, you will be permanently banned, so if you want to make a career in affiliate marketing it’s best to toe the line.


After reading the article you should have a good idea of what are the different traffic sources and how they work. Whether you’re looking for ways to advertise your website or become an affiliate marketer and make money advertising other people’s products, the choice of the traffic source is entirely up to you. 

So, define your goals and make the best choice for your business!

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Magdalena Bober

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