There’s gold in those Referring Sites figures!
You can find it in Google Analytics under Traffic Sources and then “Referring Sites”.
You have the topline pronouncement: “Referring sites sent X Visits via Y Sources”.
(Search Engines don’t appear to count as a ‘referring site’, though, you’ll see “google.com” sometimes listed under referring sites. Not sure what that’s about.)
The most basic questions to ask are: “what’s X, what’s Y?”
Next, you should ask: “How does that compare to all my other sources?”
Then you get a figure – % of traffic from Referring Sites (under the “Overview” Tab).
Then, you should ask: “Is it good?”
And the reply, maddeningly, is: “It depends”.
The default answer delves into the Comparative Benchmarking Thesis. There are people out there (they know who they are) from the school of “Don’t show me number unless it’s benchmarked against something!”, and maybe there’s a another time and place for that exploration. If you believe that if you compare your referring sites rate to your competitions, and yours is higher, therefore you’re better – good job, and you’re done – that’s great. Good job.
The idea that leaps out at me is:
HAY, PEOPLE REFERRING TRAFFIC TO THE SITE. HOW and WHY?
Are all of those inbound sources just me, out there pimping my site via Twitter Meltdowns?
If so, which sources?
How many of THOSE visitors were driven to the site? From which sources? Which sources performed the best?
Which of those links have no relationship to anything we’ve done? Which are purely out there from “the people”? Which are “Organically Social” as opposed to “Synthetically Social”? (See what I did just there? I made the distinction between how I, the site owner, does to bring in traffic (synthetic) versus how the wider world responds by giving me inbound linkage love.)
Are the Organically Social links particularly flattering?
That takes care of the pre-click analysis.
The next batch of questions have to do with the trickier question of “does it matter”?
Did Organically Social traffic convert better? Did Synthetically Social traffic convert better? If so why? If not, why not?
Once you know the why, you can move to optimize that.
There’s gold in those referring site metrics.