Are You Sure You’re Not Getting More Twitter Traffic Than You Realize?

    July 16, 2011
    Chris Crum

Social media analytics firm has a very interesting post explaining why webmasters might be getting a lot more traffic from Twitter than they realize. This has sparked some interesting discussion around the tech blogosophere, and quite frankly, it might make you care a little bit more about your Twitter presence.

Do you think Twitter’s an important tool for driving traffic? Comment here.

To make a long story short, the report indicates that your analytics software is not counting all of your Twitter referrals as Twitter referrals, largely because Twitter itself is accessible through so many different channels via its API. This includes third-party clients, and other sites that serve tweets.

After looking at its own data for six months, spanning links to over 33,000 sites, found that :

  • only 24.4% of clicks on links shared on Twitter had in the referrer;
  • 62.6% of clicks on links shared on Twitter had no referrer information at all (i.e. they would show up as ‘Direct Traffic’ in Google Analytics);
  • and 13.0% of clicks on links shared on Twitter had another site as the referrer (e.g.,

That last 13% would account for sites that post tweets. For example, people tying their Twitter account to their Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, so that tweets appear there automatically – a fairly common practice. While technically, traffic from these would still be coming from Facebook or LinkedIn in a sense, they are also the result of a link originally being tweeted. Twitter stats

As VC and entrepreneur Mark Suster notes, “Many Tweets are now being sent to LinkedIn and then the publisher assumes that the source of the referral is LinkedIn. In some ways it is because that’s where your user engaged the content. But get rid of the Tweet and you get rid of the referral traffic…”

“When a user clicks a link in any kind of non-browser client, from Outlook to a desktop AIR app to the countless mobile and tablet apps, no referrer information is passed for that visit and your analytics software basically throws up its hands and puts the visit in the ‘Direct Traffic’ bucket,” explains’s Jonathan Strauss, the author of the report. “The assumptions behind this fallback behavior show just how arcane referrer analysis is — if a visit didn’t come from another webpage (i.e. no referrer data), someone must have typed the URL directly into their browser address bar.”

“If you’ve spent the last few years wondering why the proportion of ‘Direct Traffic’ to your site has been on the rise, the answer is the growing usage of non-browser clients, especially on mobile,” he adds. “And since 2/3 of Twitter consumption is happening in desktop and mobile clients*, it’s safe to say that a lot of your ‘Direct Traffic’ is actually coming from Twitter.”

One area where Twitter won’t help you, at least currently, is Google’s realtime search. The two company’s don’t currently have their previous deal in place. It remains to be seen whether the two will come to terms again. If Google+ gets big enough, Google may decide it can simply do without the Twitter firehose. Likewise, Twitter might want to withhold it for competitive reasons. Some people are already spending less time using Twitter, as a result of Google+‘s emergence.

There are ways you can optimize for Twitter traffic. For example, as we’ve referenced in the past, Shéa Bennett at Twittercism, came up with an equation for retweet optimization. The concept is basically: consider Twitter’s 140-character limit, consider your user name, and consider how many characters you need to leave free for the person retweeting it.

“When sharing links and content, I always ensure I leave a minimum of 12 characters at the end of each and every tweet,” he wrote. “This is a great habit to adopt. Otherwise, those wanting to retweet you are forced to edit your submissions so that they can give the proper credit. Because of this extra work, many times, they simply won’t bother retweeting you at all.”

Of course promoting your Twitter account on your various web presences, and including prominent tweet buttons on your content can help as well.

Are you getting significant traffic from Twitter? Let us know in the comments.