What Is a Referrer and How Does It Help My Site?

Everything on the internet is connected. Type a keyword into Google and you’ll generate thousands — if not millions — of results for websites that contain the information you need. Visit a popular blog or news site to read an article, and you will see a dozen links to related content within that story.

All of these things are called referrers: links that drive traffic to other websites, and move people from one corner of the internet to another (all with just one click).

What is a referrer, exactly? Here’s what you need to know, and how referrers can help you attract more site visitors.

What is a referrer?

Simply put, a referrer is the site that a visitor was previously on before they clicked the link that redirected them to your site. A referrer can be a blog, a search engine like Google, or another website.

Information about referrers is accessible from the Stats page once you log into your WordPress.com dashboard. On the page, you’ll see a bunch of analytics for your site, including a list of referrers and the number of views you received from these sources over time. If you integrate Google Analytics into your WordPress.com Business site, you can access this information and see it broken down by category (search engines vs. other links).

Using these stats to understand how people find your site will help you generate more engagement and drive additional traffic to your pages.

Using referrers to improve site performance

As the saying goes, “you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.” By providing information about referrers, WordPress.com offers you a roadmap for generating site visits.

For example, if you run a lifestyle blog and notice that your largest referrer is a fashion and style blog, it might be worthwhile to engage with this blog’s audience by offering to write a guest post for that site, or asking the blog owner if you can conduct an interview with her. Chances are, the blogger will cross-promote this content on her own social channels, which could drive even more traffic from her site to yours.

If most of your traffic is coming from Google, scour your Stats page to determine which search terms brought people to your site. If you discover that people initially searched for “affordable gyms in New York” to land on your personal training site, you might want to purchase ads on Google that align with this search term to better target an audience that will be interested in your services.

If you’re working with a limited budget, try boosting your website’s search engine rankings by including key phrases and related terms in the content that you post, and within your site’s metadata, which is a description of the content on your site that search engines use to rank your pages in search results.

It’s the same idea if you notice that most of your traffic comes from social media — you’ll want to further appeal to that audience. The tactics you use to drive more views and engagement will vary depending on the platform. For example, if most of your traffic comes from Pinterest or Instagram, adding images to your site that users can pin to their boards or share on Instagram will draw more eyeballs to your content.

Being active on these platforms also helps. Follow influencers to gain more visibility, and frequently share interesting content. The more active you are, the more likely it is that people will begin to follow you and eventually land on your site.

The importance of referral traffic

Just like in the real world, when someone gives you a referral, you’ll want to nurture that relationship in the hopes of being referred again. Offline, this is as simple as sending a thank you note, but the online equivalent requires a little more legwork (guest blogging, improving your SEO, or increasing how much you post on social media).

Ultimately, you can use referrers to improve your overall strategy for bringing traffic to your site. Understanding how people navigate to your site in the first place arms you with the knowledge that you need to keep them coming back — and draw in even more enthusiastic fans.


Satta Sarmah Hightower

Satta Sarmah is a writer, editor and content marketing manager who launched her first personal website a decade ago — on WordPress, of course.

More by Satta Sarmah Hightower

%d bloggers like this: