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How to put a value on the traffic sent by other websites

As we’ve been talking over the past few days about the number of visitors which other websites send you, I thought it was worth an update on how to measure this properly in Google Analytics, if you’re running that. Putting a value on every website and every marketing initiative which sends you visitors is something all marketing managers should be doing, and it’s very easy. There’s a simple version which I published earlier this year, but here’s a slightly more involved one. We’ve done this report for our clients over the past week, in time for any end-of-year reviews, but you can do the same exercise yourself right now.

What we’re going to do is quite simple – we’re going to produce a report on all incoming traffic, where it came from, and how much it was worth. Then we’re going to set up Google Analytics to focus on “quality” visitors instead of all visitors, and produce the same report for that segment of traffic.

Reporting On Traffic Sources

In Google Analytics, go to “Reporting” (top). Go to the “Acquisition > All Traffic” report in the left menu. This gives you a report on all the sources of traffic to your website, regardless of location, quality or anything else. Click on the date, top right. Select “Custom” and set the date range to the past year, or from 1 January this year to now, or whatever you wish to study. Click “Apply”.

Scroll to the bottom and set “Show Rows” to 5000, so you see the full list (or at least the first 5000, if you really had that many sources of web traffic!). Assuming you’re a spreadsheet user, click “Export” above the graph, and one of the first five options, according to preference (I like CSV).

Open the exported file in your spreadsheet, and you should see something like this:


We’re going to add a value to that traffic, although it’s very simple. Just insert a column to the right of “Sessions”, title it “Value”, select the first empty cell under the column title, and type in the formula “=2*B8” (if you’re on row 8). Format the cell as currency, and fill down, and you get this:


What we’ve done is to put a value of £2 on each visit from each source. This is a reasonable estimate, since you could probably set up a PPC advertising campaign (e.g. Google AdWords) and “buy” visits for that amount.

Now let’s look at our “Quality” visits.

Showing Only Quality Visitors

We do this by setting up a “segment”. First, let’s define a benchmark for a “quality visit” in marketing terms. I’m going to suggest this: visitors who were new to the site, who were located in the UK, and who looked at more than one page. You can vary this however you wish.

Back in Google Analytics, in “Reporting”, click “+Add Segment”. Click “+New Segment”. In “Segment Name”, type something like “Quality Visits”.

Click “Conditions”, then in the drop-down which defaults to “Ad Content”, go to “Users” (in green) and select “User Type”. Click in the empty box and select “New Visitor”. That’s our first condition (new visitors) set. Click “Test” and you’ll see you’ve selected a subset of visitors, probably between 20% and 80%, depending on your site.

Click “Add Filter”. In the drop-down which defaults to “Ad Content”, go to “Users” (in blue) and select “Pageviews”. Set the other two boxes to “>” and “1”. Now we have new users who also looked at more than 1 page. Click “Test” and you’ll see your subset of visitors is substantially smaller than before.

Click “Add Filter”. In the drop-down which defaults to “Ad Content”, go to “Users” (in green) and select “Country/Territory”. Set the other two boxes to “Exactly Matches” and “United Kingdom”. If you class “quality visitors” as coming from a wider area, you could select a different country, or even “Continent”. Click “Test” and you’ll see your subset of visitors is even smaller.

Click “Save” and our filter is done.

In the segments list above the graph, you should see your new segment having been selected (yours may be called “Quality Visits”):

Screenshot 2014-11-28 13.44.55

(Note: If you do NOT see your segment, click on “All Sessions” above the graph, and in the panel which appears, un-tick “All Sessions” and tick your “Quality Visits” segment. Click the blue “Apply” box.)

Now, export the spreadsheet as you did before, and add the “Value” column. This time, however, set the value formula to “=10*B8”, which puts a value of £10 on each “Quality” visit. This is a reasonable value to put on a quality visit. Now you should see something like this, which might put some quite different sites in the spotlight:


What you do with this data is up to you. If a third-party website got you 3 visitors last year at a value of £30, does that mean you should forget about it in future? Not necessarily. You might consider the links it’s giving you are important in helping your Google ranking, for example. But the analysis may give you food for thought, and it’ll certainly give you the facts if you’re ever discussing a website’s performance, rather than you having to rely on the sometimes outrageously inflated claims which many websites give you.

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