Why You Need Multiple Channels for Website Traffic

Published July 16, 2018
As marketers, it’s important that we never allow our businesses to become too dependent on any one channel. Our brands must stand on their own, independent of any single source of traffic. Our goal should be channel independence.
We’re not talking about channels like Discovery or Lifetime – we mean the channels through which a website acquires traffic. Achieving channel independence, means deriving value, traffic and conversions from an assortment of channels so that your business is not overly dependent on any one digital channel for an uncomfortable portion of traffic or sales. In this post, we’ll review the importance of channel independence and give a few ideas for how to best leverage it. 

Better traffic (and risk) diversification

Drawing visitors from several traffic sources helps diversify the risk associated with any one channel. With channel independence, any one of your channels could slow down without crippling the entire business.

In previous years, there have been shakeups and changes in nearly every major platform that organizations have come to rely on for traffic. This includes changes to Google’s ranking algorithms in Google search, updates to terms and policies in AdWords, reduction in organic reach for businesses on Facebook, and many others. Add in legal and compliance changes, particularly those associated with GDPR, and you have a lot of upheaval in the various channels that websites rely on for traffic and customers. Digital marketers cannot predict the future, though we can and do speculate and attempt to future-proof our strategies. We always need to have a backup plan, because this year’s golden goose traffic source can easily become next year’s lead pigeon.

Channel independence greatly reduces the risks associated with unexpected shifts in the landscape for any one channel or platform. No matter great the short-term numbers look, it’s simply not prudent to have more than 80% of a website’s traffic tied up in any one channel. Speak to any website owner who was hit with a Panda or Penguin penalty in Google or that had their Facebook reach reduced by anywhere from 40% to 50% (or more!) and you’ll get a painfully learned lesson: no one ever expects the bubble to burst, but when it does, the results can be devastating.

Reveal new multi-channel journeys and touch points

Channel independence also helps broaden our understanding of the complexities of user journeys and all the various touch points that our potential customers may have with our brand before they finally convert. Very few online conversions are secured from brief, single-channel journeys anymore. Multi-channel journeys and multi-channel attribution models are now commonplace and critical for sustainable long term success. To study those journeys, multiple channels must be actively used to reach customers and each channel should be tracked and measured to better understand the buyer journey.

Although many channels are independent of each other, that does not mean they are not interrelated at various times. By fostering channel independence for a website, and encouraging engagement on a variety of platforms, analysts can identify unexpected and new user journeys that they may not have been able to predict before.

For example, single channel conversion analysis might show that email drives only a small share of traffic and few conversions. But multichannel analysis may reveal that email is the most common touch point for conversion regardless of the first or last channel through which a customer engages with a site. Or, multichannel analysis might reveal that when an organic search visitor to a web site also visits the company’s Facebook page, it doubles the likelihood of purchase over the next 60 days when compared with visitors who only interact with the web site. As these examples show, a site that does not engage in email or Facebook marketing, simply because organic search provides the bulk of their traffic, might miss these insights and the opportunity to convert more traffic.

One of the best aspects of channel independence is that decisions about user journeys, interaction and conversion patterns are not heavily skewed by data from one channel. When a site is dependent on one channel, we tend to make strategic judgements based on how users behave within that channel, but channel independence allows for a broader understanding of how users respond to content, calls to action, and value propositions. It also provides the ability to act on that intelligence.


Freedom to Experiment


The Freedom to Experiment

Finally, channel independence allows for the freedom to experiment. The corollary to the freedom to experiment is the freedom to fail. We don’t talk enough about failure in digital marketing. While failures on specific channels or platforms can feel at the time to be a waste of resources and a loss in market share, most organizations can still derive some value from an experiment by learning. New platforms will always emerge and the performance of any given channel will wax and wane over time. But there is no substitute for smart analysis and adjusting efforts based on data and experience.

Channel independence provides the space to try new things and experiment within single channels without worrying about the impact on other channels or even overall performance. Some platforms, such as Google AdWords even have feature sets and infrastructure set up specifically for experimentation. So, try switching from manual keyword bidding to a fixed Cost-per-Acquisiton (CPA) bidding strategy for that underperforming ad group, and see what happens! When you are channel independent, the influx of traffic from other channels can help sustain site activity even if the new PPC strategy fails to meet expectations.

Organizations who leverage the freedom to fail acquire insights and experience at more rapid rates than those that don’t. And unlike the failures themselves, which are quite specific, the lessons learned will usually be applicable beyond isolated contexts. In this sense, the resource that cannot be simply secured through more budget or even staff is knowledge, experience and wisdom.

Channel independence protects us from stagnation when by providing the freedom to try something new. When you engage with users through multiple channels, you may also have the benefit of applying lessons learned in one area to growth strategies in another.


If you already have a healthy distribution of traffic sources, take a risk! Try out that new social platform everyone has been talking about in meetings, but no one has complete confidence in. Come up with a hypothesis you’d like to test for your paid search campaigns and set up that A/B experiment you’ve been kicking around in your head. Take the hard-earned liberty to fail and try something completely off the beaten path, even if you have doubts. It just might be the lesson that you’ll point back to and say “This is when our eyes were opened”. Finally, use strong and clear digital reporting to analyze and attribute value to the visitors you’ve earned from each channel. Look beyond the major KPIs for touchpoints and user behaviors that influence conversions, even if they aren’t the direct source.


When the client first came to you, you talked up the value of Google Analytics. You emphasized the importance of seeing where your traffic was coming from. You went on and on about how Google Analytics can show traffic sources to pinpoint whether people came from search, social media or a specific site referral, and how valuable this data was. You sold them on it, so much so that your client looked forward to receiving that first report, the magical day when they would finally understand where visitors were coming from.
But then the report came, and it looked like this:



It showed that 10% of your client’s traffic came from “(direct)/(none)”. What does this label mean? How do you explain Direct traffic to your client? Better yet, how do you explain “none”?
Let’s take a closer look at understanding Direct traffic in Google Analytics and how we can address it with clients.
Digital marketers spend a lot of time focused on PPC and SEO campaigns in order to drive desirable traffic to a website. The phrases we’re ranking for and bidding on get meticulous attention, so much so that we often forget about some of the other ways that visitors find us.

We put a tremendous amount of the effort we put into reviewing organic search data and PPC campaign performance in analytics. But how closely do we monitor referral reports?

If that’s not a channel you review regularly, you may be missing out on seeing traffic that is coming directly from links you’ve obtained around the web, local business listings, news mentions, and more. Many times, links are only considered as a means to an end, a metric that Google uses in determining how to rank sites in the SERPs (search engine results pages). But the fact is, many of a site’s links may be directly contributing to its traffic.

In this article, we’ll review how to look at referral reports in Google Analytics, and some of the many ways to use that data to better inform your web marketing decisions.


Remember how your mom told you not to stand too close to the television because it might hurt your eyes?

The same rules can apply to data. If you’re too close, you may miss the patterns and trends that are crucial to understanding your website’s performance. You can’t judge a site’s performance looking at data in the bubble of a single day, you must consider any day’s traffic compared to the days before and after.

Google Analytics makes it fairly easy to analyze trends over long periods of time. But it also allows you to stand right in front of that TV, to look at more granular levels of time, right down to the hour.
There’s a better way to get that close to the data, without burning your retinas. We’ll cover how to analyze traffic effectively in today’s post.