How Organic Web Traffic Increased by 1018% Without Any SEO Efforts

In April, organic Web traffic for the site increased by 1018%.  No particular marketing efforts were implemented that could have accounted for this. At DemandResults, we’re always looking for the root causes of notable traffic events or unusual online activity. Here, we’re using one of the best free evidence-based marketing tools available: Google Analytics.

Traffic Sources

In our Google Analytics dashboard, we found the “Traffic Sources” menu on the left hand nav and proceeded to the “All Traffic Sources” submenu.  This gave us a breakdown of the leading avenues of traffic for a given time period.  As you can see from the image below, the second highest driver of traffic is “google/organic” for the given time period.

Organic Traffic
To further understand what specific keywords caused the increase in organic traffic we found the “Incoming Sources – > Search” menu item on the left nav and clicked on “Organic” to ensure we are not including possible results from paid search campaigns.  This gave us further detail on the actual keywords that drove traffic:

Keyword Changes
The keywords “how to type upside down” and “type upside down” were driving the most traffic in organic search. We can use this simple method for one month and compare the data against the previous month to determine if an increase occurred in keyword search terms.  All the terms had higher numbers compared to last month, but the increase in searches actually occurred during one particular day:

April 1st Effect
Traffic remained relatively steady compared to the previous month, but there is an extremely clear spike in traffic for April 1st – April Fool’s Day. Compared to the same day a week previously, March 25th, organic traffic increased by an astonishing 1018%! It seems as though this was a popular day where people wanted to have a little fun and send messages that were typed upside down.

Direct Traffic

Seasonal fluctuations accounted for the spike in organic traffic in April, but direct traffic (typing the URL straight in to the browser) was also a large driver of all traffic – how was that affected?

Direct traffic increased by 100% on April 1st – not as huge an increase as organic traffic, but definitely a significant amount considering the sheer volume of numbers involved. But, how did visitors know about the site in the first place to visit directly?

Referral Traffic
Going deeper into the data, we notice that referral sites were also large drivers of traffic – with both Facebook and Mashable leading the way (Figure 1). Although referral traffic did increase on April 1st, the two main referral sites did not see huge increases from last month. Several, lesser known sites had increases. But why was Mashable there in the first place?

A search on finds that an article published on Jul 10, 2010, entitled “10 Cool Facebook Status Tips and Tricks” features as a fun tool to change the look of your Facebook status.  Looking at Google Analytics, there is a definite and highly correlated spike in total traffic and referral traffic on the day the article was published:

Both referral traffic and total traffic increased by 79% on July 10, 2010 – the day the Mashable article was published.

Facebook Effect: Referral Traffic
The article also received nearly 8,000 “Likes” and over 4,000 retweets. To understand some of the long tail effect of Facebook traffic we can look at the yearly total percentage of referral traffic from Facebook. This accounts for over half (56%) of all referral traffic.

Facebook Effect: Total Traffic
And, the percentage of total traffic for the year from Facebook is 14%. After direct visits and organic search, this is the next highest driver of traffic. Clearly, there is a long tail effect to “shares” and “Likes” that can directly impact your site’s performance.

Seasonal fluctuations (April Fool’s day) was responsible for a giant spike in total and organic traffic in April.

An article on featuring the website and a large number of Facebook sharing and liking throughout the year to make the site go viral was largely responsible for the traffic increase throughout the year.


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