In a website statistics tool like Google Analytics, direct traffic, literally, refers to website visitors who actually typed your website or blog address right into the address bar of their Internet browser.

Direct traffic is pretty special. It means someone remembered the URL of my website and used it specifically when they were looking for help with writing or editing.

Next, Google Analytics tracks traffic from referring sites, which is also very special. When a visitor has come from a referring site, it means that someone thinks enough of my work to include a link to my site from their website or blog, or maybe they’ve even sent the link in a direct email message to a client, colleague, friend or family member.

Or maybe the referral came out of my article marketing efforts at sites like Ezine Articles. Someone read one of my articles and liked my ideas enough to find out more about what I offer.

Direct traffic and traffic from referral sites both represent people who have already warmed up to the idea of finding out more about you. That’s much different from just having your website pop up in a list of search results.

I really like what Rick Spence writes in the June 2008 issues of Profit magazine, “… the Web isn’t always about the masses. For many niche businesses, Web marketing means drawing your best customers closer and closer.”

So do what you can to keep search engine optimization (SEO) on your side – write a lot of fresh content, and write for your niche by using the language they’ll use when they’re looking for information and help.

Then, turn your attention back to cultivating your relationships, because that’s what will send direct traffic and referring site traffic your way.

Writing Prompt: How can you greet your website visitors as if they’ve all come as direct traffic or from referral sites? How can you treat strangers (search engine traffic) like friends?

P.S. There are also such things as human search engines (Mahalo) and social bookmarking sites (del.icio.us), both of which allow Web users to access search results that are based on human entries versus computer-generated ones.