September 8, 2014

If you're using Instagram for business, chances are you're looking to drive traffic and leads to your website from Instagram. But, for a variety of reasons, you may not actually be getting referral traffic from Instagram.

I see it all the time. Or I hear it regularly.

Instagram doesn't work. I can't get any traffic. This is a waste of my time.


There's a few reasons. And some of them might not really be your fault.

I've written before about the power of Instagram for business and the quality of traffic it drives. I've seen it firsthand and seen others achieve success. So, it is definitely possible.

But if you're making these mistakes, you might not be seeing what the possibilities really are.

You're Not Asking Them to Visit Your Site

Are you including calls-to-action (CTA) in your Instagram posts? Are you asking people to actually visit your website?

If you're not asking, why would they do it?

Make sure you make it clear what you want people to do. Whether it's to visit a certain page on your site, enter a contest, visit your store, call for a specific reason, etc., you need to tell people what to do. They aren't psychic and if all you're doing is posting images without a clear CTA, then you're only providing entertainment.

This doesn't mean every post has to have a CTA. But at least some of your posts should direct your audience to do something.

You're Not Making It Easy to Get Where You Want Them to Go

So let's assume you are including a clear CTA in your posts on Instagram. But if you make it too hard to complete that CTA, you may as well not even include it.

Unfortunately, the only place where you can put a clickable link on Instagram is in your profile bio. That's why this link needs to be as direct as possible. If you want them to go to a specific product page, but the link goes to your home page and then the visitor has to navigate through the site, you're going to lose them.

Imagine when you walk into a store at the mall. You see an amazing outfit on the display and want to try on all of the pieces. But none of the pieces are together in the store and they're nowhere near the display. If it's going to take you 20 minutes to find everything in the store for yourself, what are the chances you actually do?

If you're going to direct people to your website, tell them in the post to click on the link in your bio. Then make sure that link goes exactly where you want them to go.

You can change this link as often as you'd like so make it relevant and impactful.

Also remember that the majority of people are using their mobile devices when coming from Instagram. If your site is mobile optimized and looks different than your desktop site, factor these page layouts and navigations into your CTA.

You're Not "Seeing" the Referral Traffic from Instagram

Here's one of the downsides to Instagram. You might actually be getting a significant amount of referral traffic from Instagram, but you can't see it in your analytics.

When you click on the link in someone's Instagram bio, you need to approve/choose which browser to use to access the site. When this happens, your device and your site analytics now considers this site traffic direct, not referral. So you're actually getting traffic from Instagram but Google Analytics can't track it.

To resolve this, use a custom link or link shortener that allows you to track clicks. I recommend either Google URL Shortener or

To ensure you get accurate information, use this shortened or custom link ONLY for your Instagram profile.

Once you have your link shortener with a link you can track, put this link in your Instagram bio. Now every time someone clicks on it to navigate to your site, you can actually see how many clicks and referral traffic you're getting.

Another option you have is to send all Instagram traffic to a specific landing page on your site. On this page you can put the direct link or information or form or other action you want visitors to complete. Just remember to keep it easy to navigate. This way, you can track all the traffic to that specific page on your site via your analytics and see what their behaviors are after leaving that page.

If you've been struggling with seeing or understanding your referral traffic from Instagram, determine which of these issues above impacts you. Try implementing the changes I've suggested and see how drastically your referral traffic jumps!

Did you find this helpful? Please share:
  1. Jenn, super helpful information… the most important thing I do every few weeks is toss a call-to-action into one of my short instagram videos that I shoot daily. I get a lot of people that reach out to me via my Instagram page and say “I don’t know exactly what you do, but I love your energy, enthusiasm, and passion, and I want to try and find a way to do business with you!” Now if that’s not amazing, I don’t know what is… have a great one!

    1. Thanks Brandon! I’m so glad that these CTAs work so well for you on IG 🙂 It’s a testament to the power of Instagram marketing.

  2. What a timely post this is. I was just discussing this topic with my business partner. I want Instagram to remain fun and frivolous like our live show is, but I know I need to do CTAs every now and then too. Thanks for reminding me Jenn. You always know just how to help!

    1. I’m so glad this is relevant to you, Heather! Throwing in the occasional CTA will definitely help you get the “business” benefit out of IG without detracting from the fun side of your account 🙂

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