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Last updated May 06 2021

How to compare website traffic and benchmark against your competitors

Tracking user activity on your site helps you measure growth and evaluate marketing performance over time—but website tracking isn't limited to the sites you own.

In this chapter, we'll show you how to use free and premium tools to compare traffic between websites so you can benchmark against your competitors. Plus, we share four tips to get more value from the traffic you’ve already earned by improving user experience and conversion rate.

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What is website traffic?

Website traffic is a measurement of the number of visitors to any web page. Traffic is usually recorded using a website tracking tool, like Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics, which tracks visitors using a JavaScript snippet.

You can track various traffic sources for your own site and competitors’ sites, including search engine, direct, referral, email, and PPC traffic; and traffic metrics, including:

  • Pageviews
  • Bounce rate
  • Traffic source
  • Audience demographics

The benefits of tracking and comparing website traffic

By measuring your own and competitors’ web traffic, you can:

  • Track your website's growth over time
  • Measure seasonal popularity and peaks
  • Compare your performance to previous years
  • Benchmark your performance against competitors

Comparing website traffic against a key competitor can also help you identify potential areas of growth. For example, if you see a competitor driving significantly more traffic from search engines, it might be a good strategy for you to invest more into SEO (search engine optimization) as a digital marketing channel.

mailchimp-convertkit-traffic-source-comparison
A Similarweb traffic comparison showing MailChimp with more search traffic than competitor ConvertKit

Why traffic can be a vanity metric

Unless you’re a publisher that earns revenue from ad impressions, focusing on traffic alone will not add value to your business. A million extra visitors who don’t convert into leads or customers are less valuable to your business than an extra hundred who do. Look at traffic alongside other key metrics like conversion rate and user experience to understand how your website is really performing.

Comparing website traffic: 5 tools to track competitors’ traffic

Since you don’t have the login details to your competitors’ Google Analytics accounts, you’ll have to rely on the next best thing: big data estimates.

Here are five free and premium tools that make comparing website traffic simple.

1. Google Analytics Benchmarking

google-analytics-ua-benchmarking
Google Analytics (Universal Analytics) benchmark report

If you’re still using Universal Analytics (not GA4), you can access industry benchmark reports in Google Analytics.

From your GA dashboard, navigate to Audience > Benchmarking and select your industry, target country (if applicable), and average daily sessions. GA will then generate a benchmark comparison for any date range. For any channel, location, and device, you can compare:

  • Number of sessions
  • New sessions/users
  • Pages per session
  • Average session duration
  • Bounce rate

Google Analytics won’t give you data on specific competitors, and the number of web properties data is aggregated from depends on how many websites in your niche opted in to anonymous tracking when signing up for GA.

Get more from your GA data: pairing Google Analytics with a product experience insights tool like Hotjar will let you see both what visitors are doing on your website and how they are doing it.

For example, GA will show you which pages have a high bounce rate or exit rate, but a Hotjar Recording will show you exactly what users do just before leaving. Similarly, a Hotjar Heatmap on your top-converting pages can show you which calls to action (CTAs) drive clicks.

Here are five ways to use Google Analytics and Hotjar to grow your business.

2. Similarweb

similarweb-comparing-website-traffic

Similarweb is a free tool (with an optional Chrome extension) for comparing web traffic on sites you don’t have access to. Enter one or more websites and you’ll see a comparison of:

  • Total monthly traffic
  • Average visit duration
  • Pages per visit
  • Bounce rate
  • Traffic percentage by country
  • Traffic sources

If you sign up and pay, you’ll get access to more data, including category performance benchmarks and the average bounce rate in your niche or industry. Unfortunately, there’s limited data on smaller websites, so Similarweb is only good for comparing traffic against medium to large sites.

3. Ahrefs

ahrefs-compare-organic-traffic
Ahrefs organic traffic estimates for Hotjar.com

Ahrefs is a premium SEO and keyword research tool you can use to compare organic search traffic volumes. Enter any domain, subdomain, or URL and you’ll see an estimate of:

  • Monthly organic traffic
  • Traffic value (organic + PPC)
  • Traffic by country
  • Organic keywords
  • Referring domains
  • Backlinks

You can also view traffic estimates of the top-ranking results for any keyword, which helps you estimate how much traffic to expect for similarly targeted pages on your own site.

ahrefs-compare-website-traffic
Ahrefs traffic SERP traffic estimates for the keyword “compare website traffic”

Ahrefs is a premium tool and competitor data can only be viewed with a paid subscription. Since it only covers organic search engine traffic, you’ll need a different tool to compare traffic from other sources.

4. Alexa

alexa-site-info-report
Alexa’s free site info report showing how Hotjar’s bounce rate compares to the competitor average

Alexa is a premium competitor analysis tool, but you can view limited traffic and benchmark data for free without signing up. Enter any domain and you’ll see:

  • Percentage of search traffic
  • Average bounce rate
  • Competitor average bounce rate
  • Top keywords and opportunities
  • Alexa rank
  • Audience geography

Alexa will automatically work out who your competitors are based on audience and search term overlap. There are no pageview estimates, but you’ll get an Alexa Rank score representing a site’s traffic relative to other sites (the lower the number, the higher the traffic).

Like SimilarWeb, Alexa has limited data on smaller websites, and figures on sites with an Alexa Rank of 100,000 or higher are only rough estimates.

5. Semrush

semrush-free-traffic-analytics-report
Semrush traffic analytics data for Hotjar.com

Semrush is a premium marketing tool, but you can generate ten traffic analytics reports by creating a free account.

Enter any domain or compare up to five websites and you’ll get an estimate for:

  • Visits
  • Unique visitors
  • Average visit duration
  • Bounce rate
semrush-traffic-comparison-accuracy
Semrush traffic comparison benchmarks, with estimated accuracy

Semrush uses clickstream data to estimate traffic metrics for all websites. For traffic comparisons, you’ll see an estimated accuracy score (high, medium, or low). Semrush’s free data is very limited, and you’ll need to pay for any more than what we’ve shown in the above screenshots.

What traffic comparisons won’t tell you

Comparing website traffic will never be 100% accurate since you’re looking at estimates, not real analytics data. For example, the average estimated bounce rate for Hotjar.com was wildly different depending on the tool we used, ranging from 26.2% in Alexa to 60.93% in Semrush.

Even your own traffic data will never tell you how people are experiencing your website. Are they getting stuck? Does your messaging resonate? Do they trust you enough to become paying customers? You can get more business value by answering these questions instead of just focusing on increasing traffic.

4 ways to get more from your website traffic

Instead of focusing on traffic stats and hoping that more visitors will lead to more conversions (spoiler: it won’t), here are four methods you can use right now to get value from the traffic you already have.

1. Ask your users for feedback

While traffic analytics tells you what is happening on your website, user feedback tells you why. Feedback from users helps you find out what's important to them, so you can use this insight to boost conversions, improve user experience, and lower drop-offs.

You can collect feedback from both website visitors and product users logged in to your platform. For example, Hotjar’s Incoming Feedback widget lets users tag any page element with a love-to-hate reaction and add their comments.

hotjar-love-feedback-1
A positive comment from a Hotjar user collected via Incoming Feedback

2. See how people interact with individual pages

Aside from being boring to look at, traffic data only shows your most and least popular pages. You can see exactly what happens on those pages with two key product experience insight tools: heatmaps and session recordings.

Heatmaps give you a visual overview of how people interact with an individual website page by displaying 'hot' and 'cold' spots, helping you spot trends and optimization opportunities to drive more engagement where you want it:

taskworld
A Hotjar Heatmap example from Taskworld showing sign-up form clicks

Session recordings reconstruct individual users’ journeys across every page they visit so you can observe how they navigate, what they click on or ignore as they browse, and whether they encounter any issues along the way:

hotjar recording
A Hotjar Recording of a visitor on Hotjar.com (meta!)

3. Create your own benchmarks

hotjar-nps-question
An example on-site NPS survey

Instead of comparing website traffic against competitors, you can learn more about how your business is performing by creating your own benchmarks.

In addition to website traffic, you can benchmark user sentiment with surveys like:

Net Promoter Score® (NPS), which measures how likely customers and users are to recommend you to others on a scale from 0 to 10

Hotjar-tracking-NPS
An NPS tracking report showing changes over 90 days
  • CSAT surveys, which benchmark customer satisfaction
  • CES (Customer Effort Score) surveys, which measure how easy or difficult users find it to complete an action on your website.

4. Optimize the customer journey

customer-journey-map-empathy
A customer journey map showing the happy moments and pain points of Hotjar users

Customer journey maps (CJM) give you a visual overview of how people interact with your website, product, or business, showing the positive and negative interactions that lead to a sign-up or purchase.

Even a basic CJM (like our sticky note map above) puts you in different users’ shoes so you can empathize with their pain points and happy moments and optimize for more joy and less frustration across the experience.

You can create an effective customer journey map in just a couple of days by combining traffic analytics data with insight from the heatmaps, session recordings, and surveys we covered above.

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FAQs

You can compare traffic between any two websites by using a competitive intelligence tool like Similarweb or Alexa. These tools use a large volume of clickstream data to estimate website traffic.

You can estimate how much traffic your competitors get by using a tool like Similarweb or Ahrefs. Similarweb will show you an estimate of the total visits to any domain and a breakdown of traffic sources and country. Ahrefs will give you an estimate of how much organic search engine traffic your competitors get and which keywords they're ranking for.

You can check the bounce rate of any competitor using a free Similarweb or Alexa traffic report. Enter any competitors’ domain, and you’ll get a site-wide bounce rate average. Bear in mind that the figure is an estimate and may not reflect the real numbers.

You can track website traffic by signing up for an analytics tool like Google Analytics and adding JavaScript tracking code to all pages you want to be tracked. You can also track exactly how visitors interact with your site with a product experience insights tool like Hotjar.