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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.
Last updated13 Sep 2023
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What is website traffic?
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:
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.
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, by using a web traffic analytics tool that also provides insights into user behavior.
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
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
Pages per session
Average session duration
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.
Total monthly traffic
Average visit duration
Pages per visit
Traffic percentage by country
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.
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
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 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.
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 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.
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:
Average visit duration
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 Feedback widget lets users tag any page element with a love-to-hate reaction and add their comments.
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.
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:
3. Create your own benchmarks
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
CES (Customer Effort Score)
4. Optimize the customer journey
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.
💭 Understand your users with Hotjar
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