Website traffic is the number of people visiting a website at any one time. Traffic is generally measured in “sessions”. A session will involve the user viewing one or multiple pages within a given time frame, and some visitors may return to your website for several sessions before they go ahead and purchase a product or enquire about a service.
Whatever industry you’re in, be it retail, accountancy, construction or something entirely different, your company website likely plays a significant role in your digital marketing strategy. According to the Office for National Statistics, 89% of adults in Great Britain used the internet at least weekly in 2018. Almost all 16 to 24 (95%) and 25 to 34-year-olds (96%) regularly shop online, while the number of “silver surfers” — those aged 65 and over — purchasing via the internet has risen from 16% in 2008 to 48% in 2018.
People use the internet at all stages of the buyer’s journey, from the Awareness stage, where the intent is to gather research, to the Decision stage, where the consumer is assessing prices and close to making a purchase. Even if you don’t sell products or services online, your website is an important tool for raising brand awareness, establishing your credentials and moving people through the sales funnel, even if that sale takes place in a shop, at a meeting in a swanky restaurant or in your office.
Reviewing the performance of competitors’ websites is a vital weapon in your arsenal, helping you develop ideas for improving your website. Whether the purpose of your website is to directly generate sales or leads or to improve brand awareness, it’s crucial to understand where the target audience spends their time online and what entices them to convert. By benchmarking a website against your competitors, business owners can gain valuable insight into their position in the market and identify potential opportunities for development and growth.
Competitor analysis should be part of your ongoing marketing strategy. Use it to make sure your website is performing in line with industry standards and identify areas where you can outperform competitors. Do your key pages have a higher bounce rate than the average for similar sites? Try changing or repositioning your calls to action (CTAs). Are competitors producing low-quality, infrequent content? Make your blog the go-to guide for consumers seeking help and thought leadership in the industry. Monitoring how much traffic your competitor’ websites get is essential to the success of your site.
In this guide, we will discuss:
- How to Check Your Competitors’ Website Traffic
- How to Check a Competitor’s Traffic Using Free Tools
- How to Check a Competitor’s Traffic Using Paid Tools
How to Check Your Competitors’ Website Traffic
Step 1. Identify Your Competitors
You may already have an idea of your competitors, especially if you serve a specific area (for example, as a contractor, you likely have an idea of the competition residing close to you). Otherwise, Google is a good place to start when seeking to identify online competitors, and you may even come across competitors that are based elsewhere but service your location. Searching your product or service will return a list of competitors that are chasing the same audience (if you serve individuals in a specific place, such as if you’re a “dentist in Hackney”, don’t forget to add the location to your search). Use Google’s “incognito” mode to avoid skewing results with your search history. If you’re a service-based or eCommerce business targeting people all over the country, or even the world, you may need to niche down to those that specialise in what you offer — this will not only prevent the overwhelm of having a long list of competitors to research, but it’ll also allow you to get more valuable insights from your competitor research.
Once you’ve exhausted Google search, explore the most popular social media platforms in your industry. If you sell products to consumers, Facebook and Instagram will likely be large priorities, while service-based and B2B businesses may get more out of Twitter and LinkedIn. Search key terms, trending topics, news stories and any relevant industry hashtags to identify potential competitors.
There are many free and paid tools that can help businesses identify their competitors. These can be especially useful for finding startups that may not be on your radar yet but have the potential to scale or are doing something innovative that could make waves in your industry. Check out the sections below on using free and paid tools to monitor competitor traffic.
Step 2. Categorise Your Competitors
Even a cursory Google search of a niched-down area of your industry will probably return a long list of potential competitors. To make competitor analysis manageable and worthwhile, categorise any businesses identified in terms of the level of competition they represent. Are they a direct competitor with a similar offer to you and targeting the same audience, or do they have just one or two products that overlap and a very different target audience? Are these small-scale businesses with a modest budget for marketing or renowned industry giants running million-dollar campaigns?
Categorising your competitors will allow you to effectively prioritise your research time. It will also put your results in context and help you effectively glean insights from your findings while ultimately helping you to set realistic targets to outperform them.
Step 3. Review Competitor Websites
Take a look around competitor websites to gauge their performance and get some new ideas. Developing the practice of reviewing competitor websites now is important to gauge why they may be getting a larger share of traffic, but that’s not the be-all-and-end-all. How much traffic a website gets isn’t as important as what it does with that traffic — does the website convert it effectively? Being able to pinpoint the conversion elements of a website will allow you to cross-reference them with your own and implement those proving successful. Let’s look at it this way: converting 10% of 100 visitors nets you the same results as converting 1% of 1,000 visitors while requiring you to do less to funnel traffic to your site. Now, imagine maintaining the same conversion rate as you scale your traffic — it soon becomes apparent that reviewing your competitors’ websites to see where you can improve can result in significant gains for your business.
So when reviewing your competitors, what should you look for? First, consider how effective their homepage is — what first impressions do you get? This is the page that the majority of their site traffic will land on, so it’s important to consider how easy it is to navigate and find what your target customer might be looking for. Does the site load quickly and is it easy to get in touch with any questions? Also look at where their calls to action are positioned and the language they use: is there a clear CTA above the fold (the area of the page that appears before a user has to scroll down), and is the messaging specific and compelling (“Show Me How to Improve Engagement in My Business”) or generic (“Subscribe to Newsletter”)? Also look at other important pages on the site: do their product or service pages include plenty of information and images showing users what they’ll get? Does their website copy highlight and effectively address any common objections a visitor might have, or do they gloss over them (or not mention them at all!), leaving room for doubt?
Putting yourself in your perfect customer’s shoes and analysing the strengths and weaknesses of competitor websites is a great way to understand what they are looking for. Set yourself a mission to buy a specific product and make notes of your experience. Does your competitor showcase its USP? Are there trust signals that would put your target customer at ease? Learning how competitors are positioning themselves in the market can help to shape your strategy. Sign up to newsletters, follow their social media accounts and make listening in on your competitors a natural, regular practice to stay ahead of the curve.
Step 4. Monitor Competitor Social Media Accounts
According to Smart Insight’s Global Digital Report 2019, there are 3.5 billion social media users worldwide, which represents an increase of 9% year on year. Unsurprisingly, businesses are making increasing use of social media platforms as part of their digital marketing strategies.
Monitoring competitors’ social media accounts is an entirely free method of evaluating competitor marketing strategies. Review your competitors’ presence across social media. Do they spread their efforts equally or are they focusing on one or two platforms? How do they use brand mentions and what kind of content are they posting? Do they have a good number of followers and high engagement, and does curated content or promotional material earn the most likes? Use your evaluation of your competitors’ performances to plan your social media strategy. Is visual content getting a lot of likes and text content isn’t performing so well? This reveals what the target audience is looking for. Go one layer deeper — is it video posts causing a stir and creating a conversation while infographics go largely ignored? Many businesses drive a significant percentage of traffic to their websites via social media, so understanding what types of content your audience is already engaging with is the first step to take a share of that traffic for yourself.
Step 5. Analyse Competitors’ Web Traffic
Reviewing websites and social media platforms helps to build a picture of where competitors’ website traffic is coming from and how they’re engaging that traffic, but data and statistics are needed to complete the picture.
There are numerous free tools available that can provide detailed stats on competitor websites, including the number of visitors and the top-ranking keywords that are driving traffic there in the first place. Add this to the research you completed in steps one to four to evaluate what works in your industry, along with why and how, and you can use this comprehensive picture to boost traffic to your site.
How to Check a Competitor’s Traffic Using Free Tools
There are plenty of free tools you can use to monitor a competitor’s traffic, and new tools are appearing all the time. With the growing importance and sophistication of search, there are many factors you could take into consideration when analysing a competitor’s performance. Each tool offers something different, so it’s a good idea to compare and contrast results using a range of tools. It’s important to note that you won’t get the exact figure of traffic to a competitor’s site — only access to their Google Analytics account will give you such juicy insights — but using the estimates from a variety of tools will give you enough data to make educated decisions. Some free tools cap usage after a certain number of searches or include only basic features, with unlimited usages and advanced features available only to customers who upgrade to the paid version.
SimilarWeb is a competitor analysis tool that allows users to run reports on any URL. Enter the name of a competitor in the search bar and SimilarWeb will trawl its huge range of data sources to return information such as its average number of visits, average visit duration (how long visitors spend on the site), bounce rate (the percentage of users who leave the site without taking an action) and more. This tool can provide insight into competitor’s online strategies and facilitate a better understanding of the customer journey.
If you run various competitors and one shows a higher than average time-on-site or lower than average bounce rate, these metrics indicate that visitors are finding value and that the site is meeting a user’s needs. Use your knowledge from step three to identify why and consider how you can implement similar elements on your own site to improve performance.
One of the best features of this tool is the list of similar sites provided in the report. This can help businesses identify previously unknown competitors that may fulfil a particular niche you missed during your initial competitor research.
The free version limits the number of results per metric and the amount of web and mobile traffic. Upgrading to a paid account provides access to unlimited results, more data and a host of advanced features.
2. Google Alerts
It’s quick and easy to sign up to receive Google Alerts with an existing Google account. Enter the name of a competitor in the search box and click “create alert”. Whenever this competitor is mentioned online, you’ll receive an email notification to the Gmail address you signed up with.
This is a great way to monitor competitors’ backlinks and social mentions. Use this information to inform your PR outreach activities and social media campaigns — knowing where competitors are earning backlinks from can give you ideas for your own campaign. You can also go one further and set up alerts for your most important keywords, which can be a useful way to identify businesses competing in the same market and pick out topics you could piggyback off of by offering your business’s unique opinion.
Moz is one of the most familiar names in the world of online marketing and SEO. The Moz online platform offers a range of free SEO tools that you can use to keep an eye on competitors’ traffic.
Use the Keyword Explorer tool to identify the top-performing content for target keywords. This can help you to identify competitors and highlight opportunities to outperform them by producing higher-quality content. Keyword performance is a good indicator of a competitor’s position in the market.
Enter a competitor’s URL into Moz’s Link Explorer tool to view a report of their backlinks, top-ranking keywords and a list of other websites targeting the same terms. Use these reports to gain a better understanding of competitors’ online marketing strategies, sources of traffic and target keywords.
4. Google Keyword Planner
Google Keyword Planner allows users to monitor how their website is performing for keywords. It’s also a great tool for competitor analysis and it’s completely free to use for all Google account holders. There will be numerous invitations to set up a Google Ads campaign when signing in for the first time, but this isn’t mandatory.
Enter a competitor’s URL to receive hundreds of keyword suggestions based on their online activity. This gives a good insight into a competitor’s strategy and it can provide some fresh ideas for your business.
How to Check a Competitor’s Traffic Using Paid Tools
Paid tools generally offer much higher-level and more precise data and more advanced features than free tools. Caps on usage are more generous too, which means no running out of search credits halfway through the month or carefully planning out what to search for in advance to avoid hitting the daily cap. Some tools are only accessible via a paid subscription, although many offer a free trial and tiered payment system, allowing businesses to try before they buy and choose a package that best suits their needs and budget.
While some information is accessible with a free account, much of the rich data available through Amazon’s Alexa is accessible only to those with a paid account. This tool is designed primarily for web traffic analytics and holds data on over 30 million websites.
Enter a competitor’s URL into the search bar to obtain a report containing their “Alexa Rank”, a measure of the site’s popularity based on monthly traffic. Reports also include traffic sources, monthly searches, keyword usage, website comparisons and more.
Alexa allows businesses to benchmark their performance against competitors and discover ideas for improving performance.
Ahrefs is one of the most established and well-reviewed paid tools for SEO and competitor analysis. There are several features within Ahrefs, including a competitive analysis that lets you compare up to five domains at once and get a holistic picture of their backlink profiles and growth over time.
Use the Organic Research Report tool to find out which keywords competitors are ranking for in the organic search results. Ahrefs also shows the search volume of each keyword and the percentage of traffic that clicks on a website from the search. Use the Content Gap tool to highlight any keywords a competitor is ranking for that you aren’t. Together, these tools provide you with invaluable data for planning your marketing strategy and targeting the most competitive and profitable keywords in your industry.
There are four different price plans for Buzzsumo. It is possible to use the platform for free, but features are limited and you’ll be capped to a certain number of results and daily searches.
Search for a keyword or competitor URL and Buzzsumo returns a list of the most popular content on social media. When monitoring competitor social media accounts, this tool helps identify content that is performing well in terms of social shares and engagement.
Set up an alert for all competitors earning significant engagement and you’ll receive a notification when they publish new content. Use the competitor content performance reports for a more detailed look at areas of success, including the most popular networks, time of posting and more.
SEMrush is described as an “all-in-one marketing toolkit”, and it certainly provides an impressive analytics arsenal for paid subscribers.
It’s Traffic Analytics tool shows the source of the traffic to a website and the level of visitor engagement with the site. The Domain Overview provides a report on any URL and contains almost all the data you could wish for on a competitor, including their backlinks, display ads and more. You’ll particularly want to take a look at their paid search keywords — these are terms your competitors are paying to rank for, indicating that there’s search intent and that they are highly commercially viable keywords. If you can rank organically for these terms, you’ll be able to draw traffic to your site without shelling out funds on pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. Ultimately, the Domain Overview provides you with an at-a-glance view of the strengths and weaknesses of a site.
Its many features are worthy of a blog post itself, but other vital competitor research tools include its Social Media Tracker, which monitors competitors across Facebook, Twitter and more; Brand Monitoring, which scours the internet for organic mentions of your competitors brand (unlike Google Alerts, this will provide you with historical data, rather than mentions only from the time you subscribe), and Post Tracking, which allows you to compare the performance of your content with that of a competitor. This is a huge sophisticated piece of software that will allow you to explore a competitor’s traffic and performance to the nth degree.
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