Experienced marketers know their company’s rivals inside and out, and they know that there are always more competitor insights to discover.
Let’s look at some of the more complex findings that your rivals’ website traffic metrics can lead you to. Set your clock: we have got 30 minutes and 6 hidden points to reveal.
The insights below were found with SEMrush Traffic Analytics. If you want to learn how to reveal specific website traffic metrics of your competitors, please refer to this article. For more detail on online competitor analysis, check our guide.
Insight #1: Who is Really Leading the Competition?
When planning a marketing campaign, you may be looking at your company’s main rival for insights and strategies, but are you looking at everything you should? If you only judge your competitors by brand awareness, estimated market share, or frequency of PR appearances, you may be missing the competitor who has the best reach and traffic.
A better strategy to find a legitimate digital benchmark is to check out the top five competitors that are neck and neck with you. Detect the one with the highest traffic volume in the last 12 months; note if they showed exponential or stable growth over the year and if they had any declines over the period. Whether it correlates with offline popularity or not, take this company’s website as a role model and build your campaigns with an understanding of their successful and failed activities.
Make sure to check the companies’ traffic sources and be aware of the one that drives the most direct traffic because it is a clear sign of their high brand awareness online. What can you learn from them?
Let’s look at some example data. HelloFresh certainly attracts the most direct traffic. Dinnerly, however, has the biggest share of direct visits, which means it relies less on promo and may enjoy better brand awareness.
Greater shares of paid and referral traffic may indicate the companies that are more effective in their advertising and PR, like HelloFresh and Home Chef in our example.
Here is how we researched traffic volume of grocery delivery services in the US. This way, using SEMrush Traffic Analytics, you can determine the leader in any other industry, too.
When doing competitive research, you may want to concentrate on relative numbers, not the absolute, especially if you are looking for a benchmark for a particular traffic source.
Insight #2: What Hidden Seasonal Trends might You Overlook?
You may know all the industry peaks and declines in demand, but you still have to learn the seasonality that exists within companies. Sometimes it is the budget that remains at the end of a quarter and needs to be spent, so you see lots of paid traffic going to the website during this time. It could otherwise be the case that a new head of marketing has arrived with fresh ideas, and made everyone turn to blogger relations, for example.
Look at the traffic metrics in dynamics over the current and the previous years. For both, determine your main competitor’s peak month (by number of website visits). Then compare data and see if it is the same for other industry players, and guess the reasons for such an increase. Repeat the same procedure for the period of decline.
Once you have learned how your competitors’ campaigns worked in a low season, you will be able to conclude whether enhanced promotion in this period will be a payoff or a waste.
Let’s continue with the example of grocery delivery services.
For the five chosen websites, January looks like the high season — the amount of traffic is only comparable to the surge in demand during the lockdown in spring 2020.
To determine that this is neither an accident, nor a result of individual competitors’ promo, we will refer to SEMrush Market Explorer.
There, we see HelloFresh’s peaks and declines echoed in the total market trends. This means the fluctuation must have been caused by consumer preferences, rather than companies’ marketing activities. So it’s the audience that has to be researched next.
Insight #3: Do Your Competitors Really Hit the Same Target Audience?
The most important question is not even who your rivals target, but who they actually hit. To reveal this, study the audience overlap between your competitors.
The discovered percentage of shared vs. unique audience can help you discover the current or even the next leader of the competition, compare brands’ positioning and marketing strategies, reveal media preferences, and align your campaigns accordingly.
Let’s look at five popular tech-oriented online media sites as an example. If you look at their home pages, you may notice they are all alike, as the same news is posted around the platforms throughout the day. If you look at their actual audience overlap, though, you will see the difference in these magazines’ readership.
If you get into a situation like this with your competitor, you may want to increase the number of placements in the media that you share with your competitor (if you are serious about getting their piece of pie) or try to avoid them in the future (to differentiate your audiences). But first of all, have a look at how we researched audience overlap for tech media and follow the example.
Insight #4: Does Your Competitor Communicate with the Target Audience Better than You Do?
What the audience wants, a brand should provide on their website. If it doesn’t, users leave; it is that simple. So, compare the average visit duration and bounce rate that you observe for your competitors with yours.
We studied the top US home decor e-commerces as an example below and discovered that IKEA, while being the leader in traffic volume, managed to keep a comparatively positive bounce rate. Its competitor, Wayfair, appears to receive highly relevant traffic to its website, too, judging by its long average visit duration.
Another competitor, bedbathandbeyond.com, can’t boast huge levels of traffic, nor favorable user engagement metrics.
What should you do if you researched the same metrics for your niche and discovered that a competitor outperformed you?
Check their website traffic journey to reveal the channels and media platforms that attract such a well-targeted audience. Also, have a look at their subdomains and top pages (it may be the structure and content of the website that users find so appealing), and take inspiration from their activities.
Insight #5: Are the Hottest Channels Worth the Hype (and Effort)?
Before you redirect all your marketing budget to Instagram (or whatever has been trending recently), check how specific traffic sources worked for your competitors, and detect gaps in their strategies.
Remember, though: what worked for someone else is great for insights, but duplication isn’t the best solution. Every company is different, and experimentation is critical if you are to attract traffic of high volume and quality.
Take the top five e-commerce websites in the US. It’s nordstrom.com that receives the highest volume of traffic from social media; it’s hm.com that secures the lowest bounce rate; but it’s gap.com that finds the middle ground between impressive social media traffic and a favorable bounce rate.
GAP has also managed to find the sweet spot in referral traffic generation: the number of visits is the highest among the competition, and their total bounce rate is lower than the average.
Insight #6: What is Their Estimated Conversion?*
*For e-commerce websites and online-based companies only.
If users got to a webpage that was made for confirming a purchase or even entering their bank card number, there is a good chance they actually bought something.
So, check the traffic to the Top Pages related to payment — filter the complete list by “pay”, “checkout”, “secure”, or even “thank-you”.. These won’t be exact numbers, but you should get some insights.
Similarly, you can also find out the total number of users that signed up, logged in, or took specific actions on an online platform.
Here is what we discovered about paypal.com: