Traffic Secrets Uncovered: How to Spy on Your Competitors’ Website Traffic

By: | October 14th, 2012

Yes, we know this title is very alluring – but before you skip to the next paragraph, we just wanted to ask: have you joined our Facebook Page yet? Joining us on Facebook means you will be the first to get updates when blog posts like this one get published. Also, you will have access to tips, articles and the latest news on inbound marketing. Join now if you don’t want to miss out!

In our last post we talked about how you can promote your business by posting on Q&A websites answers that will generate traffic to your website. This time, we decided to tackle the problem from a different angle. Aren’t you interested in knowing how your competitors’ are doing traffic-wise? Finding out what their weak points are? And perhaps even getting inspired and use their ideas? You could do all that by simply checking out their website traffic.

When it comes to SEO, one of the key terms that pop up most often is “traffic”. Website traffic indicates the number of visitors who visit a certain website and the number of pages they view, as well as which specific pages they view on the website and when they view them.

Step 1: Learn why website traffic matters

Why does website traffic matter? Because it tells you what works and what doesn’t work on your website, in terms of your website’s visitors; and enables you to see which pages or sections need some fine-tuning. Simply put, website traffic is a measure that tells you how popular your website is. It is often used interchangeably with the terms “website metrics” or “website analytics”. Website metrics/analytics are the collective names for all the different types of information that are monitored on your website, for example, the average number of pages viewed by a visitor to the website, and the average visit  duration of a visitor.

This kind of information is vital, as it can reveal various trends, like the time of day on which the website is visited the most, and the geographical location most visitors come from. In the case that your website is offering a product or service that you wish to promote, such information makes for better and more efficient targeting of potential clients. Just as importantly, this information is collected by the various search engines (Google, Bing, etc.) and it has direct influence on your ratings on those search engines – meaning, how high you appear on search results and how often.

Now, take all this info – and think about your competitors. If you want to get more popular than them, or maintain your popularity versus theirs, following their website traffic is crucial! Knowing how their visitors reach them, and which pages they visit on their websites, can greatly help you with making adjustments on your website. Also, studying their weak points (less-visited pages, days on which the traffic to their website is low) could lead you to invest in these specific aspects on your website – and beat your competitors at their own game.

Dundas traffic sources

Find out which websites refer visitors to your competitors’ websites – this information could help your website, too!! Taken from Dundas.

Step 2: Know your traffic terms

When studying website metrics, you will encounter strange-sounding terms like “bounce rate”, “organic traffic” and so on. Don’t freak out! They all have pretty simple definitions. For you convenience, we have put together a list of terms commonly found on traffic reports (more on traffic reports – later). It is highly recommended you get familiar with them, as understanding these things about your website will determine whether it becomes successful or not.

  • Bounce rate – let’s begin with the definition of the term ‘bounce’. A bounce is a single view of a certain page on the website. Examples of bounce are: a visitor that reaches the website’s home page, hangs around for a minute, then leaves; a visitor who reaches a page on the website, and leaves it open on the browser while browsing other pages until the session on that page times out; or a user who reaches a page on the website, reads it and then closes the browser.
    “Bounce rate”, then, refers to the percentage of bounces on the website – the percentage of people who reach it and bounce out rather than staying on and viewing other pages. For example, a 50% bounce rate, which is the average bounce rate, means that 50% of people who visit the website, visit one page and then leave. Bounce rates above 60% are a cause for concern, while bounce rates below 40% are usually considered good.
  • Search engine traffic – visitors who reach the website by clicking on a search engine result. Note that this only refers to people who clicked on an organic result (see “organic traffic”), not a paid ad.
  • Direct traffic – visitors who reach the website directly, by typing the website URL, using the website as a home page or reaching it by a bookmark they’ve made for it on their browser.
  • Referral traffic – visitors who reach the website by links on other websites (as opposed to reaching it directly or from a result on a search engine). In other words, this measurement tells you which domains are referring visitors to the website. For example, a referral source could be the website’s Facebook page, its Twitter account, a link placed on another website that recommended the website, YouTube (for example, if a promotion video was created that contained a link to the website), etc.
  • PPC traffic – visitors who reach the website by clicking on a paid ad. PPC (pay-per-click) ads are a way to generate traffic to the site: these ads are basically links to the website are placed at the top of the search results, often marked by a different color than the results that appear below, which are the organic results. Website owners get paid for then whenever someone clicks the ad, hence their name.
  • Organic traffic – the visitors who reach the website from unpaid listings – meaning, all visitors who do not reach it by way of PPC ads, but directly from search engines, online directories or online business guides (restaurant guides, for example, if the website you’re promoting is a restaurant website).

Step 3: Learn what types of traffic information to look for

So what types of information should you be looking for when spying on a competitor’s website? Well, here are some examples:

  • The number of visitors to the website – well, this is quite self-explanatory 🙂
  • The average number of page views for a visitor – a high number indicates that visitors browse many different pages on the website
  • The average visit duration per visitor – how long visitors tend to stay on the website or on a certain page. A rule of thumb says that the longer they stay, the more they’re interested in the website.
  • Highest traffic times – the times of the day and the days on the week (as well as times during the month or months during the year) on which traffic is the highest on the website. You could use this to figure out when you should promote campaigns on your website – perhaps on days on which the competitors’ website is less busy.
  • The most requested pages – this tells you which pages on the website are the most popular – and could give you an idea as to the pages on website in which you should invest more time and energy.
  • The most requested entry pages – the entry page is the first page the visitor views on the website and can give you an idea as to which pages on the competitor’s website are the most attractive.
  • Top paths – a path on a website is the sequence of pages a visitor views from the moment of entry to their exit from the website. The top paths are the most common paths used by visitors to the website and could tell a lot their behavior, their interests and what they’re looking for. The number of visitors.
  • The top referrers to the website – these are the websites/domains which are generating the most traffic to the competitor’s website. This is useful information because it can tell the types of websites (and specific websites) you should put links to your websites in. Should you invest more on Facebook or Twitter? Should you try to find blogs to collaborate with? Are there any websites in your field that could give you some publicity – that you haven’t heard of yet?

Facebook fanpage traffic

Are your competitors getting most of their traffic from Facebook? According to the retail study from Searchengineland, maybe it’s time you update your company’s Facebook page. 

Step 4: Get familiar with website traffic reports

Now that you’re a bit more traffic-savvy, it’s time to start digging deep, and learn how to read website traffic reports, which you can generate with the help of some online traffic tools (see below). A website traffic report can include graphs, trend lines, pie charts and lists of the keywords that generate the most traffic for a given website.

Here are some examples of the various types of information you could find on a website traffic report and how they may be presented.

Top 10 countries the website gets visits from, with the number of visits percountry

Top 10 countries the website gets visits from

Referring websites and the number of referrals they make over a period of time

Referrer tracker

(via web-stat)

The bounce rate for pages on the site

The bounce rate for pages on the site

(via link-assistant)

Audience demographics

Which demographics on the website are similar to the general internet population, which are over-represented and which are under-represented.

Audience demographics

(via Alexa)

Step 5: Use these tools to find out your competitors’ traffic

Luckily for you, there are various online tools that can help you spy on your competitors, find out their traffic analytics and generate traffic reports for them. The following websites are among the top websites that collect data on visitors’ browsing behavior on websites and analyze it:

  • Google Trends – with Google Trends you can find out the traffic estimates on certain time frames, as well as regional information – the regions the visitors to a website come from. In addition, it tells you which other websites were visited by users who visited a certain website, and lets you compare the traffic for multiple website. However, make sure you sign in with your Google account in order to view actual traffic number rather than trend lines.
  • Compete – this tool lets you track a website’s traffic 12 months back. The information it provides includes the estimated monthly unique visitors and visits, compare between different websites, top search terms and referral websites. However, its downside is that that it’s U.S.-based and thus the results are mostly helpful for websites that are targetingU.S. users.
  • Quantcast – this tool is great for demographics – the traffic information it provides about a website can be divided into different demographic measures such as gender, age, income, education level, etc. In addition, it provides daily, weekly and monthly traffic reports and also lists websites that visitor to the website you’re checking are likely to visit.
  • SEMRush – on SEMRush you can find a wealth of information about keywords: the keywords for which a website has a high ranking on Google, the website’s competitors for the same keywords, keywords in different languages, etc.
  • iSpionage – iSpionage is another useful tool for keyword analytics, but also provides plenty of information regarding a website’s ranking status on several different search engines (including Google, Yahoo! And Bing). For example, one can find a website’s Google and Yahoo! backlinks (web pages that lead to the website, for example a blog post which provided a link to the website), the keywords that the website has high ranking on for Google, Yahoo! and Bing, etc. A very cool feature on iSpionage is called ‘Social Mentions’ – and it tells you about the website’s mentions on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Google Ad Planner – this tool by Google generates information like the average time on a website, average visits per visitor on a website, daily and monthly estimates of unique visitors, the average time spent on a website, as well as more useful analytics. In addition, it includes lists of sites also visited by visitors to a certain website, provides demographic information and lets you find out about audience interests.
  • Websitegrader – a tool from HubSpot that lets you compare between your website and other websites by generating a 0-100 grade for each website. This score is based on analytics like backlinks, quality of the site’s domain name, the number of indexed pages per site, social media presence, etc.
  • Alexa – perhaps the best-known tool in the field, Alexa provides such useful information as a website’s bounce rate, its ranking, the average number of pages viewed on a website, and so on. In addition, you can use it to compare between competing websites (it allows you to compare up to five websites at a time). A great bonus is the Alexa Toolbar – a toolbar you can install on your browser, which shows you the analytics for each website you’re visiting.

Alexa toolbar

And – check out this fun video which guides you step-by step on some more useful online analytics tools that could help you with analyzing your competitors’ traffic.

Help us spy!

Before you start spying on your competitors’ like crazy, we just want to know – did you find this post useful? Did you discover about analytics tools you haven’t heard of previously? Please feel welcome to give us your feedback! And – do you also have some tips about finding out about competitors’ traffic? If you do, we’d love if you share this information with us!

Image credit: zakmilofsky

Dafna Ben-Yehoshua Google+

A biologist turned content writer who dances lindy hop for fun. Specializes in multi-tasking and never getting enough sleep. An expert on cats, dark chocolate, and how prevent cats from eating her chocolate.

2 thoughts on “Traffic Secrets Uncovered: How to Spy on Your Competitors’ Website Traffic”

  1. Scott says:

    Thanks for your great post. I found it really informative and it helped me understand a bit more about how to analyze properly traffic to my sites.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Dafna says:

    Thank you for your feedback, Scott!!!
    I’m really happy to hear that it helped you.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *