Best SEO Software 2021

How to Analyze Competitor Website Traffic

Competitor website traffic is full of rich insights that can help your business grow. Below, we outline how to analyze competitor website traffic, the benefits of this analysis, and share which software tool we found to have the best data.

Table of Contents

What is Competitor Traffic Analysis?

Competitor traffic analysis is a digital marketing best practice that companies use to investigate competitors and improve their websites' performance. Typically, companies leverage several online marketing tools to complete a competitor traffic analysis. While many of these tools can be used to complete a competitor traffic analysis, there are some that provide access to the best competitor data. We've listed the best competitor research software tools below, and share the results of our own data accuracy test to give you our recommendation for the best traffic analysis solution.

Why is Competitor Traffic Analysis Important?

There are three primary benefits of completing a competitor traffic analysis:

  • Grow your website's traffic volume
  • Better evaluate new business opportunities
  • Gain a competitive edge on competition by understanding their online tactics and performance

Grow Your Website's Traffic Volume

Analyzing your competitors' online performance is an easy way to help grow your own website. By understanding what is working well for your competitors, you can identify valuable traffic opportunities that you're currently missing. For example, you might discover that one of your competitors gets 30% of its traffic from social media, but you currently do not invest in social media. Similarly, you might discover that paid search campaigns targeting specific keywords drive a material percentage of your top competitor's traffic – and realize that you do not currently target these keywords.

Evaluate New Business Opportunities

Competitor traffic analysis can also help you evaluate new business opportunities. For example, you might be considering launching a new business line, or expanding into a new geography. You can analyze the traffic volume of companies that are currently offering this product, or operating in your target geography to estimate the size of the new business opportunity.

Gain a Competitive Edge

Competitor traffic analysis can also help you gain a competitive edge in your current market. You can identify your competitors top online marketing tactics and respond almost immediately as they change. For example, you can learn which channels and search terms perform best for specific competitors, and begin targeting them yourself. Alternatively, you could discover that none of your competitors are investing in a specific marketing channel, and decide that you want to differentiate by pursuing it. You can also get a sense of the geographies that work best for competitors, and keep an eye on changes to their online marketing budgets.

What Data Points Should You Investigate?

The specific data points that you'll want to measure and analyze depends on your unique goals. However, there are some data points that you'll almost always want to analyze, which are featured in the table below.

Data PointKey Question
Overall Website TrafficHow much traffic do your competitors get, and how is this changing over time?
Website Traffic by ChannelWhat online channels contribute the most to your competitors websites?
Website Traffic by DeviceHow much traffic do your competitors get from desktop vs. mobile?
Website Traffic by GeographyWhich cities, states, or countries generate the most traffic for your competitors?
Audience EngagementHow engaged are competitors' website visitors as measured by session length and pages per session?
Customer DemographicsWhat's the age, gender, and interests of the individuals who visit your competitors' websites?
Online Ads UsedWhat online search, display, and product listing ads have your competitors used in the past?

Competitor Traffic Analysis Tools

You'll need a software tool to access the data points above, and complete your competitor traffic analysis. The most popular, highest quality tools are:

How Much Do Traffic Analysis Tools Cost?

You should expect to pay between $50 to $500 per month for a competitor traffic analysis tool. The cheapest product in the list above is SpyFu, with plans that start at $39 per month. However, SpyFu does not have the same data sources as more expensive solutions such as SEMrush and SimilarWeb. If you plan to invest a significant amount of money based upon the results of your analysis, then it's probably worth purchasing a premium solution.

Where Do the Tools Get Their Data?

There are four primary data sources that competitor traffic analysis tools use:

  • Website owners who share their data directly with the digital marketing tool
  • Consumer panels that anonymously observe millions of consumers while they're browsing the internet
  • Scraping Google's actual search engine result pages (SERPs)
  • Google's API that shares estimated keyword-level data

Each of the data sources above has its own advantages. In general, the data source that produces the most accurate competitor traffic analyses across all marketing channels is a large consumer panel. Of the tools listed above, Alexa, SEMrush and SimilarWeb leverage consumer panels. This means that Ahrefs and SpyFu won't have access to much data outside of the search channel.

Which Tool is the Most Accurate?

We tested the tools listed above to determine which had the most accurate and complete data set. To do this, we compared actual SoftwarePundit performance data to the data provided by each software application.

Overall, we found SimilarWeb to offer the most accurate and complete data set. Here are some specific advantages we found while using SimilarWeb:

  • Only SimilarWeb and SEMrush included performance data on mobile traffic, and non-search marketing channels
  • SimilarWeb was the only tool with accurate referral traffic data (49% difference from actual vs. 100%+ for all other tools)
  • SimilarWeb had the most accurate data in terms of visit duration (47% difference from actual), pages per visit (9% difference from actual), and visitor geography (only solution to accurately predict the top 4 countries)

An example of the SimilarWeb dashboard is below. For all websites, this dashboard includes a rich set of information on traffic & engagement, audience demographics, and each marketing channel. You can filter all information by date, geography and device.

SimilarWeb Website Performance Dashboard

Methodology

To determine each software tool's accuracy, we compared data provided by the tool to SoftwarePundit actual figures during the first half of 2020. In total, we looked at 16 data points including overall website traffic, traffic by channel, pages per visit, average visit duration, the age and geographical distribution of visitors, and the detection of paid search ads. Accuracy for each data point was calculated on a percentage basis of the absolute difference between the real figure and the software tool's estimated figure.

Bruce Hogan

Bruce Hogan is Co-founder & CEO of SoftwarePundit, a technology research firm that provides advice, information, and tools to help businesses thrive. Bruce has experience investing at multi-billion dollar private equity firms, leading teams at venture-backed Internet companies, and launching new businesses. He can be found on LinkedIn here.

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