Build on Competitive Data to Improve Site Performance

Web analytics and competitive data tell great stories on their own. When combined, the insight they provide can be greater than the sum of its parts.

Analytics can tell you almost everything you need to know about how people get to, use, and exit your site. But it can’t provide you with any competitive data or benchmark you against your competition.

Over the past few months, more of our clients have inquired about competitive data and comparing sites’ performance. When using Web analytics to analyze site performance, companies often ask how their site performance compares with that of others in their industry. Companies don’t often share analytic data with their competition, but we can look at data across an industry if it was gathered using similar metrics.

Sneak a Peak at the Competition

People often want information that goes beyond their own analytic data. Increasingly, we recommend sources of competitive benchmarking data and work with companies our clients work with, including comScore, Nielsen//NetRatings, and Hitwise.

Recently, we’ve done a number of presentations with competitive data providers. We find there are significant benefits when specific Web analytics data is combined with competitive data from a source such as comScore.

Competitive data based on large sample sets can tell you at a high level how people use your site and your competitors’. It can provide information on the role of search engines, campaigns, visitor demographics, and more about competitors’ sites. In many cases, you can compare detailed conversion metrics on your site to those of your competitors’ sites.

Compare Apples to Apples

Since the competitive data is based on sampling, you wouldn’t want to directly compare your own Web analytics data to data on your competition. That would be like comparing apples to oranges. But you would want to compare yourself to your competitors using data coming from a company such as comScore.

Competitive data can be useful when you’re able to look at data gathered with common metrics. Although competitive data won’t provide all the detailed visitor behavior information needed to optimize your site, it will provide a good measurement of your site compared to the rest of your industry.

Some of the most common metrics include:

  • Percentage share of industry (visitors)

  • Common visitors across sites in industry
  • Campaigns competitors are running and their effectiveness
  • General stats, such as visitors, visits, page views, page views per visit, and time spent on site
  • Search engine statistics
  • Specific conversions for some industries

Using Competitive Data for Site Optimization

During the redesign process, our clients often point out what they like on other sites, sometimes within the same industry, sometimes in an unrelated one. By using competitive data (along with Web analytics data) to help inform a redesign or site optimization, you can determine what competitors are doing well and pull from their best practices. This is just one tactic you can use to optimize your site’s performance.

Coordinate Efforts

Unfortunately, people within an organization who review competitive data often are not the same people who actively look at the Web analytics data that’s tied to overall site goals. In a previous column, I wrote about the same issue with the separation of usability and analytic data. Again, combining the data helps tell the full story and fill in the gaps.

Think of the power of combining data on site performance from Web analytics, competitive data, usability, research reports, surveys, CRM systems, and customer service centers. In a perfect world, there would be one source or system from which to pull all this information. Alas, that isn’t the case. Don’t let that stop you from gathering, combining, and analyzing some or all of this data on your own.

I highlighted just a few data points that can be collected through competitive data providers. Each company in the market offers unique solutions, often by industry or based on client needs. Check them out on your own. You’ll quickly find how it can help round out understanding of your site compared to others in your industry.

Let the benchmarking and optimization begin!

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