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Assessing Your Competitors' Traffic: Is It Worth It?

Jan 21, 2008
Assessing your competitors' traffic is like chasing rainbows: you never quite get there and wouldn't know what to do if you did. How do you compare traffic, and is it really worth doing?

A lot depends upon what you mean by the word 'traffic' and how you assess it. Every time you visit your own website you are 'traffic' unless you can measure unique visitors. Here are three ways of gathering approximations of the traffic that your competition is getting relative to yours, although 'approximate' is very much the appproriate word:

* Alexa Ranking: if you visit alexa.com you will be able to download a toolbar that provides you with what is known as an Alexa Ranking. This is a ranking of the web page you are viewing in terms of total traffic relative to other sites on the internet from Alexa users. The lower the figure the better, so you can compare your competitors' with your own Alexa statistics.

* Compete Ranking: compete.com allow you to download the Compete equivalent to the Alexa ranking Many people prefer Compete because it uses a wider base for collecting data: in addition to toolbar users they also use data from ASPs, ISPs and opt-in panels. They also provide data on unique traffic that Alexa do not.

* Netcraft: this site provides information mainly on web servers rather than individual domains, and is useful only if you want to find information about your competitor's server. The information is sketchy for any but the biggest sites.

These toolbars are free, and useful for the amateur webmaster to use. However, if you are serious about finding information about the traffic of your competition there are a number of commercial paid sites such as Hitwise and ComScore that provide you with more comprehensive information. The choice of such services is a personal one, and quite frankly there are few, if any, that provide a comprehensive analysis of traffic that could be of much benefit to you.

Finding traffic details about your compettition is all very well, but to what use can you put it? It is not the volume of traffic that matters but how much unique traffic you are getting, and what you do with it is even more important. That could depend on the type of business you have.

A B2B (business to business) website usually regards traffic in a different way to that of a B2C (business to customer) site, in that whereas a B2B website is often designed to showcase the products and services offered, much like it would use a trade show, a B2C landing page is generally more of a squeeze page, designed to maintain contact with the visitor with a view to completing a sale some time in the future.

Whereas one is designed to display technological or product competence and innovation to prospects who are perhaps already in a sales funnel, the other is designed to create and maintain interest with the traffic achieved and enter them into the funnel. It is not so much how much traffic you get to your site that is important, but what type of traffic you get and what you subsequently do with it.

OK, we all know about squeeze pages and how you must use an opt-in form to collect your visitors' email addresses. But what else? Do you use a sales funnel for instance? Every visitor to your website should enter the funnel and be qualified to different levels the farther down the funnel they travel. It is a good tool to try if you are new to the concept.

You should have specific actions to take at each level in your funnel, and also pre-arranged means of injecting life into those prospects that appear to have become stuck! You will have to lubricate the funnel now and again, perhaps with free offers or money-off coupons your visitors can use to purchase some of your higher value products at low prices. That should get them going on their way down the funnel towards the area where you offer them products with real benefits at real prices. The money-making end!

That is one simple way in which you can use your traffic to your best advantage, and where, if your competitors do not do the same, their traffic is irrelevant to their income. If you can make every visitor count by using the proper tools, then assessing your competitors' traffic might be time better spent on other things.

It is important that you keep tabs of what your competition is doing, but don't dwell too much on their traffic: think more on what you are doing with yours.
About the Author
If you want more information on traffic generation, check out Pete's blog on Seoscopywhere you will find out how to use SEO to drive masses of traffic to your website, and also links to his other websites and blogs on similar topics.
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