How To Research Competitive Site Traffic and Social Engagement

Now you’ve done your initial homework for keywords and have no doubt that your site will dominate the SERPs for a myriad of Long Tail phrases.

At this point, it’s helpful to set expectations by doing a little competitive research around what your peers are experiencing for traffic and social engagement. Luckily, we have a few free tools at our disposal.

  1. Alexa – Owned by Amazon, this service ranks the world’s most visited websites based on a variety factors. Helpful for getting a sense of inbound links to the site and where a site ranks across all websites online. Using unique visitors as of spring 2013, Google ranks first, followed by Facebook and YouTube. This is good for a big picture view. Cracking the Alexa Top 100 is a big deal for consumer websites.
  2. – Free for basic information, Compete gives you a sense of overall unique visitors to a website broken down month by month. Keep in mind, this is only an approximation. But still helpful for setting traffic goals when you’re starting out or relaunching a web property. For small sites, there might not be enough traffic to generate a report.
  3. Open Site Explorer – As we know from our SEO chapter, inbound links are a critical part for ranking better. SEOmoz has put together a free tool that helps you explore a variety of SEO factors, as well as social engagement (Pro Version). Here’s a great overview on how it works.
  4. SEOmoz toolbar – This free plugin for Chrome or Firefox let’s you quickly see a variety of SEO elements page by page. The video at the above link does a good job explaining how it works.
  5. Social Media – Knowing your target market, you can select the right social channels they most likely engage with. Facebook and YouTube is usually a given and increasingly so is Twitter. Emerging channels like Pinterest or foursquare can be worth looking into as well. Spend some time looking through your competitors’ Likes, Followers, Subscribers but also dig deeper and see if they are getting good engagement with their online community (Retweets, Comments, etc). A great example of a company that enjoys fantastic engagement on social is New Belgium Brewing.

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Key Takeaway: There is a ton of data to be had – and usually for free. However, don’t let it overwhelm you to the point you have “paralysis by analysis”. Pick 3 – 5 top competitors in your field and build a simple matrix that let’s you see their overall traffic, SEO performance and social media traction.