Every serious online business during its development reaches the line when it becomes essential to clearly realize the market’s structure, see and feel your competitors, have a gust of the dynamics of demands of your potential customers.
In the current report I would like to concentrate on such an interesting moment as market research, as it allows building business in the web on the solid ground and make corrections during its development that are based only on topical and timely data.
We will try to analyze the western market of online forex, understand the means of bringing traffic, what are type and regional sources of this traffic, in other words — we’ll try to get an insight into marketing strategies of marketers leading in the current niche.
The reason why we’ve chosen the western segment of market is that Ru-net does not possess enough quality tools for such researches at the moment.
Ok then, let’s start.
First of all, we should specify the purposes of our research, in other words – what information we would like to gather? Most often it’s the following data:
- What projects are most successful in the current niche? What do they present?
- What value and quality of traffic do they approximately attract?
- What means are used to bring visitors?
- Type-in (direct typing in the address line, selecting from bookmarks, etc.)
- What range of type-in traffic does the project attract?
- What range of traffic does the project bring from referral sites?
- Which projects bring most traffic to the analyzed project?
- SEO (Search engine optimization)
- What queries is the site ranked for?
- What properties do these queries possess?
- What methods are used in promotion?
- What other projects are relied to the analyzed project, are they used to promote the analyzed project?
- What company promotes current site?
- PPC (Pay-per-Click)
- Is PPC used in promotion?
- What systems of PPC are used, what keywords are used to promote the site in the blocks of paid ads?
- What texts are used in ads?
- Are separate landing pages specially designed, what are their features?
- Email marketing (advertising by means of email)
- Is email used as advertising channel? What is its role in project’s marketing?
- What features does email distribution possess? Do they track visits from electronic letters?
- Affiliate marketing
- Does the project have its own affiliate program? What is number of its affiliates?
- What opinions about affiliate program are represented in the web? Is there any data about affiliates gainings?
- Does the project participate in CPA networks?
- Type-in (direct typing in the address line, selecting from bookmarks, etc.)
In most cases, to determine your competitors it’s enough to make several searches in Google by the most serious keywords in current niche, check this data by means of SemRush service (www.semrush.com), and also to look through the corresponding sections of DMOZ, Yahoo! catalogue, and Business.com.
Several important points:
1) During the search it’s better to switch on SEOQuake plug-in and to pay attention to Alexa Rating
2) When you find competitor’s site with the lowest Alexa Rating (the lower this rating is, the higher traffic ranking is), add it into SemRush and get URL addresses of competitor sites both in organic search and in PPC.
Summarizing the analysis results, I have found rather large number of powerful resources in the niche (which is no surprise). Let’s select 5 of them as an example:
Project Traffic Ranking
There are ways of analyzing projects’ traffic without direct access to statistics. It’s possible due to such tools as Alexa and Compete. The first one gathers data from toolbars pre-installed on users’ computers (if my memory doesn’t fail me, such toolbars are developed only for Internet Explorer, and this fact can bring significant inaccuracies in specific cases), and the second – from data provided by Internet providers in the USA, according to existing agreements.
Whatever instrument we are going to use, it’s important to remember one thing – the lower site’s popularity is, the lower is actuality of information, provided by these tools. For example, in his book «Web analytics: An hour a day», Avinash Kaushik recommends not to trust data brought by Alexa implicitly, if rating is more than 100.000,.
In our case it’s all ok with traffic ranking of leading sites, so information is more or less authoritative.
Let’s take a look:
Google Trends for Websites shows almost similar picture, but it also adds obvious information about regional qualities of attracted traffic.
To specify approximate numeric values, you can just make a selection of benchmark websites with similar approximate traffic, with statistics available. Thus, we can get approximate data about real traffic:
We can check our information with the help of Google AdPlanner — e.g., let’s look at data for www.fxcm.com
You can complete the picture of comparative traffic by means of Compete.com (specified figures mean estimate number of users from the USA).
The next step will be defining of geography of competitor sites.
Alexa can be our assistant here as well:
Important moment — how do visitors behave when they get to a site of your competitor? Do they look through the content, what volume of content do they view, how much time do they spend on a site? Besides, we’d like to know approximate bounce rate and especially — what is approximate conversion rate?
Again let’s view Alexa’s data.
As for conversion, it’s almost impossible to learn its true rate, but we can get general information about it. To do it, we should firstly define, how ordering/registration is happening on the site. If it passes through a sub-domain or a third party site – we got it!
According to gathered data, conversion varies between 0.5% (worldwide data by Alexa) and ~4% (Quantcast data for US users).
By the way, here we can also view intensity of using different language versions of the project, if multilingualism is realized by means of sub-domains:
So, for ac-markets.com Farsi version is twice as popular as Spanish and Chinese versions.
Approximate data about demography can be gathered from Alexa or Quantcast. E.g., here is information about demography of users from the USA for www.fxcm.com brought by Quantcast.
Once we’d got an overview about traffic to our competitors’ sites, let us try defining its sources and methods used to attract visitors.
At first thought, it’s impossible to quantify type-in traffic, as neither Alexa, nor Compete and Quantcast don’t provide such reports. However, if we view statistics of widely promoted brands in Google Analytics, we will see that so-called brand queries are a weighty share among other keywords which bring traffic to the site.
In other words, the way visitors type queries “fxcm”, “fxcm.com”, “forex capital markets” etc. in search string can bring us information about traffic volume from bookmarks and direct type-in in URL bar.
According to our observations, for widely promoted projects, correlation between visits by brand queries and type-in traffic volume makes about 25-30% (in other words, if brand queries bring 10.000 visitors per month, then type-in traffic is about 40.000 visitors per month), but in some specific cases the figures can significantly differ. That is why we should not make definite suggestions on the basis of this information.
To define approximate volume of type-in traffic, you can use Google Insights service. Once you compared brand query with marker query with a cognate attendance rate, you can firstly define number of visits by brand queries, and then – approximate type-in traffic volume:
In our case we know that number of visitors by “country codes” query (1st position by this keyword in SERP) is about 1500 visitors per day. It means that total number of such searches is about 3000 per day (according to data about visits spreading on positions in SERPs, the first place brings about 50% searches).
On this basis, we can conclude that “fxcm” query is typed in about 470 times a day. Thus, we see that all brand queries bring 500 visits per day, and get type-in traffic of about 2.000 visits a day on www.fxcm.com.
Referrers (visits from other sites)
It’s a little harder here, because most likely we will not be able to learn number of visits from other projects. However, we can find out who sends more traffic and who sends less.
And again Alexa comes to the rescue:
You should note that it can be not the sites where link/banner of researched project is placed. If the user was reading news on www.dailyfx.com and then typed www.fxcm.com in the URL bar, we will see these visits here as well. But their overall quantity will not be too numerous, and therefore we can consider projects mentioned above traffic generators for our project.
Let’s complement our information with data provided by Сompete.com…
…and add the following sites to our list:
Exactly these are main referral traffic sources for our project under research.
SEO (search engine optimization)
Let’s concentrate on SEO for a while. We can define keywords the project ranks by, with the help of SemRush (SeoDigger’s “heir”), KeywordSpy, and SpyFu.
According to our surveys, SemRush’s data about search traffic roughly corresponds real data, if it’s multiplied by 3-3.5 times. Thus, we can estimate non-paid search traffic www.fxcm.com as 10.000-12.000 visitors per day.
As for search promotion strategy – we won’t stop on recovery of the semantic core (by means of SemRush, meta tags analysis, and analysis of texts by means of CsYazzle or SEO Spyglass) and on defining of keywords spreading between pages of a competitor’s site (URL column in SemRush reports and pages linked to from other sites).
Let us concentrate on searching the projects bound up with our project (e.g. owned by one person).
To do it we can use two tools – paid www.adsspy.com and free www.spyonweb.com. The first one is capable of defining networks of sites by installed Google Analytics and Google AdSense codes, while the second one does it by Google Analytics code and IP address.
We couldn’t find affiliate domains for www.fxcm.com, but complete network of www.fxclub.com projects is spread before our eyes:
Well, apart from language versions, we see that Forex Club owns such projects as:
This information can be useful not only for specifying SEO strategy, but also for general understanding of reasons why this business prospers.
PPC (contextual advertising)
We’ve already examined information about keywords used in Google AdWords and competitors in PPC. Now we are to specify approximate budgets, ad texts used, and analyze landing pages of competitor sites.
Let’s use KeywordSpy and SpyFu.
SpyFu has detected a large number of keywords used in ads of www.fxcm.com. We can likely trust this data, and thus, daily budget spent on PPC can be evaluated as $4.000-6.000, and this brings about 1.500-2.000 visits per day.
Advertising texts and URL-s of the landing pages can be viewed in SemRush and KeywordSpy.
Let’s note that www.fxcm.com doesn’t use special landing pages pages for PPC ads.
It’s very, very hard to determine how seriously email marketing is conducted (don’t confuse it with spam). Possibility to determine the number of subscribers, their role in overall income is very rare.
Nevertheless, it makes sense to become a subscriber (if email distribution is enabled), and, once received several newsletters, to notice the most important issues:
- Frequency of email sending;
- Tracking of clicking on links in newsletters – is it used or not;
- Design and composition of the newsletter;
- Variation of blocks in the text (placing calls-to-action, blocks with content, letter subject and so on) —in other words, split tests — are they performed or not.
These things won’t allow us to answer the question what exact results newsletter brings your competitor, but at least they will give us knowledge about seriousness given to it, and on this basis we’ll be able to make correspondent conclusions.
Affiliate marketing is very popular because it allows advertiser to strictly select price for desired action and in such a way to reduce risk of non-return invested costs to minimum.
Nevertheless, maintaining your own affiliate program is rather power-consuming process, and not every company is ready to spend money and time on it.
Thus, during our fluent research, we discovered affiliate programs maintained by such major players as www.etoro.com, www.easy-forex.com, www.finexo.com.
I also recommend browsing the web to find reviews about one or another affiliate program in order to have more holistic view of it.
In such a way, as we see, it’s possible to get lots of information even without having access to projects’ statistics. We have an opportunity to define traffic bringing sources, its quality and quantity, understand competitor’s business more in-deep, and, using aquired knowledge, bring something different to our own marketing strategy.
P.S. You can find a printable PDF version of this report, as well as other useful info, in our SEO Guides section.