Estimated website traffic data is available in a number of free and paid tools.
Ranging from analytics platforms to generalized website tools like SimilarWeb or Alexa and on to advertising intelligence tools, these come with varying features and levels of accuracy.
Beyond that, you can get into tools built for specific purposes, such as SEO and PPC intelligence tools bundled with product suites like Ahrefs, SEMrush, Spyfu, KeywordSpy, and more.
It is important to recognize that the majority of these tools are using educated methodologies to estimate traffic and aren’t privy to actual traffic stats.
There will be over and underestimated figures that shouldn’t be taken as 100% truth.
However, that doesn’t mean that these tools don’t hold value.
There are great opportunities to go beyond just top-line traffic and to use trending and comparison data, as long as you’re careful with the competitors and sites you’re using in your comparison.
Check out these six ways to use website traffic estimator tools in your SEO and marketing strategies.
You can get a lot of different stats ranging from total traffic to traffic by channel, traffic by device, and even deeper dives into secondary metrics from website traffic tools.
I find that this data is outstanding for benchmarking.
If you run comparisons of your own traffic against competitors or those you aspire to match up with, you may find areas of differentiation where you can create growth goals.
The benchmarking report in Google Analytics is one tool that I think is underutilized.
It allows for a similar industry selection and segmentation for comparison and overlays your real stats with those from others who are also in that industry.
The drawback is that competitors or peers in the industry are aggregated and kept anonymous compared to what the other categories of tools can deliver.
2. Expectation Setting
We all want to wave a magic wand and have magical traffic sources come to life.
Even with the hard work of optimizing, targeting, messaging, and developing compelling content, we’re wasting our time and attention if the reality is that there’s no traffic to be had.
By looking at competitors and comparable organizations with website traffic tools, we can find out what our expectations should be.
Assuming we’ve benchmarked ourselves, we can then dig in and look at specific channels, content, and gaps in our own sites.
Conversely, we might find that we have likely tapped out the market.
If we’re by far the market leader and our advertising and SEO research tools are telling us the size of our audience, we can see a more complete picture.
It helps to know whether our best option is to go after untapped potential or to try to take market share from other sites in our industry.
3. Determining the Right Channel Mix
We can learn a lot about our audiences by looking at competitors and other sites in our same industry or thought leadership spaces.
Make sure you have the right mix of competitor or comparable sites you’re profiling first and validate that they are seeking your same audience.
Seeing what other sites are experiencing in their breakout of specific channels, you can determine what they’re doing well at and where their web audience may be finding them.
You definitely want to look at many other sites in your comparison so you can control for variables like how well a specific competitor is doing SEO, social media, etc.
Whether you see clear trends as to which traffic sources are performing the best or it’s more of a disparate picture, you can get a sense of their strategies and the level of effort going into each channel.
This can help inform and confirm which digital marketing channels and overall mix are right for you.
4. Content Topics & Formats
Updating or confirming your channel mix is a great starting point in determining your content needs and your investment in them.
Beyond that, and beyond listening to our own audiences, looking at competitors is a great way to determine the content topics we should be talking about.
You should have pretty quick access to your own mix of desktop versus mobile traffic and more granular breakdowns on devices, browsers, technology, and more.
However, when you do analysis with traffic estimator tools of competitors and aspirational comparable sites, you can find opportunities for growth and determine what the ideal mix for your target audience might look like in the future.
Investments in content can be costly. Knowing which formats to invest in (e.g., mobile) and how people will get there (e.g., social media) is important.
You can use tools like SimilarWeb and SEMrush (or combinations of others) to paint a picture of where you are, where your competition is, and where you want to be to help with your roadmap.
5. Keyword Intelligence
Search marketers already leverage many tools that include website traffic estimation functionality.
Standalone keyword spy tools, SEO and PPC suites of tools, and even the broader website traffic tools (e.g., SimilarWeb) include keyword data in paid programs.
So much of our attention in search is on our content and focus and matching that up with what our audience is seeking.
That’s definitely on target and what we should be doing.
However, it is a miss if we don’t look at our competition.
We can get a big head start by knowing how good or bad our competitors are doing.
Look at the top keywords and long-tail terms your competitors are doing well with in search and combine that with their top traffic pages.
It is one thing to look at rankings but a whole other level to see how much traffic those rankings are generating.
We don’t want to waste our efforts chasing the wrong rankings that won’t drive the traffic we need to reach our business goals overall.
6. Link Building Research
Traffic estimation tools can be a great source for link research.
It can be overwhelming and a full-time effort to do link research and link building.
We can also get to a point where we feel like we’ve exhausted our opportunities.
When you’ve combed through all of the link research your SEO tools can provide, broaden out to the spy and more general tools. They might shed light on some new and different opportunities.
No one tool can show you all links and the whole web of who links to who, so broaden your research to include as many tools as your resources and scope can and should warrant.
Making the Most of Website Traffic Estimator Insights
As SEO professionals, we have access to a lot of different tools.
If we’re search marketers, we probably live in the search platforms that give us reporting functionality, research tools, and other ways to do our jobs efficiently.
We don’t always want to look at more tools and data layers when we’re buried in the day-to-day.
Hopefully, these creative ways of using website traffic tools will help open up opportunities for new expectation setting, benchmarking, content strategy, and more.
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Screenshot by author, March 2021