Benchmarking is critical to adding context to your business website’s performance compared to similar companies in your industry, vertical, or niche. These insights can help inform and improve your marketing decisions based on established successors of a comparable size.
If you’re not constantly comparing yourself to what your competitors are doing, you run the risk of falling behind or allowing everyone else to catch up when complacency sets in.
You’re likely already doing historical benchmarking — comparing month-over-month and year-over-year traffic and sales — but you should also be comparing externally beyond yourself. This valuable report in Google Analytics can do just that.
What is benchmarking in Google Analytics?
Benchmarking reports allow you to compare website performance to your peers across the standard acquisition and engagement metrics. Peers can be defined by some combination of the following:
- Industry vertical: Over 1,600 categories broken down from top-level general industries to more specific industries in lower levels.
- Country or region: 1,250 countries and regions (or states, if you’re interested in the U.S.).
- Website size by session: Measure the size of your business by the average number of daily sessions your site receives. Seven size classifications range from under 100 sessions a day to over 100,000.
How to improve marketing performance using benchmarking reports
You should be curious about how you’re performing compared to your competitors. It’s likely you’ve needed to set website goals but are unclear what exactly is attainable. Strategize by using benchmarking reports that can help you:
1. Set realistic goals for traffic volume and engagement.
2. Find opportunities for improvement to get ahead of the competition.
3. Or keep track of your strengths and maintain your competitive advantage.
With such valuable industry information, the benchmarking report should be a regular part of your data arsenal. Let’s get started extrapolating this report.
How to enable benchmarking
Enabling benchmarking is a simple one-step process. All you have to do is log in to your Google Analytics account and navigate the Admin menu. Click Account Settings and scroll down to make sure the Benchmarking box is ticked, and then click Save.
How benchmarking data is collected
By opting into the Google Analytics benchmarking report, you agree to anonymously share your website’s data to contribute to the benchmarking reports.
All Google Analytics users who have enabled anonymous sharing of their data have access to industry benchmarking reports. This anonymous data feeds into these benchmarking reports, and is categorized based on self-selected industry and website size criteria.
How to filter the benchmarking report by criteria
To get the most out of the benchmarking report, set the criteria that best fits your website.
First, select your industry vertical. Analytics offers 1,600 verticals that get very specific. While it is ideal to be as specific as possible, the deeper into the vertical hierarchy you go, the smaller the sample size of sites to compare against your own.
Select the size of your site by daily sessions. This ensures your site is only being benchmarked against business websites of a similar size. For example, if you’re selling locally sourced, small-batch coffee, you probably don’t want to compare your data with Starbucks.
If you only want to focus on benchmarking from a specific region, you can parse it down to country, or state level for the United States.
Once all of your criteria set, you will get the benchmark group size. Depending how specific or broad you set your criteria, you will receive benchmarks from either thousands of other websites or only a few dozen. This number should be considered when making strategic decisions according to your benchmark data.
What benchmarking percentages mean
Benchmarking percentages indicate how much your website outperforms or underperforms the benchmark for each metric. Naturally, a positive value means your property is outperforming the benchmark, and a negative percentage means your property is underperforming compared to the benchmark.
Benchmarking heatmaps and metric values
Visualization for the benchmarking report includes actual metric values and heat map colors. Both can be turned on and off by clicking the buttons above the metric data.
The heat map helps you quickly and visually interpret how far above or below industry standards your metrics are. It will show darker shades of green when your website outperforms the industry benchmark and darker shades of red when your website underperforms the benchmark.
The 3 types of benchmarking reports
Google Analytics provides three benchmarking reports that compare standard metric data.
- Channels: Compare your data to the benchmarks for each channel in the Default Channel Group. These include organic search, direct, referral, social, paid search, display, and email.
- Location: Compare traffic data to the benchmarks for each of the countries and territories that have registered site visits.
- Devices: Compares device data to benchmarks for desktop mobile and tablet traffic.
Analyzing traffic with the channels benchmarking report
The channels report is perhaps the most valuable benchmarking report. It can show which traffic avenues are thriving and which could use more attention. Questions that may be answered include:
- Is my website optimized enough for organic search? Is my content generating enough organic traffic, or should I start targeting different topics and keywords to drive viable, engaged traffic?
- Am I active enough on social media and sharing content across all platforms? Should I invest in paid social ads to boost traffic?
- How are my email marketing campaigns doing? Are my drip campaigns successfully engaging my leads?
- Is my paid search campaign finding the right audience, or is my bounce rate well above industry averages?
Strategic targeting with the locations benchmark report
Obviously, this will be different for everyone, depending on whether you’re targeting an international audience or a local audience. For example, if you’re a North American company that does a lot of business in the UK, is your UK data on par with your competitors? Or should you develop more content, landing pages, and paid targeting that better capture that audience?
Local benchmarking is a little more difficult. Unfortunately, location data can only be parsed down to the state level in the United States. It does not offer, city, county or other hyper-local data for those conducting local business and focusing on local SEO.
Mobile optimization with the device benchmarking report
Is your site performing well on mobile platforms? Do you have a nice mobile user experience that keeps visitors on your site? Mobile users are incredibly finicky, so a poor user experience will have them bouncing immediately. Plus, Mobilegeddon is still a looming force.
While users are more likely to convert on a desktop platform, significant research and price comparison happens on mobile devices, making it an integral part of any sales funnel.
Set your benchmarks, improve your performance
While you should always strive to improve your performance based on your historical data, benchmarking reports are an excellent resource to ensure you’re also keeping up with the Joneses. If you haven’t already, opt in to share your site’s data and gain access to your benchmark reports.