Do You Know the Breakdown of Your Competitors' Paid and Organic Traffic? Hitwise does.

Mar 18, 2008 - 4:22 pm 0 by

This is a sponsored session from Hitwise, who will provide information about their competitive intelligence tools. On a personal note, I REALLY wish that Hitwise would open up to agencies. We have clients that have licenses and have seen the great information their product provides. Bill actually answered this question during the QA, and said that this is the way they like to work with the agencies (through clients that buy seats and the agencies using them) because they have found it is “easier to work with agencies that way.” Thanks Bill! It used to be that the answer to this question was simply that they didn’t work with agencies, so this has changed somewhat over the past years and I think is a much better stance.

Bill Tancer leads off and welcomes people, and introduces Heather, also from Hitwise (sorry did not catch last name or the other speaker’s last name). She will talk about Paid and Organic website search term reports. You can compare volume of traffic by website, and by search terms. You can also compare paid and organic performance by search engine (SE).

To start off: looking at the upstream of traffic from search engines. If you do nothing else, make sure you are looking at share of traffic that is coming from search engines for you and competitors. She shows an example of a chart showing Target, Nordstrom, Wal-Mart, Macys, JC Penney. A good way to get a snapshot over time of how traffic from SE’s flows. Bill adds that this is an excellent tool for benchmarking purposes. Also you can see seasonality trends.

Understanding the volume of paid and org traffic for a specific website and search terms. uses an example from JC Penney, and that 10% of the volume from search is coming in from the branded term “JC Penney.” They can break this further down into 53% paid versus 47% organic. Pretty interesting list for JCP shows the top 21 terms are all somehow brand-inclusive including “jcp,” “penneys,” and other misspelling including a lot around “pennys.”

Monitor the change in the share of paid and organic referrals over time. They see again with JCP that the paid search drops after the holidays. This is a great way to see how seasonality affects the traffic of a competitor. You can then export the website’s share of upstream traffic from SE’s & paid and organic ratios.

You can also further analyze the paid and organic traffic by breaking it down to Google, Yahoo!, and MSN. The paid and org ratio changes by SE, obviously. This allows you to look and see what opportunities are there. How do generic terms pan out? This can also be evaluated by digging deeper into the results.

View a snapshot to compare the share of paid traffic among competitors, and then present it on a chart that shows the market share of visits by the size of the bubble. This is titled “share of upstream traffic from search.” Next slide shows another chart which shows branded versus non-branded search volume. For JC Penney, brand was almost 85% and non-branded was less than 15% combined paid and organic (I am pretty sure this is accurate I had difficulty understanding the particular chart and how it broke the information down). To monitor these kinds of things over time, you can build a portfolio to better understand the effect of brand searches in an ongoing manner. She shows a couple quick snapshots from JCP vs Macys.

You can measure the effectiveness of your branded terms in driving overall traffic over time. For Macy’s and JCP, there is a huge holiday jump. Interesting that for Macy’s there is also a post-holiday jump, indicating different promotions and sales going on during that time frame. In my opinion, this alludes to the synergy between offline advertising driving branded search traffic.

You can also examine the share of new and retuning visitors. This also shows that Google in this example was 25% more likely to bring new referrals than returning traffic. You can monitor traffic from email. She shows how a specific ad campaign can drive traffic. During Oscars, JCP did lots of TV advertising around a new brand called “American Living.” Over the day after the Oscars, the new brand website drove the most traffic to JCP.

You can also identify the categories which are the strongest customer acquisition channels. Low on the list was news and media, as well as entertainment and portal front-pages. Social networking was also high on share of new visitors. Search engines were high for both new and returning visitors. She then shows a retention analysis chart which shows that Yahoo Mail campaign was a good way to bring people back to the site. They have also done this by looking specifically at an industry. They plotted for example the sites that were the beneficiaries from social media sites.

In summary: you can use paid and organic search reports to compare effectiveness campaigns across SE’s. If you do nothing else this is most important. You can also look at the impact of branded search terms, and analyze the share of upstream behavior with paid search ratios to see “of my competitors, who is most reliant on paid search? Lastly, which websites and categories are the most effective at driving new and repeat visitors.

Bill quickly walks on what he calls a “hidden gem” that she mentioned, called Search Term Portfolios. Once you let this build, you can really do amazing things with this, and he feels not many clients are taking advantage of it. The other cool app from this is to take all the products and services offered and put them in a separate portfolio, which allows you to measure this relationship. Measure the effectiveness against each other for best results. There is a cheat sheet available at front door that I will pick up on the way out and try to find an electronic version to post as a follow up or in the comments.

Next will be Paul from Scripps Networks, a client of Hitwise. Over the last few days, we have heard many people that advocated how important search is to business. One key caveat is that if search is the entire base of your strategy, competitors can take advantage of this and poach your users. He will cover a couple basic reports: market search trends and one dealing with website growth. He shows a chart which illustrates that paid search spending will annually grow 15% through 2012.

Three areas are ripe for search innovation: index, input from user, and output from user. How do users use language, keywords, and concepts in order to get from search engines to the websites? Using this information, you can help the user complete their mission once they actually get to the site. In my opinion this is an excellent methodology and very sound advice as to how to use this type of information.

Market Share Trend Report. Shows an example for competitive food sites. One of the key metrics they use to establish baseline is total traffic form search. For Food Network, it is about 27%. From there, they look at key categories including what the share of total visits within competitive set, which is 46% for The competitors are most often the other way, with the higher number coming from search and very low numbers in the total visits percentages. This indicates that the competitors are using search to try to make up for the difference in overall traffic.

With further analysis, they were using keyword phrases not directly specific to the food category, but instead more on the peripheral, in order to drive traffic not being targeted by He then shows another chart which discusses traffic from search to all the top sites, and explains the variety of metrics they can measure to get deeper understanding of the competitors.

He then shows a food and cooking category audience summary report, which compares Nielsen data to Hitwise data. Only of their sites, recipezaar, increased their share of visits from search in an astounding manner. Major takeaway: Yes, search is key for business!

Bill asks Paul, from his perspective what is the top reason to use Hitwise? Paul says for the competitive analysis as well as the ability to drill down into competitor tactics. Bill agrees that one of the reports he looks at most often is the click stream report, which shows both where traffic came from and where did they go, and this can offer tremendous insight into the searchers’ mindset.

This is live blogging coverage of SES New York 2208, so some typos or grammatical errors exist. Panelists or other attendees are encouraged to comment below to share any inaccuracies, and to help fill out the rest of the story.


Popular Categories

The Pulse of the search community


Search Video Recaps

Google AI Overviews, Ranking Volatility, Web Filter, Google Ads AI Summaries & More - YouTube
Video Details More Videos Subscribe to Videos

Most Recent Articles

Bing Search

Bing Search Is Down; Takes Down DuckDuckGo, Ecosia, ChatGPT Search & More

May 23, 2024 - 5:52 am
Search Forum Recap

Daily Search Forum Recap: May 22, 2024

May 22, 2024 - 10:00 am
Google Updates

Google Search Ranking Volatility Spike Around May 22

May 22, 2024 - 8:01 am
Google Ads

Google Ads In AI Overviews, AI Shopping Ads, Brand Profile Ads & More AI Ad Tools

May 22, 2024 - 7:51 am
Google Search Engine Optimization

Google & Bing Say Upgrade To WordPress 6.5 To Gain Lastmod Sitemap Support

May 22, 2024 - 7:41 am
Google Search Engine Optimization

Unusual Surge In Google Search Console Product Snippets Search Performance

May 22, 2024 - 7:31 am
Previous Story: Domaining & Address Bar-Driven Traffic