Tool Tip Tuesday: Sometimes Digital Competitive Intelligence is more than Just Search Marketing

While my heart lies in the world of SEO, there is no doubt that the world of SEO is surrounded by other digital factors that impact your campaign success. For other SEOs, fear not, this is not a bad thing. However, we must understand and also accept that if we are going to gain competitive intelligence about our competitors we have to think about other great nuggets of info outside of just SEO and PPC factors that can help us succeed in our digital marketing campaigns.

I have found that when I have my “Search blinders” on, when it comes to competitive analysis, SEMrush and SpyFu are the best competitive tools out there. When I think big picture, I take to another competitive tool that I feel helps me harness more than just keyword presence of keyword bid insights. This tool is called SimilarWeb, and I plan to take a brief walk through selected sections to highlight how you can glean insights from this toolset and hopefully advance your competitive strategy.

Total Visits and Engagement

While we plan to dig deep in any competitive analysis, we must first start at the 30,000 foot view. How much more traffic are they likely getting? In other tools, we may see that we have Search strength but there are many more referring channels vs. just Search.
Image 1The tool brings us to a general traffic figure that shows where we might stand against a competitor in regard to total traffic. While numbers are important, one great facet of this toolset is engagement where it shows the likely user metrics of bounce rate, time on site and pages per visit. While I always say that you must take tool-based numbers with a grain of salt, it is good to understand if your competition is getting more traffic than you. It is even more important to understand if that traffic is good traffic.

Traffic Sources

This is particularly an area of interest to me. As we gain more insight into the customer journey (The Customer Journey to Online Purchase), we have to accept that those who become paying customers and lead gen conversions on our sites are likely working through multiple channels to come to this end result.

Image 2So, you’re winning the Search game but how do you fair in Social, Direct, etc.?

Traffic by Countries

I know, I know, you care mainly about U.S. traffic as it is your bread and butter. However, is your competition going global? While your U.S. obsession is nothing uncommon, it is like completely ignoring Bing web traffic because Google has +80% market share. You still have to give the others guys some credit. Take a look at the secondary and tertiary countries that are supplying traffic to your competitors’ sites. Is there an opportunity?

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This is one of my favorite areas of this tool. In the far past, I used to enjoy reviewing competitor sites in Hitwise to understand upstream/downstream trends. This essentially tells us common behaviors of where users are at before they come to your competitor’s site and where they move onto next. Do you see your site in these lists? Are these sites that you can enable Display advertising upon so your competition isn’t getting this traffic to arrive to their site?
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I would feel like a trader if I didn’t mention Search. What excites me the most about this tool is the non-Search components of this tool. What is provided for Organic and Paid Search are the same visibility insights that you would expect from other competitive tools. No doubt, you need this data in this tool snapshot thought as it is very important. You still will also need to ask yourself questions. Some of these are simple such as if you should endure certain keyword targets. Additionally, is there Paid presence that you should employ Organic focus against or vice versa?


A good ol’ manual review can show you what probable social platforms exist that are helping provide traffic and engagement for your online competitors. While this tool doesn’t tell you specific engagement insights you might get from a social media competitive analysis tool, it doesn’t hurt to understand what networks are providing traffic.
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Website Content

This is a pretty interesting section of the tool. However, you need to be a paying customer to unlock granular data. For those who do enlist in a subscription, you can gain an understanding of how sub-domains are used as well as other popular sections of the site.
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Audience Interests

The interest categories of your competitors should be similar to that of what you see in Audience data in Google Analytics. I admit, I haven’t been that impressed with what Google Analytics has reported in Audience interest data as it seems rather broad. For that reason, I don’t find that information in this toolset that exciting. On a positive note, there is a sub-section here which shows other related sites that site users often visit. Again, this can be insightful for efforts into media buys and Display efforts. Additionally, a topic cloud is featured which helps you to understand the topics of the respective sites that present an “interest theme.”

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Similar Sites

This is one of my favorite features of the tool. I used to prefer a tool named NetComber for reviewing sites that were very similar to yours. However, this tool is no longer available, and thus, this is one of the main reasons I stumbled upon SimilarWeb more than a year ago.  While you probably have a good feel for what competitively similar sites exist on the web, you may find topically relevant sites that can provide ideas for site advancement, even if they are not deploying efficiently.  

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While there is a wide range of digital marketing tools online and several specific to competitive analysis factors, I am not saying this is my absolute favorite, but it is a go-to when thinking about all traffic or all referring channels.