In the world of analytics, setting benchmarks is important for ensuring that your business is performing up to par with the competition.

Many of us will rely on looking at weekly, monthly and yearly metrics performance, but we need to also be looking at external competitors to tweak our digital strategies to either be on parity or ahead of the curve.

Google Analytics offers users the option to look at benchmarking reports that use anonymous data from other websites to see how your website is performing against the aggregated data of other analytics users.

How to Set Up Your Benchmark Report

To view the benchmark report, you first need to enable the “Benchmarking” box in the “Admin Settings” of your GA account.

After enabling GA to track your data anonymously, you can then go into the “Benchmarking” tab located under the “Audience” Menu on the left side of your screen.

It can be a little confusing to set up your benchmarking report, but it’s quick and easy once you know what filters to include.

Enabling the Right Filters

Setting Benchmarks in Google Analytics Channels Photo

GA’s benchmark filters are broken down into three categories:

  • Industry Vertical
  • Country/Region
  • Size by daily session

Industry Vertical

First, choose what industry you would consider your website to be in. For the purposes of Laz’s Lounge, I would be in the digital marketing/advertising industry. When you select the right category, on the far corner of the screen GA will show how many other web properties are contributing to this benchmark. There are 1,600 categories to choose from, so you can get very specific when setting your benchmarks, but as you get more specific you’ll have a much smaller sample size of websites to compare against your own.

Country/Region

Next, GA offers many countries and country regions to select when comparing other websites in respective areas. I chose the United States for my benchmark, but if I wanted to be more specific I would choose Michigan as the specific region that I want to compare my data to. I don’t find selecting a region helpful for my purposes as a digital marketing and social media blog, but if your company is based in a specific region of the country it’s a good idea to see how you’re stacking up to the competition in your area.

Size by Daily Session

Lastly, you can select your website size by daily sessions; in this category I would fall in 0-99 daily sessions. Selecting the right data to benchmark your site against is crucial so that you aren’t comparing yourself with a size that is substantially larger with more referral and organic traffic in comparison for a more accurate benchmark

Device Benchmarks

The GA benchmarking report also allows you to analyze user devices to evaluate traffic from desktop, mobile and tablets. This is located as a tab under the “Benchmarking” tab on the left side of your screen.

Putting your metrics into context

Setting Benchmarks in Google Analytics Analyzing Metrics and Data Photo

Using the benchmarking report, you can compare yourself to your competition through the following Channels:

  • Organic search
  • Social
  • Direct
  • Referral
  • Other
  • Display
  • Email
  • Paid Search

Based on the referral traffic your website is receiving, you can track the following metrics:

  • Sessions
  • New Sessions
  • New Users
  • Pages per Session
  • Average Session Duration
  • Bounce Rate

Using my benchmark report as an example, I’m ahead of the curve when it comes to every metric other than Pages per Session. However, while my organic, social and direct traffic are ahead of the curve, my referral, email, display, email and paid search traffic is drastically behind that of my competition.

The red marks in my report show where I’m behind the competition, whereas the green marks show where I’m ahead.

Areas of Opportunity

If we look at my areas of opportunity for improvement, email leads, paid search and display ads take priority for increased visitors to my website. I just started using Mail Chimp for an email lead management service to gain more subscribers that will receive weekly newsletters with content they may have missed to get them back onto my website.

I also have plans to start devoting a small budget to target low competition keywords in Google Adwords once I complete my recertification in Adwords this month.

Two other considerations for my website benchmark report are to increase my pages per session and boost my referral traffic. I might attribute the lower pages per session to my average session duration being higher than the benchmark, or social media traffic leaving the site after reading a post.

It might be a good idea to include snippits in the middle of my posts to other pages to increase my user flow on the site for more pages visited per session.

As for the referral traffic, my biggest weakness so far has been accumulating relevant backlinks to my website, so it might be worth guest posting once or twice a month to slowly build the number of backlinks through White Hat Techniques.

Where I’m Ahead of the Competition

Looking at this benchmark report, I’m surprised to see how far ahead of the competition I am when it comes to social media, direct and organic traffic.

Recently I’ve invested a significantly larger chunk of time to engaging more on social, which may account for the boost in social referral traffic.

Last month I took steps to optimize my posts to target low competition, long-tail keywords, which seems to be having a positive effect on my organic traffic for my site, alongside optimizing my website theme and load speed for better SEO.

If we look at the devices report I’m also leading the industry, especially for mobile, which I can attribute to the use of responsive design in my website theme alongside optimizing for faster site load speeds, which may also account for my incredibly low bounce rate in GA.

Setting Benchmarks in Google Analytics Devices Photo

Google Analytics Benchmarking Report Recap

  • Setting up benchmarking is simple; all you do is click a button in your admin settings
  • Compare your website to similar industries, audience size and country with the filters in the benchmark report
  • You can look at various traffic channels, devices and locations
  • The data is aggregated, so keep it broad so you aren’t served a small sample size
  • You need to combine the analytics with the overall story for your benchmarks. As my colleague has said on many occasions with our clients, “Numbers can be liars and cheats. Use them as a baseline to dig deeper for the full story behind the numbers and see where you can improve your process.”

What did you think of this walkthrough on using Google Analytics’ Benchmarking Report to see how you stack up with the competition? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my other Google Analytics tip post on removing spam referral traffic from your Analytics Report and excluding internal traffic from skewing your Analytics data.