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October 24, 2008

Competitor Analysis - Google Trends

Google Trends provides online marketers with a great little tool for conducting some basic market research and competitor analysis. Google have updated the functionality to allow users to compare websites (up to five at a time) to indicate traffic volumes and search behaviour. This allows you to benchmark your own website against your competitors and gauge the level of online market share in your region or territory.

The main interface for Trends does not make the website comparison functionality immediately apparent, however it does give users the tip regarding separating multiple search terms with commas; so following this tip lets look at how some of the UK's supermarkets stack up against each other. We have chosen to compare five of the biggest companies - www.tesco.com, www.asda.com, www.sainsburys.co.uk, www.marksandspencer.com and www.waitrose.com.

Website Traffic Comparison

The initial results you get after clicking the "Search Trends" button are for search results - i.e. the volume of searches for the domain name as the search query term. However if you look in the blue header strap there is a link to the right called "websites". This will change the view from user searches containing the domain name to total traffic volume estimates for that domain based on Google data (which is considerable).

Use Known Traffic Volumes to Benchmark

Clicking on this link will then show you the website view. As you can see the Y-axis does not indicate any numeric value, but relative traffic scales can be judged - making comparative analysis possible. Use a domain name of one of your own websites - you know what traffic it gets so you can benchmark off your own figures. This will give the graph lines more meaning because you can estimate traffic relative to your own website's visitor levels.

Using two or three known domains to bracket the other scores will make your benchmarking even more accurate - this allows you to understand the relative scales more accurately and get more out of the tool. But if you only control one domain, don't panic - you'll find there is still plenty of insight and information to be gleaned from this tool.

Your Market & Audience Overlap

Underneath the traffic volume graph there are three sets of data:

  1. Regions
  2. Also visited
  3. Also searched for

The data for each of these will be associated with one of the domain names you have chosen to analyse, and the default view shows results for the first domain name listed in your query string - in this case www.tesco.com.

However, it is very simple to change the ranked by view and switch to see data about one of the other domains you're interested in by selecting the domain from the rank by drop-down menu in the upper left corner of this area.

Regions

The region information is quite useful if you are conducting any territory or international marketing, as competitors in these areas will vary and having this data will allow you to understand what's going on a little more clearly.

Also visited

How many of your users also visit your competitors website? Do you understand where your market audience overlap is? This data will let you know - roughly!

This is really insightful data that allows you to understand the market and your users much more clearly. From this data you can work out who your main online rivals are likely to be. You can see which websites your users also go to, so when you see a competitor in this list you'll know you could potentially be losing market share to them. Therefore, this tool helps you clarify who your rivals are, and what level of threat or competition they present.

Where competitors are running multiple websites, whether these are vertical offerings or multiple branded offerings in the same channel, this tool will give you some insight into how their strategy is working.

There are lots of little morsels of non-critical data as well - for example looking at the www.asda.com results above we can see the second most "Also visited" website was pajmc.com owned by Red Eye who run Asda's online advertising tracking, and that www.asda-photo.co.uk is more popular than www.asdafinance.com.

Again the graph scales are relative and unquantified - so benchmark off your own data to gauge traffic levels.

Also searched for

The "Also searched for" data is another cracking piece of insight into market and audience overlap - for example we can see that for Tesco their main competitors for online audience are likely to be Asda, Sainsburys, Morrisons, Homebase and Currys, and that Asda and Sainsburys are their main competitors by search volume.

You would find it difficult to get this kind of keyword data insight from any other source and so its value should not be underestimated.

Use this tool extensively across all your categories and channels to improve your knowledge of the market and get to grips with what your competitors are doing at the strategic level and how your users behave.

Conclusion

Google Trends is a brilliant free tool that allows you to get some basic but insightful market research and competitor analysis done quickly and easily - and therefore should be a must have tool in any online marketers' toolbox.

Tags

  • benchmarking
  • competitor analysis
  • market audit
  • market research
  • PEST
  • SWOT
  • Google Trends