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Google Analytics Benchmarking: Turn it on!

By | November 2, 2009

At one interlude during a New York concert, the musician Beck spoke over his live mic: “Electronic sound man, turn me ON!”   That’s what I think everybody using Google Analytics for their website should do: turn on the “benchmarking” reports.  If you are like the clients I know, or deal with clients like the ones I know, then you are often wondering how you stack up to the competition.  Who has better rankings for top keywords?  Who has more and higher-quality links? Who’s getting larger market share? Who’s copying whom?

Well, there is another window of comparison in addition to the previous standards.  Google Analytics offers an easy way to see how your website stacks up to industry competition.

Benchmarking Report: "Visits"

Benchmarking Report: "Visits"

Google Analytics Benchmarking: What it is

The “benchmarking” report in Google Analytics allows you to see how your site compares to other sites in your industry that have opted to share their data anonymously with Google via Google Analytics.  You can sort by size and business categories.  For example, you can compare your site to all sites in your industry, or just those in your weight class (classified by Google based on visits): small, medium or large.  Business categories can be broad (computers & electronics), narrow (hardware) or sometimes narrower (storage)

How to set it up

In Google Analytics,  the “benchmarking” report is the second item in the “Visitors” navigation, under the “overview” item.   In order to view the 6 reports, you will  need to be opted in to the anonymous sharing of your data with Google.   This may have been done during the  analytics account set-up, but if it hasn’t, you will be prompted to adjust your settings  in order to gain access to the reports.  Essentially, you give some to get some.  Google wants  you to share your data with its benchmarking pool so that it can build its ever-expanding list of vertical benchmarking categories.  In exchange, you get the reports.

Google Anayltics "benchmarking" location in navigation

Google Anayltics "benchmarking" location in navigation

What to do with it

Not sure how successful your SEO efforts are relative to your peers?  See in how many categories  you meet or exceed the industry average. Each individual benchmarking report also links to a corresponding report in Google Analytics that allows you to further analyze your own site.  For example, the “average time on site” benchmarking report links to the individual “length of visit” report for your site, so you can quickly see just how many visits to your site are above the 2-min. average Google says is the industry benchmark you exceeded in a given time period.

Benchmarking reports can be used to isolate areas of your website that need improvement.  If your bounce rates measure far above the industry competition, then you know you need to look at the usability of your top landing pages and see what more you could do to keep visitors on your site and convert them to leads and revenue.

Got Google Analytics?  What are you waiting for?  Go set up or check your benchmarking reports now.  Learn more about where you stand against your rivals.   Knowledge is power.

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About Paul Richlovsky

Paul brings a writing and teaching background to his marketing career, where he's been happily active since 2006. After spending his early years serving clients as a Web copywriter and account manager, he currently leads Fathom's own content strategy in collaboration with sales, marketing and others across the company. He is an enthusiastic marketing automation practitioner and active member of the Cleveland Marketo User Group. He also serves as editorial director of Fathom's website and blog and has written/edited multiple guides on marketing, including for audiences in healthcare, higher education, financial services, retail and manufacturing. He previously was lead blogger and managing editor for, a resource for individuals interested in career-focused education. With a BA in English from the College of Wooster, he is also the author of a collection of poetry, "Under the Lunar Neon." He is particularly interested in usability, readability, ballroom dancing, bachata, racquet sports, and romping with his niece and nephews.


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