Achieving business growth in 2020 may seem like a lot to ask for, given the ongoing pandemic, global financial slowdown, and lower buyer confidence.
However, within the digital realm, things don’t look as grim. Our Digital Marketing Trends in Ecommerce study reveals that “buy online” searches have spiked within the first half of the year.
This means that many more businesses now have a bigger incentive to move online or enhance their existing online visibility to get a larger market share and attract more customers.
Yet this also implies that businesses across various industries are now faced with stiffer competition and more obstacles to overcome to land that very first or 1000th customer.
Traffic is the first concern businesses have to deal with to win a larger market share and more customers. This post will uncover tactics that help businesses analyze market trends and competitors’ strategies to drive more traffic and earn more visitors that can further be converted into buyers.
- Not All Traffic is Created Equal
- How to Identify Market Traffic Trends
- How to Break Down Competitors' Marketing Strategies
- Additional Tips On How to Bring More Traffic to Your Website
- Driving More Traffic to Your Website - “Just do it”!
Not All Traffic is Created Equal
Seasoned digital marketers are well aware that a few targeted visitors are worth more than tens or hundreds of visits from a more general audience. Visitors have to fit the profile of the business’s buyer persona, which has to be kept in mind when seeking new traffic.
So, taking a step back, businesses have to make sure they have their buyer persona defined before thinking about increasing or generating new traffic. Once this step is complete, it is the market benchmarks and insights from competitors’ traffic acquisition strategies that pave the way towards winning the traffic race against other players.
How to Identify Market Traffic Trends
The very first step when crafting a traffic growth strategy is to look at the market traffic trends - this will help to define the extent of potential growth goals. If the overall niche you are in is in decline, placing a 400% traffic increase bet might be a misjudgment.
A simple Google Trends search can give you a helicopter view of what’s going on in your niche.
Looking at Expedia, a drop in traffic can be explained by the decline in the number of searches for some key search queries they rank for:
This, of course, is a superficial approach to looking at market trends. Various industry reports and more advanced market research tools will provide a more in-depth overview:
By looking at data from the Market Explorer tool, we can see that the overall tourism market is significantly down, and so Expedia’s drop in traffic is a natural outcome. This implies that with the shrinking traffic volumes, brands like Expedia should enter the race for existing (and declining) traffic against competitors.
How to Break Down Competitors' Marketing Strategies
Being an industry player, you probably have an idea of who your top competitors are - if not, a simple Google search will give a rough idea of the most successful companies within your niche.
To get a more accurate picture, go through this post, which guides you through the process of identifying your rivals.
To avoid making this step too overwhelming, define up to five of your closest competitors and start dissecting your rivals’ traffic generation strategies.
Uncover Rivals’ Traffic Acquisition Strategies
As you don’t have access to your competitors’ internal traffic data, you have to make use of tools like Traffic Analytics to get the kind of data you’d gather from your own Google Analytics.
Using Traffic Analytics, you can see how your rivals set their traffic acquisition priorities - be it direct, referral, search, social, or paid traffic.
With the help of the tool, we identified that Agoda has recently caught up with Expedia’s traffic numbers by getting a larger traffic share from paid campaigns (not necessarily implying larger ad budgets) and social media:
By looking at where competitors stand against your site in terms of traffic sources, you can identify your marketing strategy’s weakest and strongest areas, and fine-tune it accordingly.
Let’s go through each traffic source and see what you can do if you pinpoint a low share of traffic in a given area while competitors are taking over.
Increasing Site Visitors Via Direct Traffic
Having spotted that competitors are getting a large share of direct traffic, brands can assume that their competitors are investing a lot in brand awareness and customer loyalty.
Brands like Amazon, Apple and Facebook are known as “blue chip” brands that have long-standing brand recognition. Yet even such companies as Dollar Shave Club have the largest share of direct traffic (vs. other traffic sources) as they have been placing their bet on brand awareness campaigns:
When people are typing a site’s URL directly into a web browser or using a bookmark, it implies that they were:
- Referred by word-of-mouth;
- Encouraged by online/offline campaigns; or
- Returning from a previous site visit/purchase.
Tips & Tricks:
To boost direct traffic, you have to employ tactics that will support the actions mentioned above:
- Simplify URLs: Of course, picking a brand name that’s memorable is helpful to encourage people to type your URL into a web browser, but it’s also important to have a simple, short URL.
- Invest in brand awareness: People will only visit your site directly from a browser if they already know about your brand. Offline or online marketing tactics - from billboards and business cards to YouTube display ads - can help to boost brand recognition and bring in more direct traffic.
- Encourage return visits: From a website’s UX to special online-only loyalty programs, your marketing strategy should make people want to keep coming back for more, and even bookmark your site.
Referring back to Expedia’s site, its Expedia Rewards and List of Favourites features are designed precisely to increase customer retention:
Bringing Visitors to Your Site Through Referral Traffic
Kayak is the leading Expedia competitor when it comes to referral traffic, and cheapflights.com actually brings almost 3% of all traffic to Kayak’s site.
By uncovering which sites refer to your competitor, you can identify their most beneficial partnerships on the web, and try to replicate their success.
Building partnerships is a long-term process, yet something brands should invest in as taking the share of traffic from competitors is a strategy that can work in most cases.
Tips & Tricks:
There is also a more general approach to getting visitors from high-authority sites, called white-hat link-building. With plenty of tactics out there, we’ve pinpointed a few that truly work:
- Get active on Quora: For many search queries, Quora’s pages appear on the first page of search results. Do a bit of research (using SEMrush’s Domain Overview or doing a manual search) and identify which relevant Quora pages are already ranking high enough. Then, pitch in with your answer, which includes a link to a relevant piece of content from your site.
- Participate in forums/external group discussions: Reddit, Facebook Groups, and other platforms that gather large online crowds are great sources of potential traffic. Invest in a little bit of community mingling and share links (only when appropriate) to high-value pieces of content/pages on your site.
- Create unique content: With so much noise and inauthentic content out there, whatever efforts you might invest in creating unique content should certainly work.
SEMrush has been employing this strategy for years: we’ve been conducting unique industry studies and in-depth research on topics related to our field, offering unique data and insights into the market we are in. As a result, our findings are being consistently published by the leading media outlets worldwide, giving our site high-quality backlinks:
Optimizing Your Site For Higher Search Traffic
Getting ahead of competitors when it comes to search traffic is underpinned by site optimization strategies.
SEO is a large topic to cover, so we will share some valuable content that will point your SEO efforts in the right direction:
- This post guides you through the main steps of SEO competitive analysis, from finding keyword gaps to identifying which search features your competitors are optimized for while you are not.
- This checklist provides a solid foundation for optimizing your site for all things SEO - keywords, on- and off-page SEO, technical SEO, content, and more.
There is also one underrated tactic to look at when thinking about SEO and competitors’ search traffic strategies.
Both Expedia and Kayak are global companies that operate across various locations. Looking at Expedia’s and Kayak’s SEO performance in a specific country - Russia, in this case - we spotted that Kayak gets most of its traffic from Yandex (a local search engine), while Expedia’s traffic from the Russian search engine is much lower:
If you are managing a global brand, you should be on the watch out for any additional traffic sources. So, if you notice that the rival’s domain is getting a lot of search traffic from search engines other than Google - be it Yandex, Bing, Baidu, DuckDuckGo, etc. - you should consider tailoring your SEO strategies to those engines.
This comprehensive post on 18 alternative search engines will guide you through optimization strategies for each of them.
How to Drive Traffic to Your Website From Social Media
For brands that are serious about social traffic, uncovering competitors’ social media strategies is crucial when defining their own social presence. Followers count numbers do not reveal how many people actually visit the website and later convert into buyers.
Agoda generally wins over Expedia when it comes to attracting traffic from social networks, despite a much smaller number of followers across all social media accounts of both brands:
Evaluating each brand’s presence across various networks, we see that Agoda makes 9X the number of site visitors from YouTube compared to Expedia.
Without getting into the nitty-gritty of why Agoda manages to get its social media audience to visit its site, we have a hunch that it might have to do with its funny YouTube cartoons.
Tips & Tricks:
Once you have some idea about what makes up your rivals’ social media success, you can use these insights and employ the following tactics to drive your social audience back to your site:
- Announce special brand contests on social media and limit submissions to your website.
- Create teasers for your best content - be it audio, video, or text - and provide links to the full story placed on your site.
- Use compelling calls-to-action (CTAs), with links that drive people to the website.
Getting Smart About Paid Traffic
When it comes to paid traffic, budget restrictions are instrumental in determining which strategies you can choose. With a wide range of tactics, we’ve pinpointed two that can help to avoid mismanaging your ad budget while targeting relevant audiences.
Remarket competitors’ audiences on relevant platforms
Given you already know who your key competitors are, you can rightfully assume that you have different levels of audience overlap with each rival.
In July 2020, Agoda reached 35 million users that Expedia didn’t touch upon. So, Agoda is a much more interesting rival to look at compared to Kayak.
Tools like Traffic Analytics (Audience Insights report) can help you identify which competitors you share the least similar audience with. To expand your reach, look into which platforms that unique audience frequently visits to target these users with your remarketing campaigns on relevant platforms:
Locate Google Display Network publishers with the highest audience match
Audience overlaps are also helpful when analyzing which publishers to choose when making GDN placements.
We previously mentioned that Kayak gets a lot of referral traffic from cheapflights.com. Before immediately allocating GDN ad budgets to the platform, check first whether this publisher actually shares a significant portion of your audience.
If the overlap between your audience and the publisher is high enough, you can go ahead and launch a GDN campaign targeted at users visiting the given platform.
Additional Tips On How to Bring More Traffic to Your Website
Check If Competitors Are 'Stealing' Your Traffic
Even after launching the optimal traffic acquisition strategy across all channels, you may still be losing traffic or struggling to achieve growth. One possible reason is that your competitors could be rolling out a strategy for 'stealing' your traffic:
- Your rivals may be launching online ad campaigns for the keywords you are trying to rank for organically. A simple Google search will uncover whether this is the case. By Googling your own brand name, you will signal to your competitor that you are its target audience, but you may need to run a few searches before you see the competitor’s ad pop up.
- Or, they can also bid on your branded keywords, so when users enter your brand name into the search bar and press enter, your competitor’s site might be the first thing they see on the SERP.
Using SEMrush’s Keyword Gap tool, we noticed that Agoda is bidding on Expedia’s branded keyword, seemingly tackling users searching for hotel booking aggregator comparisons:
You should always watch out for such tactics and launch counter-bidding keyword campaigns to keep your grip on the market share.
Audit Existing Content to See If It Has Traffic-Boosting Potential
Content is the key traffic generator - with all its keywords, link-building, and virality potential. To save resources and effort and maximize the value of existing content, you don’t actually have to start creating content from scratch.
Sometimes, a data-driven content strategy that helps increase traffic is a matter of optimizing existing content.
You can use Google Search Console to find underperforming pages of your site and see if you can optimize them to enhance their visibility.
To avoid any manual work, you can use automated and customizable solutions.
With tools like Content Audit, you can just submit your site to the tool and it will automatically analyze the performance of your pages. The newest tool, ImpactHero, will provide suggestions on optimizing your content for a higher potential to attract visitors and get conversions.
Tips & Tricks:
To reach new audiences located on different mediums, breathe new life into long-forgotten content, and maximize the potential of your content efforts, use GaryVee’s “reverse pyramid” model:
- Create 'pillar content' (or choose an existing one) - a long-form comprehensive piece covering a particular topic that resonates with your audience;
- Turn this extended piece into short-form assets of various formats, like videos, shorter blog posts, infographics, and more;
- Distribute all of the assets across relevant platforms - from social media to Quora answers.
Fast and Responsive: Fix Any Core Site Issues
Traffic acquisition efforts can come to naught if your website is showing some unhealthy signs like slow page load speed.
Apart from the content angle, driving more traffic to a site also has to do with the technical infrastructure of your site. If Google cannot find, crawl, or index your site, you cannot expect it to rank well, which means you’ll get little to no search traffic.
This post will give you a holistic idea of the most common website mistakes from a technical SEO perspective, but here we will mention the key area:
Page load speed
Google itself admits that “speed equals revenue”. With every passing second, users are times more likely to bounce off the page, which affects your traffic generation efforts:
Although Google’s John Mueller says that there is no 'perfect site speed', the “less is more” logic applies here:
To measure site speed, use Google’s own PageSpeed Insights tool. Speed optimization essentially comes down to:
Minimizing image size, and
Improving server response time.
This post will guide you through the full optimization process.
Driving More Traffic to Your Website - “Just do it”!
When having your goals set to driving traffic and getting a larger market share, you should always watch out for market trends and competitors’ strategies and tactics. Keep your eyes on the industry landscape and check for game-changers as you don’t want to miss a new niche player using fresh marketing tactics.
Nike, an industry leader, is a great example of a brand keeping watch on market trends. Its recent move to make the Nike Training Club app permanently free sets the tone for all brands trying to embrace pandemic-related market and consumer behavior shifts. By not giving away market share to other fitness apps and gym-trainers-turned-online-trainers, Nike is managing to maintain its spot as the industry leader.
Although becoming your niche’s ‘Nike’ is an overwhelming task to undertake, you should go through each traffic source and optimize your strategies to stay in the game and even ahead of the traffic race.