What is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when building a blog based business?  Not using data to drive your decisions.  Don’t worry, I’m not one of those data crazies who thinks you need to analyze every single change but I do think you need to spend time looking at analytics reports, analyzing them and responding to them.

Using data can save you time and money AND give you a major advantage over your competition.

Data = An Important Tool For Growth

Need proof? Check out this article that shows how changing your call to action can increase your conversions (now imagine you didn’t look at the data, you would have no idea what caused the increase and could possibly change the button text again without realizing what impact you were having).

This example illustrates how important it is for you to be tracking and analyzing your website data.  But what if you wanted to compare your data not to your own performance, but to your performance against your competitors?   Typically that type of information is expensive to get but if you use google analytics to track your site you are in luck.

What Are Google Analytics Benchmarking Reports?

Google’s benchmarking reports let you compare your own data to industry data.  The data comes from other companies who use Google Analytics and share their data so the sample size is typically pretty large.  You have the option to choose from over 1600 categories of industry data and can refine the reports by geography and traffic size to get true level comparisons where possible.

The most helpful section of the tools are the channel reports where you can compare overall session numbers, referral numbers, social numbers, organic search numbers and more.

How Can Benchmarking Reports Help Me?

Benchmarking allows you to compare your data with aggregated industry data from other companies who share their data. This provides valuable context, helping you to set meaningful targets, gain insight into trends occurring across your industry, and find out how you are doing compared to your competition.

You can choose from over 1600 industry categories, using a menu in the Benchmarking reports. You can further refine the data by geographic location and select from seven traffic size classifications, allowing you to compare your property against properties with similar traffic levels in your industry. For example, if you were a small hotel in the UK, you could compare your web property with all properties in the “All Hotels and Accommodations” industry in the United Kingdom that receive 500 to 1000 average daily sessions.

How To Use Google’s Benchmarking Reports

You can only use the benchmarking reports if you also allow your data to be shared so be sure to check the “Contribute anonymous data to an aggregate data…” box in the settings for your site’s property if you can’t currently access the benchmarking tools.

To access the benchmarking tools simply:

  1. Go to your web property’s dashboard
  2. Click the Audience link in the left sidebar
  3. Click Benchmarking in the audience submenu
  4. Choose Channels under the benchmarking submenu
  5. From this view you can adjust the report by industry, daily session size and country/region
Your Biz Growth Homework
  1. If you aren’t tracking your data already start tracking with Google Analytics.  You will need at least a month’s worth of data tracked to really start benefiting from these reports.  The more, the better.
  2. In google analytics go to your dashboard and click on the Audience link and then click on the benchmarking link. Choose ‘Channels’ & under ‘Industry’ at the top of the page choose the industry that is closest to your own.  Also be sure to choose the ‘Size by Daily Sessions’ that best reflects your current daily session volume and the country/region that best reflects your own.

How does your site compare to your industry’s benchmarks?  If you have stats that are significantly less then industry benchmarks take note of those stats and start listing tactics you can use to improve them.  Your goal over the next month should be to get yourself in parity with the stats you are seeing in your industry.  If your stats are all higher then your industry’s stats then move on to the extra credit.

Extra Credit

Choose the ‘Size by Daily Sessions’ value that is one higher then your own.  Look for easy wins – areas where you can improve your stats quickly or where you are already close to meeting the industry standards in this section.  Your next growth aspiration should be to move up in session size, use the data you are seeing to create tactics and success measurements for growth.  Figure out exactly how you are going to move towards these goals and create an implementation plan.  Over the next few months measure how you are doing in the key areas under channels and adjust your plan accordingly.