Measuring website traffic data is key to helping a business understand their performance. An increase in traffic usually implies that its digital marketing strategy is yielding results, while a decrease would imply the inverse.
There are a number of tools to help businesses analyze website traffic data. However, the best ones provide businesses not just with raw website traffic numbers, but a holistic view of how their website is performing.
For instance, absolute website traffic numbers for a business reveal only half of their performance graph. The other half is revealed by their competitors’ traffic numbers.
Businesses also need to know who the visitors to their website are, and how they are engaging with the website’s content. This is captured by metrics such as location, bounce rate, session duration, etc.
The best traffic analysis tools are those which provide website owners with both a macro and micro level analysis of their website’s performance captured by a range of metrics.
Join us as we briefly explore how to check website traffic, the most important website traffic metrics to focus on, and the best website traffic analysis tools to help website owners measure traffic.
Table of contents:
Why Is It Important to Check Website Traffic?
Checking website traffic is the simplest barometer an online business possesses to measure its performance. An increase in traffic usually translates into greater demand for a business' goods or services and vice versa.
But there's more to traffic data than just gauging your business's current performance. Here are a few reasons why it is important to constantly monitor your website’s traffic:
1. Plan for the Future
A steady increase in a website’s traffic over time is an indicator of increased consumer interest in the goods or services offered by the business.
This could mean that the business may need to expand to accommodate its new audience. In such a case, measuring website traffic helps a business know when and by how much to increase capacity to meet the increased demand.
2. Identify New Business Opportunities
Often businesses optimize their web content for certain geographies, or in some cases, for no geography in particular. However, with time they begin to attract new customers from unexpected locations.
In such cases, an analysis of the geographical origin of their traffic helps them pinpoint new geographies that display an interest in the goods and services offered by the business. These represent new markets they can expand to.
3. Pinpoint Structural Issues and Fix Them
Just like an increase in traffic reveals important information about audience interest, a decrease in web traffic can reveal underlying issues with a business’ digital marketing strategies that need to be addressed.
For example, a 2017 Google survey found that the probability of visitor bounce increases by 32% when the load time for a web page increases from one to three seconds. So if the traffic analysis for a website shows consistent decrease in traffic over time coupled with a high bounce rate, it could mean that the website is slow to load. The website owner could then look for solutions to make the website load faster.
A 2019 Unbounce survey found that around 50% of users would be willing to give up on rich, interactive content such as videos and high-definition images in favor of faster load times. So, an analysis of website traffic in this case can help the website owner identify both the problem and its solution.
4. Measure the Competition
Businesses seldom operate in a vacuum. More often than not, a business measures its success or failure relative to its competitors. For a business, checking its own web traffic and comparing it to that of its competitors gives it a better picture of the direction it is moving in.
5. Adapt to Change
Things move fast on the internet and website traffic is often an accurate weather vane for ascertaining which way the wind is blowing. For instance, video is fast emerging as a popular medium for sharing content online. If a website has content in different formats, an analysis of the relative web traffic for each type can reveal which way the audience’s preferences are shifting. This allows the business to reorient its content strategy accordingly.
6. Filter Out Unwanted Traffic
When left unchecked, these forms of traffic can compromise a site's primary role—serving its human visitors. Regularly monitoring web traffic can help weed out such unwanted visitors.
7 Important Website Metrics You Should Track
There are a number of tools website owners can use to track and analyze website traffic. However, to use them effectively, it is important to understand website metrics and why they matter. Here's a list of the most important website metrics.
1. Number of Unique Visitors
“Unique” is the key word with this metric, which measures the number of actual individual visitors to your website. It's a crucial metric as without it, you would have no idea how many people were visiting your site and, therefore, how popular your content is.
A key sub-metric is return visitors, which measures the number of visitors who have returned to your site—another key indicator of your site's performance.
2. Bounce Rate
Your website may have many unique visitors, but how many of them are only there for a moment before “bouncing” off to another site? Your site's bounce rate—the ratio of unique visitors to those who have bounced—will tell you how many visitors landed on your website only to leave immediately.
A high bounce rate is not only indicative of underlying structural issues with the website, it can also negatively impact the website’s SEO metrics.
3. Session Duration
Valuable insights can also be gleaned from a visitor's session duration, which measures the time someone spends on your website. The longer their session, the more likely it is that they found your site engaging.
Another closely related metric is the number of clicks a user made during their sessions duration. This metric is a measure of how interactive the user found the content on the website.
4. Average Time on Page
An even more accurate metric for measuring user engagement is average time on page. This metric measures how much time an individual visitor spent on a certain webpage—website traffic data that can give a more informative snapshot of how engaging each page of content is. Website owners can use this data to compare engagement across different pages.
5. Page Views
Another useful engagement metric is page views, which records the number of pages a visitor browses during a specific period — for example, 30 minutes. When used in conjunction with other metrics, it can help clarify what is interesting to a site's visitors.
6. Traffic Sources
This metric tells you how your audience is finding you on the internet. The most common sources include search engines, social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, other websites that link back to your own, Wikipedia entries, etc.
Most website owners prefer to optimize their websites to secure the maximum amount of traffic from search engines as it is the most feasible and cost-effective source in the long run.
This metric tells website owners where in the world their audience is located. In most cases, the bulk of the traffic to a website will come from the geographies the website is actively targeting.
However, websites often receive unexpected traffic from new geographies, opening up new possibilities for content marketing.
How to Check Your Website's Traffic
Now that we're familiar with the key metrics of traffic analysis, it's time to review some of the more popular traffic checking tools. Given the advanced traffic analytics that some tools offer, knowing how to check website traffic has never been easier.
Thanks to widely available freeware, some of the best online website traffic checker tools cost nothing to use.
Different tools, however, will be appropriate for different situations. Let’s first look at those tools that make checking your own website's traffic a much easier task.
1. Google Analytics/GA4
Perhaps the best known traffic analytics tool, Google Analytics can be a good starting point for small and medium-sized businesses. This website traffic checker offers a plethora of both real time and historical website data with key metrics including session durations, traffic sources, bounce rates, attribution modeling, among others.
Google Analytics comes in two versions — free and paid. The paid version, also called Google Analytics 360, offers all the functionalities of the free version plus some advanced features such as a service level agreement that guarantees 99.9% uptime and reliable support, integration with third-party apps, etc. The paid version also offers relaxed caps on metrics such as views per property and hit limits.
Small businesses however, can extract plenty of useful information out of the free version too. Its attribution modeling feature, for instance, lets marketers know which marketing channels contributed the most towards conversion. Or they can use its funnel visualization report to gain insights into the customer conversion journey from lead-generation to post-sales service.
GA4 is the latest version of Google Analytics that is set to replace Google Analytics 360 from October 1, 2023. One of its key advantages is its use of AI to harness data from web and app sources, which is why it's viewed by some as an analytics game changer.
Another feature of this website traffic checker is its focus on privacy. Businesses that value privacy will find GA4 particularly helpful as it gives a traffic overview of consumers as they move across different platforms. Such movement often entails activity between different data privacy jurisdictions, making the tool's analytics both useful and rigorously compliant from a legal perspective.
In terms of how to monitor traffic flows, Google Analytics allows you to add a tracking code to your website. If your website is a WordPress site, there are several plugins that can help you with this.
With GA4, you'll need to refer to the first dashboard you see when operating this tool. This dashboard will give you a snapshot of all the metrics of your site's web traffic. The metrics include the number of visitors to your site during a set period, their average engagement time and user retention (analysis of the users who have returned to your site).
2. Google Search Console (GSC)
The key feature of Google Search Console (GSC) is its prowess with keywords. This simple keyword research tool is ideal for businesses that need to find out which keywords are driving website traffic to their site.
The other key feature of this website traffic checker is its ability to integrate seamlessly with other tools, such as Google Analytics, Ahrefs and Semrush. This enables users to apply metrics such as return visitors and bounce rates, from one simple interface.
By combining the keyword analysis strengths of this traffic checker tool with the more comprehensive range of metrics available with other tools, businesses can attain a holistic understanding of user behavior.
How to Check Competitors’ Website Traffic
Checking your competitors' web traffic can help you pinpoint the areas where they're ahead of you, which can then help you replicate their strategies on your own site.
It can also help you identify the areas where they're not doing such a great job—an opportunity for you to poach traffic from your competitors by providing better services.
Google, of course, isn't the only search engine that can bring customers to your site, and that's where Ahrefs comes into the picture. This website traffic checker offers all of the main traffic analytics that the tools we've already looked at provide; but its main strength is that, for a monthly fee, it also offers such analytics for traffic that's come through Yahoo!, Bing and other search engines.
This makes it ideal for businesses that want a comprehensive traffic overview of their or competitor’s sites. Given its use of metrics such as traffic sources, businesses can then tweak the organic keywords on their home pages, based on the data about visitors who have used a certain search engine to find the site.
For businesses that wish to improve their Google search rankings, Semrush is a great traffic checker. Like GSC, it offers in-depth analysis of keywords that bring visitors to your site. It provides extensive traffic analytics on the keywords used on other sites—a feature crucial for understanding competitor website traffic.
These features, along with its use of standard metrics, such as the number of unique visitors, bounce rates, and traffic sources, make Semrush one of the better tools on the market.
A business, for example, can compare the bounce rate of its homepage to that of a competitor's home page, then correlate any differences between the two with the keywords that are bringing customers to both sites.
Competitor analysis begins with reviewing its Traffic Analytics Overview Report, which provides a metric-by-metric breakdown of how traffic has changed on your competitors' sites over time. For more detailed analysis of the individual web pages on your competitors' sites, the Top Pages report can then be examined.
SimilarWeb might be the website traffic checker for those businesses that are looking for traffic stats on competitor traffic.
With this tool, you not only have access to various engagement metrics and other traffic analytics for your own website, but also a snapshot of the same data for a competitor's traffic. For a monthly fee, the traffic analytics on your competitors can be extended to five sites.
Research begins with a template that outlines key competitor information, such as the demographics of their audience, pricing data about their products and their use of different channels, as well as any SEO tools they use. Following this preliminary stage, you then go on to more in-depth analysis that can include identifying the buyer personas and buyer journeys of their customers, as well as keyword strategies for PPC (pay-per-click) ads and SEO.
SimilarWeb also has a free browser extension that lets users check traffic without having to visit the site itself.
These features make SimilarWeb an ideal tool for gaining a broader perspective on website traffic. The number of visitors on one of your webpages, for example, when compared with the same traffic stat for your competitors can help you optimize your organic keywords, as well as your wider keyword research.
Web traffic data is critical to understanding what's happening on your website, as well as what's happening in your niche and the industry as a whole. With consumer interests and preferences constantly changing, keeping up with the latest trends is vital.
Thankfully, there's a range of traffic checkers to help you on your way. Whether it’s developing your keyword research, monitoring the top search engines, or incorporating new SEO tools into your practice, these tools will do much of the heavy lifting that's needed to monitor, analyze and increase website traffic.
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What Does a Website Traffic Checker Tool Do?
A website traffic checker tool helps website owners monitor and analyze the statistics related to the volume of website visitors. This includes data not just for the number of visitors but also for session duration, bounce rate, location, etc.
How Does the Website Traffic Checker Tool Work?
Website traffic checker tools work by estimating the number of visitors to a website within a given period of time.
Why Should I Trust These Free Website Traffic Checker Tools?
While website traffic checker tools provide only estimates of traffic data, these estimates are highly refined and close approximations to absolute data.
How Can I Improve My Website Traffic?
Website traffic can be improved by analyzing website traffic metrics, looking for technical or design issues, and fixing them.
For instance, if your website is slow to load, you may want to remove some heavy multimedia content such as videos to allow it to load faster as website load time is a key SEO metric affecting traffic.
Why Should I Check My Website Traffic?
You should check your website traffic to measure the success of your content strategy, to identify and fix any issues with your website, to measure your website’s performance against that of your competitors and to plan your future content strategy.
Why Should I Check My Competitors' Website Traffic?
You should check your competitors’ website traffic to gain insights into how your website is performing compared to theirs.