…and other questions that are tough for digital marketers to answer without saying “it depends”. But seriously – it depends.
To answer this type of question you really shouldn’t be using some arbitrary or random industry “benchmark”. If you’re a vet – your experience with similar clients can be a guide, and of course there are some rules-of-thumb out there for things like this. However, you probably have a much better answer available to you at the click of the mouse… and its free!
The Benchmark Question
I had a question from a colleague the other day.
“Hope this message finds you well. I was hoping to pick your brain for a quick sec.
I’m working on developing a social strategy for a client and my CMO had an interesting question around what an “industry standard” percentage of social referrals to a company site is. Preferably for small/mid-size B2B companies, but any stat would be greatly appreciated.
Would you happen to know what that number/percentage would be? Do you happen to know any baseline numbers?
I/we get similar questions to this all the time. It might very well have been “what’s a good conversion rate?” or “what’s a good bounce rate?” etc.
You see – there’s all sorts of built-in assumptions and baggage that comes along with this question. But you can assume they’re asking – even if the asker doesn’t know it – “what’s a good bounce rate for a site like ours?”
Google Analytics Benchmarking Reports to the Rescue
Let’s use Google Analytics’ Benchmarking Report to answer this question “what’s a good benchmark for social referrals?”
The first thing people will look at is their own “channels” report in Google Analytics.
You’ll see something that looks like this (This is a randomly selected Google Analytics report from our rather massive account)
In this example – social referrals are nearly 3% of site traffic. But is that good or bad?
Let’s check those social referrals (and that bounce rate) against industry benchmarks!
(see this link to learn more about benchmark reports in Google Analytics and how to enable them)
Navigate to your benchmarking reports and look at “channels”
You’ll be presented with something that looks like this
Oh no! It appears that social referrals to this site are well below industry benchmarks. And the bounce rate sucks too!
Before we freak out too much though – we need to customize what we’re looking at a bit.
Tip 1: Customize the Industry Vertical and Other Settings
If you scroll to the top of the report, you’ll see you have the option to customize your reports a little bit. It is VERY IMPORTANT that you review and tweak this if necessary.
In this particular site’s benchmark report – we see we have some customizing to do:
- The industry vertical is “Internet & Telecom” – this is not the correct industry vertical. So we’ll want to change that. There’s something like 1,600 industry verticals available so you should be able to find one that applies to your business
- The country/region is “All” – this means the entire world. This site only competes in a very specific region (US). So we’ll want to customize that as well.
- Size by daily sessions is 100-499. That’s correct.
- And you can also see how many web properties are contributing to the current benchmark report. This is a good number to keep an eye on as you drill down into the right settings for you
After we tweak these settings, our benchmarks become much more meaningful… and a LOT less scary.
(Where did all the tiny numbers go? See Tip 2 below.)
NOW We Can Really Analyze The Site Against Some Meaningful Benchmarks!
A few things immediately pop out as we compare this site to others in the vertical category and same location:
- First and foremost – this site gets WAY more traffic than others in its industry (211.11%) and the bulk of it comes from organic search. Turns out – the visitor behavior for organic search (pages/session, session duration, bounce rate) is all really great as well. Yes!
- Social is actually doing quite well, drawing in 23.71% more visitors than others in the category.
- To answer the original question, one could do a little math to figure out what a good benchmark for the percent of traffic from social should be for a site like this
- But is the social traffic good traffic? It depends. (See what I did there?) Visitor behavior would indicate poorer quality than its peers with less pages viewed and time on site, but the bounce rate is good. This would be a question worth examining.
- Perhaps most interesting are the channels that the site is struggling with.
- Email: looks like competing sites do a lot more email than this one
- Referrals (links from other sites): again, looks like this site doesn’t have many clicks from links
- Paid Search: This company isn’t doing paid search, but others in the category do. This is an obvious opportunity.
Tip 2: Clean it Up
Some people find this report to be too overwhelming/distracting with too many numbers by default. There are a lot of numbers and colors etc. Also – the absolute numbers don’t matter that much in this scenario. Simply clicking a few buttons makes it much cleaner.
- Click the button on the left to turn off the comparison numbers
- Click the button on the right to turn off the heat-map and just have a clean table with arrows (I like the heat-map personally)
Tip 3: Locations & Devices
“Channels” is just the first benchmarking report.
You can also get a view of performance of your website by location (country) rather than comparing location to location on the overall report. You can still drill down to a specific industry category to make it more meaningful.
If this company was worried about whether they were getting enough traffic from Russia… I’d say the answer is yes they are.
And also by device. This shouldn’t be a surprise given all the focus on mobile these days. Again – you can drill down to a specific industry category or location.
This site is doing great with mobile & desktop traffic but they’re losing the tablet war for some reason. This is definitely something to dig into.
So back to answering that original question. Comparing your site to some real-world data based on actual analytics numbers from other sites in your industry that compete where you do is much more useful and tangible… and actionable.
- The site is getting more social referrals than others in the industry – stay the course. Or perhaps reallocate some of those resources elsewhere depending on your goals
- Figure out the issue with tablets. Why is this site getting so much less traffic from tablets than its peers?
- Ramp up paid search and email campaigns
- This site gets far fewer referrals than others – there’s something to work on as well
- And yeah, this site’s bounce rate is great.
So – have you used benchmarking reports to answer questions like these? What struggles have you had? How about wins? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!