In March, Google announced a new feature for Google Analytics named Benchmarking. One of the most compelling reasons to opt-in to the benchmarking component of Google Analytics is to compare how your sites perform against other sites.
Once the data from your sites has been analysed by Google Analytics, it is then possible to compare the following metrics against other sites:
- Average Time on Site
- Bounce Rate
- Percentage New Visits
Google Analytics allows the user to choose which one of a number of industry verticals to place their site into for comparison; telecommunications, travel, business and news are but just a few. This industry specific targeting allows for comparison against sites which are similar in theme – vitally important, as you wouldn’t want to compare the statistics of a heavily ecommerce driven site against that of a social networking site.
To make sure that the first two metrics above make sense to each site, Google Analytics automatically places a site into one of three categories based on the number of visits – small, medium or large. When viewing benchmarking data about a site, only the data from other sites within your size category are visible. As such, if you have a small but up and coming site – it isn’t possible to see what the market leader may potentially be doing.
So far, we can compare six simple but very useful metrics against similarly sized web sites within the same industry vertical, though specifying a vertical for comparison is completely optional. While very useful, having a better unerstanding of exactly what you’re comparing against would be handy. I’d personally like a little clarification on the following points:
- What is the boundary in visits per time period for small, medium & large?
- How long does a site need to sustain the number of visits per time period to officially be moved between size categories?
- If a site does move between categories, as a user – am I notified that it has happened?
- If I use a country specific domain, am I comparing only against sites of a similar size within the country specific domain name space or is it a global comparison? I find this point quite important, as users from different countries have different usage patterns.
- Does placing your site within a country via Google Webmasters have an impact on the previous point – in case you use a top level domain such as a .com/.net?
- How are sites placed into an industry vertical and is it possible to see what vertical a given site has been placed in? The latter part of that question is important, as if your site has been placed into the wrong sub-category list and as a user you are nominating a different category (which you feel is the correct one), it could be providing you a different skew of the results.
The benchmarking service from Google Analytics has only just been launched and is still marked beta. I expect as more people start sharing their information with Google, more and more questions will get raised, more will be answered and the product will continue to evolve as do most Google products.