There are two situations where you may want to check website traffic. The first is to understand how well your own website is doing. The second is to understand how your online competition (the sites that publish similar topics as you) are doing.
Each of these scenarios requires two completely different sets of tools. In this article, we’ll cover both.
First, we’ll cover only briefly because it’s so easy to get insight into your own site’s traffic. Only a few simple tools installed on your site are required. However, researching competitor sites is a different story.
Check Your Website Traffic for Free
According to the most recent research, Google accounts for a whopping 93 percent of the organic search market share, and 96% of organic searches from mobile devices. For this reason, it makes the most sense to install Google Analytics on your site to get the most accurate picture of organic website traffic.
Installing Google Analytics
Installing is also fast and easy. Just go to Google Analytics to sign up and register your website. You’ll need to confirm you’re the owner, and then receive a tracking code by going into the Admin section, selecting Tracking Info, and selecting Tracking Code. Just highlight and copy the code and paste it as the first line of code inside your website’s <HEAD> tag for every page.
In WordPress, you can typically do this by selecting Appearance from the left menu and selecting Theme Editor.
That’s all you have to do to use the Google Analytics dashboard for your site. The simplest display (after logging into Google Analytics) is to select Behavior, Site Content, and All Pages. Set the time frame to what you want to see traffic for and you’ll see your entire site’s performance over that time period.
While most people use Google Analytics to check website traffic for free, you aren’t limited to using it. There are plenty of Google Analytics alternatives. Unfortunately, none of them are free.
- GoSquared ($29/month): Track visitors as well as they come from for all pages on your site. This includes live chat and messaging with your team. Customer relationship management (CRM) features are also included.
- FoxMetrics ($99/month): This popular analytics service is marketed as a highly personalized analytics platform that lets you organize site content (segmentation) as far as how you view your traffic. It also includes powerful marketing tools.
- Serpstat ($19/month): For the SEO-savvy, dig into your organic search performance and hottest keywords. Audit your pages and get more insights into backlinks.
- Chartbeat (unknown): Promises to provide real-time insights into how your users are using the site. You’ll see incoming organic traffic but also have the opportunity to test page elements to see what improves page performance.
These are just a few examples of the available tools out there to track your own website traffic and dig into how you can improve.
Check Competitor Website Traffic for Free
You can use a lot of expensive tools out there to dig into how your competitors are doing. However, if you don’t have a lot of money to invest, you’re not out of luck.
While free tools are not quite as accurate, they can be very effective. You may not see precise traffic analytics, but you will see general trends that provide a great deal of insight.
There are very few free tools out there where so many people agree that the tool is useful. SimilarWeb uses its own data, pulled from many different sources, to provide you with the most popular content on any website.
SimilarWeb claims that their data comes from:
- Crawling the web
- First-party direct measurement
- External partners (likely ad companies)
- Anonymous behavioral data (likely ad networks)
To use SimilarWeb, just type a URL at the top of the page and select the search icon. SimilarWeb provides brief site information at the top of the results page. Under this, you’ll see a row of rankings and an overall traffic overview.
Beneath this you’ll see visuals for:
- Traffic by country
- Traffic sources (direct, referrals, search, social and more)
- Top 10 referral websites
- Most popular organic and paid keywords
- Top 5 social referral sites
- Where its display advertising is focused
- Primary audience interests (categories)
- Competitor/similar sites
As you can see from the keywords section, you’re provided only very limited data about the site. However, other sections let you select a link to see more.
You can’t see top pages, which is one of the most important things you may be interested in as a competitor.
You can get more detailed information by paying for a SimilarWeb Pro subscription (pricing isn’t offered on the site).
Most folks researching website traffic knows about Alexa. This is because Alexa data has been the standard site to turn to for website traffic details. This isn’t surprising, given how much data you get from Alexa.
Just type the domain you want to research in the field at the top and press enter.
Alexa provides you with a mountain of information about the domain. Like SimilarWeb, each box of data is just a teaser of what you get with a subscription.
For free, you’ll see:
- Overall 90-day Alexa rank trend
- Keyword data like gaps and easy-to-rank phrases
- Top social topics and engagement
- Four most popular articles ranked by engagement
- Search, social, referral, and direct traffic sources
- Top competitor sites
- Total backlinks
If the teaser traffic data just isn’t enough, then the cheapest Alexa plan starts at $79 per month.
SEMRush is known as an authority when it comes to SEO and website statistics. So, it should be no surprise that SEMRush offers a free website traffic tool.
You will need to register for a free account using your email address. Once you confirm it, you’ll have access to the free Traffic Analytics tool.
Type a domain in the field at the top of the dashboard and select Search.
You will see an impressive domain overview page with all of the following data:
- Overall authority, traffic, and backlinks
- Traffic and keywords trends
- Top organic and paid keywords
- Main competitors
- Referring domains
- Top landing pages
Selecting See Details under any of these actually brings up an impressively detailed page for that data set. Selecting Organic Research and selecting the Pages tab shows you the top-performing pages for the domain.
Unfortunately, you can only see the top 10 pages. You’ll need to pay for a SEMRush subscription to see more than that. Unfortunately, that isn’t cheap. A Pro account starts at $99.95/mo and goes up from there.
Free Website Traffic Analysis: You Get What You Pay For
Most of the sites online that let you search for website traffic for free actually pull data from SEMRush’s database. This means the free tools listed above are truly the primary sources for the best website traffic data you’ll find.
The problem with all of them is that you get what you pay for. The data is severely limited, and won’t let you see in great detail what pages are doing the best on our competitor’s sites. For a general overview of performance, however, they accomplish the job well enough.