We all want to know how we measure up and where we stand compared to our competition. In business, it’s important to understand how we’re doing versus how our direct competitors are doing. And it’s not just about being competitive; it can help make sure that you’re on the right track.
Industry benchmarks are so valuable for that reason. They can help you assess what’s standard in your particular niche, giving you an idea of what results you should be shooting for and even what’s possible.
It can be difficult to find these benchmarks online for every industry, requiring you to dig up the data and analyze it yourself. We’re going to help with that, taking a look at exactly how you can set industry benchmarks that will be valuable to you and which ones you should be focusing on.
Why you need to set industry benchmarks
Benchmarks are great, but they’re only useful if they’re accurate for the industry that you’re working in. In 2018, for example, the average order value for eCommerce beauty stores was $70.71. This is a great number, but it’s going to seem dismal if compared to the average order value on travel-related sites, which was $375.05, or real estate’s $819.81 average.
The benchmark isn’t relevant to you, then it’s not helpful in any way. And with so many industries having niche results, knowing what’s standard is key. You may even be excelling and not know it, or struggling and need some extra guidance to realize that there’s more potential there to do better.
When focusing on industry-specific benchmarks, you’ll want to make sure that you’re including data from beyond your direct competition. This can include competitors in foreign markets, or those that are much stronger players, and those who have niches with similar industry trends as yours. This will give you enough data to work with, but it will still be relevant.
How to set benchmarks
When you’re setting industry benchmarks, you’re going to want to look for data that’s measurable and quantifiable. Some metrics, for example, maybe difficult to track accurately, especially for sites that aren’t yours, like brand awareness. Others, however, like traffic or audience data, are more accessible and easy to measure with the right tools.
When you’re setting your benchmarks, you’ll want to be realistic. This is part of the reason that you need to pull data from a diverse array of competitors. A small business with three employees and only two months of being in operation is very unlikely to be able to compete with an internationally-known brand with more than 5 million established customers. SEMrush’s competitor discovery feature (found under the Position Tracking tool) can help you here, showing you potential players who you may not have even known were in your industry.
You’re also going to want to set benchmarks on metrics that are actual indicators of quality as opposed to just vanity metrics.
Many businesses, for example, focus more on building up their Facebook follower count than the engagement rate. The number of followers is a vanity metric because while it’s nice to have, it’s really the engagement rate that’s showing you how effective your content is and impacts how many people your content is reaching. Vanity metrics might look nice, but may not tell you much or carry as much weight as other metrics.
Let’s take a look at 8 industry benchmarks you should set no matter which industry you’re in.
1. Shift in total traffic trends
Total traffic is great and a metric that you’ll see on most lists for benchmarks you need, but monitoring your shift in total traffic trends in your market is one that too many businesses and marketers forget about.
Seeing how your traffic rises and falls compared to the total market traffic is important because it can help you assess how effective your campaigns are and if there are potential external factors impacting your results.
In order to track this, Market Explorer – a new SEMrush tool – can help. It will give you a list of top players in your industry and show you how your online traffic compares to theirs.
One of the metrics they offer is the total traffic trends, which looks at how the traffic on your domain is rising or falling over time compared with sites in the rest of your industry.
2. In-market audience interests
It’s important to understand what your target audience is interested in so that you can create content and messaging that’s immediately relevant to them. A solid benchmark to watch, therefore, is what your in-market audience is currently interested in, and what percentage of those interests you’re actually appealing to.
The ability to make sure that you’re appealing to and collecting diverse segments within your target audience is important. Use SEMrush’s Market Explorer tool here to identify the top in-market interests that your audience is drawn to, and use this to your advantage.
3. Market audience age and gender
In addition to understanding what your audience is interested in, it’s also valuable to see how your industry’s audience is broken down into gender and age groups, and then compare where you stand. Here, SEMrush Market Explorer will be of use again.
This can help you assess if you’re missing a key demographic in your target audience, and you need to adjust part of your marketing funnel to better reach them, as there are clear differences in gender and generation when it comes to how people research and shop online.
A recent case study, for example, found that men and women shop in different ways (with men preferring cross-device shopping and women spending more time online shopping) and are drawn to different ads (men like bright colors, women respond to softer colors). If you’re missing the mark on a segment of your audience, this benchmark will help you see that and offer additional segmented campaigns to appeal to them.
4. Total share of visits
Everyone holds their own share of market traffic that they get to their site, cutting out their piece of the proverbial online traffic pie. Looking at some of your top competitors to see where you stand in terms of impression shares will be a valuable benchmark, showing you how effective different avenues of referral traffic are at getting people to your site and how it holds up to what others in the industry are doing.
If you compare top players’ metrics with each other, you get to estimate their actual market shares. You may also benchmark your own position against competitors and reveal traffic generation strategies of other companies.
5. Average revenue per customer
The average revenue per customer benchmark will tell if your competitors are selling more than you.
Is your pricing in line with your competitors, and if not is it hurting or helping your profit? Are you doing enough to increase add-ons, repeat purchases, and overall order value? You may also find that revenue per customer is lower than the standard if customer retention is something you’re struggling with.
Littledata has some of the best reporting when it comes to average revenue per customer, particularly for eCommerce-related industries. They’ll show you how you measure up, and if you should be working even more aggressively than normal to boost this metric.
6. Average checkout completion rate
While it’s important to watch revenue, it’s also essential to track how many customers are coming to your site, initiating a purchase, and actually completing it. The average checkout completion rate benchmark will tell you what percentage of users complete a purchase they start.
Littledata can help you benchmark your average checkout completion rate, too. They look at your Google Analytics data and compare it against other benchmarks in the industry, giving you clear insight as to what the standard is.
If your checkout completion rate is low for your industry, you may have checkouts that are too long or complicated or offers that aren’t quite tempting enough. Keep in mind that the average abandoned cart rate is high, with low estimates coming in at around 73% and some going up to 85% (particularly on mobile).
7. Social engagement rates
Social media is where many brands are engaging with their audiences regularly, and engagement rates are perhaps the most important metric to watch here. They’ll tell you what percentage of your audience is finding your content relevant enough to like it, share it, or comment on it. Engagement rate can also boost your visibility in the algorithm, so it’s a good one to watch.
You’ll notice that engagement rates aren’t necessarily consistent with follower counts, so this shows you how well you’re doing to keep your audience engaged. It’s not uncommon for small brands to outperform large brands with hundreds of thousands of followers.
SEMrush’s Social Tracker is a good solution for this. You can add multiple competitors to monitor, and see how your social engagement rates measure up to theirs.
8. PPC costs and ranking
Many advertisers will turn to PPC platforms like Google’s search ads to increase their visibility and hopefully connect with potential customers who are actively in the buying process.
Because Google Ads works on an auction-based system, understanding what your direct competitors are paying and where they’re ranking will help you ensure that your content is competitive, too. It will also help you plan your campaigns accordingly and strategically, knowing which keywords you can afford to bid on and which ones you think you can outbid your competition for the top placements.
SEMrush allows you to check out the specific keywords your competitors are bidding on, what they’re bidding, and how they’re ranking.
If you search for a specific keyword, you’ll be able to see the average cost-per-click (CPC) and other related keywords, along with some of the ad copy currently ranking.
If you view a specific competitor’s page, you’ll be able to see which keywords they’re bidding on, what they’re paying and their total impressions.
This information can help you determine the average CPC for certain keywords and keywords overall in your campaign. If you’re paying more, you’ll want to check your Quality Score, as a low score can mean you may need to bid higher. You also may not be bidding enough to rank well on a regular basis.
The SEMrush CPC Map is also a good starting point if you just want a general idea of benchmark CPC costs for your general industry in each country. You can view CPCs based on your industry and the countries you want to advertise in.
The ability to outbid your competition while still running highly profitable PPC campaigns is a strong one, so this is a good benchmark to have.
Final thoughts – What’s next?
It’s important to remember that benchmarks are an industry standard and a solid guideline, but that you should treat them accordingly and realistically.
The following tips can also help you move forward:
- Check out the top players in the industry and look for strategies that help them get results. If you look hard enough, you’re often able to detect patterns. Maybe their three one-click payment options contribute to a high checkout completion rate, for example, or their regular use of social contests keep their engagement rate up.
- Keep an eye on indirect competitors. Just because you aren’t competing with someone for your audience’s business doesn’t mean there’s no insight or value to glean. Add them into your benchmark research.
- Be realistic about which benchmarks you can live up too quickly. Benchmarks are an average, and as we discussed earlier, including big-name companies will be included here. This can be intimidating when they’re dominating market traffic, or have consistently higher other benchmarks. If you’re just starting out, you may not be able to rank as well in the SERPs because your domain authority is lower. That being said, your social engagement rates and checkout completion can be close to the standard right from the get-go.
Knowing which ones to prioritize and which you can focus on as long-term goals will help you understand what parts of your funnel and marketing efforts need to be adjusted quickly and what will need some extra time to work on. Digging deep with some additional competitor research can then give you the extra information you need to take action and improve your own results.
Guest author: Elena Kozlova is an online researcher, offline traveler. Passionate writer and story listener.