How To Get Intel On The Competition
Ever look at a competitor’s site and think to yourself, “How is this guy more popular than me?!” An ugly and cluttered theme, broken links, obvious keyword fishing, and terrible content (it’s his, isn’t it?) are all beating your clean, attractive, well-maintained, and thoughtful (it’s yours, right?) WordPress website. What is he, the other guy, doing that you are not? Unfortunately, you can’t look in the backend of his site or examine his analytics data to get an idea of what he might be doing right. Or can you?
You can’t, but PressTrends offers the next best thing: PressTrends.me. This service (with WordPress plugin) analyzes your website and compares it to other similar websites across a variety of different benchmarks. It then helps you to figure out what you can do (whether on or off-site) to reach your goals, with the recommendations based on the best practices discovered through their analysis of a ton of other websites.
But how do they arrive at those benchmarks? In addition to PressTrends.me, they also offer PressTrends.io which allows theme designers and plugin developers to track what users are doing with their products (learn more about that service here). PressTrends uses the huge network of sites belonging to both of those services to compile data on what those sites are doing, right or wrong. After the ad, learn more about how it uses benchmarks to make you better than the rest (or at least as good).
To get started with PressTrends, simply download their WordPress plugin. After installation, the plugin will ask you to sync up your site with the appropriate Google Analytics account so that it can grab the data it needs. You do not need to sign up for the service to use it, but some of the features we discuss below will require you to purchase an upgraded version of the plugin (pricing here). For a more detailed guide on how to install PressTrends.me on your site, check out this handy tutorial they provide.
After installing PressTrends.me, you now have to tell it what your website’s goal is so that it can customize its recommendations and suggestions. They offer five different goal settings:
- To have a solid community of engaged readers.
- To support advertising through impressions and clicks.
- To turn visitors into customers through product purchases (requires WooCommerce).
- To have an active community of registered users (requires BuddyPress).
- To turn visitors into registered attendees of events (requires The Event Calendar).
The analysis of your site’s data produces two sets of metrics: Critical Metrics and Secondary Metrics. Each metric provides your score, that of your benchmarks, and a smiley or frowny face to indicate how well you stack up against the competition. These metrics change based on the goals you had chosen; here are some of the Critical Metrics (options #4 & #5 are still under development):
- For option #1, it records the Visitors/30 Days, Visitor to Comment Conversion, Avg. Time Between Comments.
- For option #2, it records the Visitors/30 Days, Pages/Visit, Average Time Between Publishing.
- For option #3, it records the Visitors/30 Days, Visitor/Checkout Conversion, Sales/30 Days.
As you can see from these metrics, the plugin decides what information to highlight based on what your goals are: it focuses on comments as an expression of engagement, page visits as a surrogate for ad impressions, and sales conversion as a measure of e-commerce success. Beyond the Critical Metrics you have the Secondary Metrics. The Secondary Metrics are more broadly WordPress-specific and focus on how your site is functioning as a platform. Those metrics look at your site’s:
- Visitors (Visit/30 Days, Bounce Rate, Pages/Visit, Avg. Load Time)
- Posts (# of Published Posts, Comment Conversion %, Total Categories, Total Pingbacks, Avg. Time Between Publishing)
- Comments (Comments/30 Days, % of Comments Approved, % of Comments Spam)
Additionally, if you have selected one of the more specialized integrations, you will see metrics that are specific to those functions. For example, there is a Shop metric for the WooCommerce module which produces the following stats: Cart/Checkout Coversion %, Avg. Sale/30 Days, Avg. Time Between Checkout.
Finally, if you get the upgraded version, you will get information on two other sets of Secondary Metrics: Social Sharing and SEO. The social sharing counts up the number of times your site and its content have been shared across platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Linkedin. The SEO metrics, though, are especially exciting. Integrated with SEOmoz.org, the SEO metrics allows you to calculate your site’s MozRank and Domain Authority while analyzing your External Links. For those of you who have wanted to use SEOmoz.org’s service, but have been a bit wary of the price, this is an excellent way to get an idea of what it can do for you.
There is an additional level of analysis that is also available to you on PressTrends.me’s site, Correlations, which allows you to see which metrics influence other metrics. An example below:
In terms of optimization, the plugin limits itself to giving suggestions and recommendations rather than creating any custom fields, templates, etc. As such, it does not conflict with your other plugins that might be used for Search Engine Optimization or Content Optimization and can be easily integrated as another tool. As for the suggestions themselves, they differ, of course, from website to website, but here are some of the suggestions that it offered me (these versions are a bit abridged):
Publishing: Publish content at least once per day.
- Publishing: Publish content around 1pm on Wednesday.
- Comments: Allow for Comment Notifications.
- Social: Focus more attention to Google+, as Google+ dominates search results.
The emphasis for the suggestions is on trying to create conversions. Depending on the purpose of your site, conversion can have a different meaning and result in different metrics and suggestions. For a blog that is interested in building a large user base, comments and other forms of social engagement are treated as conversions. If your site is intended to maximize advertising revenue, the plugin produces roughly the same metrics but with an emphasis on page views and visits (it does not grab advertising data, so clickthrough rate or impression are not tallied).
If your site is intended to sell products using WooCommerce, they have a different set of suggestions (like they had a different set of metrics) intended to help you drive conversions. Here are a few examples:
- Checkout: Offer customers additional payment options.
- Products: Offer customers additional core or complementary products.
- Checkout: Minimize the number of clicks to checkout.
I did have a couple of reservations about the plugin:
It needs more math. Knowing that you are above or below a certain benchmark is certainly useful, but I would also like to know how many standard deviations I am above or below the mean.
- It needs more site categories. I have an education site, but there was no category for education, so I had to check the box for technology. This miscategorization means that I am looking at the wrong benchmarks and receiving the wrong suggestions, greatly reducing the effectiveness of the service.
- It needs better documentation. For a lot of the metrics, the explanatory documentation was completely lacking. With a couple of the metrics, I had to guess what they were referring to or measuring. [Edit: They have done a lot to improve the documentation, see the Comments, since we mentioned this.]