Organic, Paid, or Referrals?

When doing competition analysis you should take a look at where they get most of their website traffic from. Is it organic, paid, or referrals?


Organic traffic means that people visited the website in a natural way via the search engine. One of my customers has roughly half of their income from people walking into their brick-and-mortar store while the other half comes from sales from their website. When looking at those sales I examined where the most traffic and sales come from. Do they come from search engines, external websites like forums, news articles, or pay-per-click campaigns?

If the bulk of your competitor’s traffic comes from organic then you should examine what keyword phrase they rank for, what position they rank for it, and if possible how much money they make from each keyword phrase.

When you compile a list that your competitors rank for take a look at the list and narrow it down by deleting non-relevant keyword phrases. Phrases that you know won’t help your competitor at all. You have to be careful though. Maybe they rank for a keyword phrase that seemingly does not help them make money. Perhaps they rank for an article. Follow the link to the article page that they rank on and examine it. Maybe they put a call-to-action there that entices their website visitor to take another step.

After you narrow down the list compare it to another competitor’s ranking list and look for keyword phrases that they both rank for. They may be more important than you think.


If after looking at your competitor’s website you discover that they get a ton of traffic and/or sales from paid ads then you should take a closer look.

Some SEO software out there like Spyfu can give you an idea of how your competitor’s pay-per-click ads do for them. Typically, many companies out there start a pay-per-click campaign, and throw money at it but don’t monitor it to see which ads help them the most. If you know which ads help them the most and they don’t you can just create similar ads of your own that will help you out.


Referral traffic comes from website visitors that visit a website from another website. If you take a look at an analytics program like Google Analytics you will sometimes see search engines listed as referral traffic. Unless there is a paid advertisement on the search engine page you should treat these as organic traffic instead.

When examining your competitors look for trends on what kind of referral traffic it gets and what type of referrals give them the most traffic.

For example, if the largest number of referral traffic comes from forums instead of news sites and this seems to be true with other competitors as well you should take a look at those forums and see why that is so. Are there people talking excitedly about their products? Does the business owner answer questions and interact with the people in the forum? Do they have advertisements on the forum? Does your competitor do free giveaways or sponsorships on the forum? etc.

Here are just a few different examples of referral traffic.

  • Forums
  • News Websites
  • Directories
  • Q&A Websites
  • Article Links
  • Research Websites

Generally, the subject or genre of a website falls into one of these categories more than the others. For example, if you have a cutting-edge medical procedure then your more valuable referral traffic may come from research websites. If you sell custom knives then forums may be your more valuable referrals. Or if you have a service-oriented business then your more valuable referral links may come from Q&A websites.

For a more in-depth explanation, help in determining which area your website should concentrate on, and how to do this you can purchase the paid version of this course in the future.