3 tools to analyze traffic on any website

Analyzing your own website traffic is simple with Google Analytics and Search Console. But analyzing traffic on third-party sites requires external tools.

In this post, I will compare three of those tools.

For testing, I will use the client’s website because I can access the actual data. The site generates approximately 100,000 monthly sessions from various sources. Organic search traffic is about 80,000 monthly sessions, approximately 75,000 from Google.

Ahrefs: Google Organic and Paid

Ahrefs estimates traffic from Google search, organic and paid, to any website based on its internal ranking assessment. It includes a graph that attempts to approximate that traffic over time.

You can easily match traffic and ranking fluctuations by hovering over the dates on the graph. Ahrefs estimates my site’s monthly traffic (as of May 2023) at 37,112 sessions, more than 50% below the actual figure.

A screenshot of an Ahref graph showing traffic estimates

Ahrefs measures a website’s organic traffic over time, showing volume and variation. The traffic estimate for the author’s site was about 50% too low. Click image to enlarge.

You can also see the countries of your visitors. This table was more or less accurate with one exception. According to Google Analytics, the third most popular country is the United Kingdom, followed by the Philippines.

Screenshot from Ahrefs "traffic by country" report

Ahrefs reports traffic by country, although the author’s site has more traffic from the United Kingdom than from the Philippines. Click image to enlarge.

Ahrefs starts at $99 per month. Advanced analytics (such as top pages with organic clicks) require $199/month or higher. Ahrefs does not offer a free trial.

Semrush: Google Organic and Paid

Semrush provides similar data to Ahrefs based on its own internal ranking estimates. Correlating traffic and rankings in Semrush is not as easy for me as it is in Ahrefs, but the result is almost the same. Semrush reported my monthly traffic at 39,073 sessions, which, like Ahrefs, is grossly incorrect.

Screenshot of Semrush graph of Google traffic

Semrush estimates monthly website traffic from organic Google search. Click image to enlarge.

Semrush also mistakenly ranked the Philippines as the third most popular country. The tool’s ranking of my top pages with organic clicks was also wrong.

Semrush prices start at $120 per month with a 7-day free trial (credit card required).

Similar web. All sources

I don’t have a Similarweb premium account. The following is my rating based on a free trial.

Similarweb reports the total traffic of any website from all channels, not just Google. Data comes from four sources, according to Similarweb: partnerships, cross-site data, Similarweb apps and extensions installed on different devices, and publicly available information. Those descriptions are vague, although I can understand why due to competitive pressures.

Similarweb estimated the monthly sessions on my site at 79,763 (again, actually around 100,000). Like Ahrefs and Semrush, Similarweb’s ranking of top traffic driving countries was inaccurate.

Similarweb’s estimate for my main traffic channels was close, although my actual referral traffic is much higher than 2.23%.

Screenshot of Similarweb "overview of channels" report

Similarweb’s estimate of the author’s top traffic channels was close, although the actual referral traffic is higher than 2.23%. Click image to enlarge.

The platform’s assessment of my top traffic driving social network was wrong, along with the best referral sources. (I should add that Google Analytics is also wrong because it shows email marketing traffic as referrals).

Overall, Similarweb offered useful data for comparing websites, albeit with flaws. Using it in conjunction with Ahrefs or Semrush provides a more complete overview.

Similarweb offers a 7-day free trial, but does not disclose pricing.

Useful, not perfect

My takeaways from Ahrefs and Similarweb organic traffic analysis:

  • The instrument scores were surprisingly close. I see no reason to use both.
  • Both see about half of all Google searches. That’s a lot, but understandable since long-term queries are unpredictable and roughly 15% of all searches are new, according to Google.
  • Both tools agree on traffic trends, which is a very useful insight. Their traffic charts include citations for Google updates to see the impact.

All three tools underestimated my actual site traffic, but provided useful data for competitive research.

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