What Are the Best Tools to Estimate the Traffic of a Website?
An unbiased comparison of Google Analytics with data from website traffic estimators.
There are a few options out there, but you really need to take all tools that are purport to report website traffic with a huge grain of salt. Website traffic estimators have to do a lot of guesswork in order to estimate the traffic going to a website and they are understandably inaccurate. The question is “how inaccurate are website estimators?” The answer is “pretty inaccurate, but they can get you an idea of whether a site’s traffic is in the hundreds, thousands, or millions.
In my experience, the most reliable tool to estimate the traffic of a website is Similarweb, but SEMrush can also get me a ballpark number as well. Just remember that there’s no tool that will give you exact traffic without access to a site’s analytics. Additionally, I find that most really fall short in estimating the traffic of websites that are highly seasonal. In a separate post, I compare the analytics of a highly seasonal client with the traffic estimates from SEMrush. It isn’t pretty.
Just to illustrate my point, I’m going to give you the example of one of our client’s website. We have access to the site’s analytics, which we will compare with the data that we pull from the following tools:
- SEM Rush
- Google Keyword Planner
First, the analytics of the website
Before talking about the accuracy of the website traffic estimates provided by the different website traffic estimators, we need a common basis for comparison. In this case, we’re going to use the analytics of our of our client websites.
Organic search traffic for May, 2017.
I thought that it should be important to show this since several of the tools that I am about to show you screenshots of claim to track the organic traffic to a site. Overall, there were 549 sessions that came in through organic traffic during the month. Let’s keep this number in mind while we see the estimates of some of the SEO tools out there.
Even though it is a local Philadelphia company and I know that they work really hard to make it a great tool, SEMrush has never been my favorite SEO tool. I have found that it doesn’t find as many backlinks as other tools (such as Majestic and Ahrefs) and doesn’t really fill my needs as well as some of the other options out there. Nonetheless, I thought it would be worth seeing how good of a job it does of my estimating organic traffic for my client’s website.
It estimates our client’s organic traffic at about 1,200/mo, much higher than the actual traffic coming to the site. It also missed the paid search campaigns that we have done, all of which have been about $1k-$2k mo.
I did a second, more in-depth comparison between Google Analytics and SEMrush’s traffic estimator for two other sites in another post. Check it out!
Similarweb is one of the most popular tools for estimating a site’s traffic. I do use it (I have the browser toolbar installed) and it does get a decent ballpark estimate of the traffic of a website. So how close to 549 did it get?
For May, it was pretty damned close. I can tell you that this website’s traffic does not fluctuate much, and had we done this for the month of March, it would have been a pretty bad fail for this tool.
What the hell, let’s check the analytics for March!
Like I said, the March numbers in Similarweb were pretty far off…
This is a popular tool as well and I do occasionally check sites with it. What estimate did it have of activefitnesscenter.com???
Waaaay off. These numbers are laughable.
Ahrefs was right on the money with this one. Its estimate of the site’s organic web traffic was only 40 visits off, quite impressive. Its no secret that I’m a huge fan of Ahrefs and consider it the best all-in-one SEO tool available. Its crawlers seem to consistently find more links than any other tool I’ve ever used and I’ve found that its traffic estimates are usable. That said, there was a bit of lucky involved here; I’ve found that Ahrefs tends to underestimate traffic by at least half. As a matter of fact, Ahrefs has never claimed that its traffic estimates are exact; as a matter of fact, Tim Soulo has explicitly said that there is “no such thing as ‘accurate search volume.'” Therefore when I am trying to estimate the traffic going to a website, I’ll assume that it’s actually anywhere from 50% to 100% higher than whatever Ahrefs says it is.
Alexa is the Myspace of SEO tools. Somebody sold it off to another company for a whole bunch of money, and now it’s virtually useless. I ran about 4-5 other local websites through it after this search and got the same result.
Just to wrap up
5 Top Website Traffic Estimator Tools
This is the order of the tools that I would consult if I wished to estimate the traffic of a site. Ahrefs is my “go-to.” Similarweb is good to tell if a site gets visits in the hundreds, thousands, or millions. SEMrush is good for the same thing as Similarweb, but it has some cool content features. Google keyword planner will also give you some usable ballpark ideas. Alexa is useless for the small to mid-sized clients I work with.