The following is a guest post by Marshall Sponder of WebMetricsGuru .
A few years ago, Google Analytics added benchmarking, allowing site owners to compare their own sites to others in the same category. Of course, many sites fit into more than one category, and to enable benchmarking, you must first enable data sharing  from within your analytics settings. Using my art blog, ArtNewYorkCity.com, I wanted to see how well it performs against other blogs in its category.
Selecting the right category is crucial for this exercise – fortunately, Google Analytics has a fairly rich selection to choose from, especially if you drill down a few levels.
Once you have chosen a category, you can view six charts (see below) comparing your site with the averages of other sites in its category, aggregated from several thousand sites using Google Analytics that have also elected to share their data with the world (the data is stripped of any personal information).
While my site gets exactly the average amount of visits of a typical art website, according to Google Analytics, it’s by far above average in its very low bounce rate – according to the top right chart, the typical art site has a bounce rate of approximately 60%, while mine hovers in the 3%-5% range – and that’s a question to explore, but not in this post.
However, the average art site has a significantly longer visit than mine, 3 minutes and 20 seconds on average, while an ArtNewYorkCity.com visit lasts about 1 minute and 20 seconds (which would seem long enough – but comparing it to other sites leads me to think about improvements I should make to encourage my readers to stay on the site longer).
On the other hand, while the typical art website gets three pages per visit, ArtNewYorkCity.com gets seven pages per visit – a phenomenal number – all things being considered (it’s a blog and that means, the typical visitor looks at seven of my posts on an average visit).
Almost all the visits to ArtNewYorkCity.com are from new visitors, yet the average art blog has about 70% of its traffic from new visitors. That might be a good thing – it shows there is a loyal group or community that revisits some sites more often than others. I’d rather have half my visitors be repeat than all of them be new.
Taking a step back, it’s easy to take this information, look at your site and start to brainstorm ideas and suggestions that would improve it. It's a good idea to figure out steps you can take to improve your site, according to what you find in Google Analytics, and then use benchmarking again after a few days to see if your ideas are working or not.
If you don’t succeed right away, keep at it – sooner or later, by using Google Analytics Benchmarking, your site will improve, and you’ll be able to see it via the benchmarks – just remember to always compare your site to the same category you started off with.