Please help me jump to conclusions :)
My firm is a specialty directory and by all the methods I can find to measure traffic relative to my competition--I am aware that kind of data should be viewed with a jaundiced eye--we are the market leader. We should be, we were the first to market, we have a substantial base of both paying customers and site visitors and we know we generate response.
In the last year, we've had a substantial competitor crop up. They are a specialty PPC search engine. I view competition as a healthy thing, it's given us the impetus to better define our products and services and to work harder on web site promotion. I've always been slightly suspicious of some of the numbers that I see (as we are a directory who provides web presence, this company almost immediately became one of our top referrers, since they are targetting the same customers for their PPC), but I strive for the "a rising tide lifts all boats" outlook whenever possible.
Today, a customers sent one of our sales reps data from their own reporting tools that showed than not only did the competition outstrip us in traffic delivered by a large amount, that they delivered more traffic than Google, MSN and AOL combined. This customer runs AdWords, as do we in the same category, and those numbers seem to add up correctly.
This just doesn't pass the smell test for me. I've seen enough of my customers data from search engines to say that this customer's search engine referral looks in line with his competitors. But, I really, really don't think my competitor can be delivering this much traffic to him.
Does that sound possible to you? When we link to customers, we are generally better than the big search engine traffic, if that customer does a reasonable job of SEO (we deliver better qualified buyers is the advantage). If they don't do any we provide virtually all the traffic.
Is it likely that a specialty PPC is going to deliver enough traffic on a reasonably competitive search term to completely outstrip the biggest of the big SEs?
If no, is there anything I can do about it, besides redoubling efforts to teach my customers the meaning of the word ROI?