The "Easy to Read" Secret of Students

When I look back on my education, I can fondly remember the hours spent reading through the classic novels for English classes.  However, I would be lying if I said my classmates and I didn’t turn to Cliffs Notes for more interpretation as we read.  We were always curious about the analysis of things like Piggy’s glasses in "Lord of the Flies", and the depth of the available information for how much they represented science and intellect in society.  Now, students flock to both sparknotes.com and cliffsnotes.com for their "deep dive" into they novels they are reading.

Sparknotes.com vs. Cliffsnotes.com - Compete.com Site Comparison

The chart above illustrates Monthly Unique Visitors to both sparknotes.com and cliffsnotes.com from September 2007 to September 2009.  Clearly, sparknotes.com is doing a better job online in attracting students who want to learn more.  Some interesting things to note:

  • Traffic for both sites peaks during the school months, the time when students are looking to be more in the know about what they are studying
  • In the month of September, traffic to sparknotes.com and cliffsnotes.com increased 56% and 45% M-O-M respectively
  • Both sites have had yearly growth, sparknotes.com grew 5.4% Y-O-Y and cliffsnotes.com grew 4.0% Y-O-Y

So, why is sparknotes.com getting more traffic than cliffsnotes.com?  One reason is that sparknotes.com is able to drive more traffic to its website via Search.  The chart below shows the Total Search Referrals to both sparknotes.com and cliffsnotes.com from September 2007 to September 2009.  To note:

  • Total Search Referrals to sparknotes.com in September 2009 was 1,885,683; cliffsnotes.com had 462,373 during the same period
  • In the month of September 2009, Total Search Referrals to sparknotes.com and cliffsnotes.com increased 66% and 54% M-O-M respectively
  • Interestingly, cliffsnotes.com saw more of an increase in yearly change of Total Search Referrals – sparknotes.com increased 8% Y-O-Y while cliffsnotes.com increased 17% Y-O-Y

Sparknotes.com vs. Cliffsnotes.com - Compete.com Site Comparison

For cliffsnotes.com to steal more of sparknotes.com traffic, they should focus more on their Search efforts  – a clear next step to become the leader in student study guides online.  Sparknotes.com does an excellent job winning the search traffic for classic novels like "The Crucible", "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Beowulf" (some of the top driving keywords).   Now it’s up to cliffsnotes.com to compete for some of those keywords that are generating so much traffic to sparknotes.com.

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