Google Analytics Benchmarking Report allows users to compare their website's performance with 'similar' sites. The key metrics of this report are: visits, page views, pages per visit, bounce rate, average time on site, and new visits.
To receive the Benchmarking report your site must share its data with Google in the 'anonymous, aggregated format'. This is easily done by navigating to the Benchmarking Report and following the link 'data sharing settings page'. The data takes about two weeks to appear as Google must analyse your site's data against other participating websites.
The Benchmarking Report gives your site context. Visits, Bounce Rate, Page Views, Average Time on Site, Pages per Visit and Percentage of New Visits can be compared with websites similar in size to your own. This information can prove highly valuable for evaluating the performance of your website against competitors and setting goals that your website can strive for. For example, if you are experiencing a slump in visitors at certain times of the week, you can check to see if this is a common trait across your industry, or whether you should aim at driving visitors via SEM/SEO or any other medium at these times.
Inter-industry comparisons may also prove effective when considering cross promotional efforts. If you find that a related industry experiences high traffic levels and high visit quality at certain times of the year, you may consider cross promotional strategies for these times in an attempt to boost your own conversion rates.
The best thing about Google Analytics Benchmarking is probably that it reminds Analytics users that there are a multitude of environmental variables that could be affecting conversion rates.