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How much traffic do your competitors generate?

Posted by Mort Greenberg on April 14, 2008

Source: http://panda.com

Internet web site metricsOne way of benchmarking online success is to beat your competitor traffic wise. Pandia takes a look at online services that try to measure the traffic of web sites.

First of all: There is no central database measuring web site traffic, which means that there is no way you can get exact metrics for the web traffic of competing sites. Actually, it can be hard enough to get reliable statistics for your own sites.

Still, from an internet marketing perspective even flawed data can be better than none. By measuring the success of competing sites over time you can at least get an impression of how their (and yours) tactics are working.

Then, of course, there is the matter of using such statistics for selling advertising on your own site. “Look here! We are as popular as thebeststieintheworld.com and are close to beating the otherbestsite.com..” Well, you catch our drift.

Here are a few sources of web site statistics intelligence:

Alexa

Alexa is the most well known source of web traffic intelligence. It is owned by Amazon.com. Most search engine marketing experts consider it totally unreliable and you will read again and again that it is of no real value.

The reason for this is that Alexa data is generated by the users of the Alexa toolbar, and given that the selection of Alexa toolbar users is in no way representative for the web population at large (a large number of tech geeks and SEOs), the sample is seriously skewed.

It certainly is. But although the exact numbers are unreliable, you may use the data for trend analysis. A serious drop in traffic for one site may be significant. A big change in the relative strength of two related site may also be relevant.

 

The most popular sites globally according to Alexa are Yahoo.com, Youtube.com and (surprisingly) Windows Live.com. Google is number four.

There is no way Live is bigger than Google world wide, and this shows that even for similar sites Alexa’s data may be misleading. The reason for his mismeasurement is found in the fact that the Alexa toolbar is only available for the Internet Explorer for Windows, where Live is the default search engine.

Quantcast

Quantcast combines “directly measured audience data with panel-based estimates to deliver accurate third-party metrics and easy-to-read profiles on digital media properties.”

This means that Quantcast uses a panel of respondents (in the same way as radio and TV audiences are measured), combined with data fetched from sites participating in their program.

Planet Ocean (subscription required) has done a test of Quantcast’s data and find them quite reliable:

“These reports are fairly accurate with regard to the monthly unique visitor numbers. We plugged several sites that we have log file access into the system and the returned results were very close to our log files. In particular, values returned for monthly estimated unique visitor numbers and current audience demographic information was much closer then we expected.”

At the moment Yahoo.com is the most popular site in the US, according to Quantcast, followed by Google.com and Youtube.com.

The main problem with Quantcast is that delivers US data, not world wide statistics.

Compete

“Track your rivals! Then eat their lunch!” Yepp, Compete is good at aggressive marketing.

Like the other sites it has a search engine that lets you compare several sites, and it will generate an easy to read graphs and tables. The service is free.

If you sign up for a free membership, you will also get:

  • Access Compete Search Analytics reports.
  • Compare up to 5 Sites at a time on Site Analytics.
  • Save Analytics to a Portfolio: Save your favorite groups of up to 5 sites for quick access to their site analytics comparison views.
  • Submit Site Ratings: Vote for your favorite and least favorite sites.
  • Export to CSV: Save a full year’s worth of monthly data to your computer.

Compete also has its own toolbar (for Explorer and Firefox), but unlike Alexa it also makes use of a panel of 2 million respondents who have been recruited by software offering other benefits such as an E-mail antivirus and free prizes.

Compete is also testing a Search Analytics Service that helps you identify the search keywords that are sending traffic to a particular site or a particular category of sites.

Antezeta gives the following verdict:

“Judicious leveraging of data from three different sources could potentially lead to more reliable data than that provided solely by small panels or self-selected toolbar audiences. With a US focus, Compete data is not reliable for sites whose main visitor population is outside the US.”

Hitwise

Hitwise is in no way a free product, but it’s services are considered one of the best around. The metrics of Hitwise will often make headlines around the world and investors follow their numbers with great interest.

Hitwise delivers data on how 10 million US Internet users interact with more than 1 million websites, across 165+ industries. There are separate databases for the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.

Hitwise will, like Compete, also deliver keyword search data.

ComScore

ComScore Media Metrix is very much like Hitwise. It is a paid service.

ComScore generates web metrics from a global cross-section of more than 2 million consumers who have given comScore “permission to confidentially capture their browsing and transaction behavior, including online and offline purchasing.”

ComCast is especially good on international comparisons.

And yes, there is also a separate search behavior package.

Nielsen/Net Ratings

Nielsen/Netratings is another giant in media measurement.

The company uses a US panel of some 20,000 (?) and data delivered by clients who have installed their tracking code. In other countries the sample may be very low indeed.

The main problem with Nielsen is that it is very hard to find out how they gather their data and to what extent different browsers and OSes are supported.

Ranking.com

Like Alexa, Ranking.com gathers data from their toolbar users. Unfortunately the toolbar is for Windows and Internet Explorer only, which means that the sample misses out most of the technology savvy surfers out there.

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