Tracking Results and Measuring Success : Competitive and Diagnostic Search Metrics (part 6) - Web Traffic Comparison

11/8/2012 3:07:09 AM

9. Web Traffic Comparison

When you set your goals for growing your online business, you may, for example, target a sales increase of 50% from search referral traffic. However, you may also want to take into account where your competitor is in setting those goals. If your competitor has twice your traffic, you may not be happy with a goal to increase your traffic by 50%.

In addition, when you measure the results of a completed SEO campaign, it is useful to see how much your competitor grew during the same time frame, because you can use this to set your goals for your next campaign. For example, if you grew your traffic by 50% and your competitor grew by 100%, you may want to adjust accordingly.

Several tools out there offer ways to compare the traffic of different websites. However, each tool is imprecise and has a significant bias.

For example, Alexa relies on data obtained from users who have the Alexa toolbar on their systems. This is a limited number of users, and of course, only certain types of people are willing to have the toolbar on their system. This introduces a bias to the data, and it means it is not completely reliable. In addition, you can get software to artificially inflate your Alexa rankings by spoofing the Alexa toolbar. This is not something you should do, but you should understand the issues with these types of measurement systems.

Similarly, companies such as Compete and Quantcast offer traffic measurement services. These are also subject to issues with bias, and limited sample sites.

However, these tools shine when comparing the traffic of one site to another. This is great data because if you are comparing two sites in the same market space (perhaps you and your competitor), the bias should affect both sites equally.

So, perhaps the tool will tell you that one site has twice the traffic as another one does. This type of relative measurement data is pretty accurate, and is very valuable information to get.

9.1. Google Trends for Websites

One tool that should not have the same level of bias is Google Trends for Websites. Figure 30 provides a snapshot of Google Trends for Websites showing the traffic comparison for and

Figure 30. Google Trends for Websites

In addition to the comparative graph, you can see some details on the regions where the traffic came from, other sites visited by the same users, and related terms that people searched for. Note that the data Google provides is two to three months old.

9.2. Alexa

Alexa provides you with a quick and easy look at how the traffic for two sites compares, as shown in Figure 31.

Figure 31. Alexa traffic comparison

Underneath the chart you will notice a lot of additional data on (the site listed first in the search box), such as the most popular content and where the readers are coming from.

9.3. Compete

Compete offers both a free and a paid service. As with Alexa, you can get basic traffic data on a site or compare traffic between sites (see Figure 32).

Figure 32. Compete site traffic comparison

Compete also offers additional data for a fee. This includes data on the major keywords driving traffic to a site, as shown in Figure 33.

Compete leverages multiple sources, including ISP, panel, and toolbar data, and has a total panel of about 2 million users. Compete’s diverse data sources help in reducing bias in the data.

9.4. Quantcast

Quantcast is a competing service to the others we’ve listed. With Quantcast, you can get detailed data about individual sites, such as the data shown in Figure 34.

The demographic data is interesting, as well as the other sites that users visit. Quantcast collects “pixel data” from scripts running on websites that are part of the program. Quantcast claims that these sites represent about 50 million visitors per month. Quantcast supplements this data with data from ISPs.

Quantcast also offers publishers an opportunity to participate in its Quantified program ( This program enables publishers to make public much more accurate data through Quantcast (for publishers that want to leverage this data in setting their advertising pricing) and requires a tracking tag to be placed on their site.

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