Different tools to help you with your competitive website data analysis
In an earlier post SWOT analysis for your website, I mentioned the four elements of your SWOT analysis include identifying your website strength (S), uncovering your its weaknesses (W), identifying opportunities (O) for the site and uncovering threats (T) against it. While a decent web analytics application like Google Analytics can help you get insight into your own website S and W elements, what and how can you know about your competitor’s web performance in order to make your SWOT analysis more complete? I emphasized “web performance” as opposed to other general information that you can obtain by browsing your competitors’ websites. Below are some tools to help you get some idea about your competitors’ website performance.
Let’s start with the easiest one first: comparing keyword ranking
Compare your competitors’ keyword ranking against your website’s ranking
This is perhaps the easiest and also the most accurate data you can get. All you need to do is to go to Google, Yahoo! and Bing and enter certain keywords that are important to your business/industry and see how your site is stacking up against your competitors’. However, instead of doing this manually, there are several tools that can help you complete the task more quickly. The tool I used the most is the Firefox plug-in called Rank Checker. This tool also has an option to let you not use Google personalized search results. You can download the result in spreadsheet format and later to compare results. If you don’t use FireFox or don’t want to use the plug-in, Google for “keyword rank checking” or something like that.
Other tools and how data are collected
Let’s move onto exploring tools that can help you shed some light into your competitors’ website performance. However, before going there, let’s talk briefly about how these tools gather and report data. As you might have known from my other blog post about web analytics method, there are basically two ways to get web traffic data: one is through your web server log files, and the other one is through tagging every web page with a snippet of code. If websites like Alexa.com or Compete.com and the like (mentioned in further details below) can’t get to your log files and can’t access and tag every page of every website with their tracking codes, then how can they gather and report the data? The answer is they get data with your approval (when you install their toolbars or apps or opt in to voluntarily provide data) or behind your back without you even know about it (when you install their or their affiliates’ toolbars or apps but don’t know that those toolbars, apps secretly collect your personal data, including websites you visited, your online buying behaviors etc.). They then normalize the data gathered and output results.
One of the most common websites where you can get web traffic data of your own site and your competitor’s websites is Alexa. All you need to do is to enter the site url and Alexa will let you know some basic statistics.
Alexa gathers data from visitors that have the Alexa toolbar installed on their browsers. The data, therefore, is based on a small group of the population, which may or may not representative of your website target audience. When using Alexa, make sure that you don’t rely on their absolute count, but pay attention to only the trend data. You, however, can use the reported absolute count to compared your Alexa site stats against that of your competitors.
While Alexa used its own toolbar to gather data and is very explicit about it. Compete.com uses data from ten or more sources including data from Internet Service Provider (ISP), Application Service Provider (ASP) data, toolbars or desktop applications, and from members who use Compete services and voluntarily opt in to provide data. The multiple sources of data is Compete’s advantages as their data are collected based a larger group of the population, which may cover more of your site target audience.
Compete.com does offer you some data for free; however, if you want to have more data, you’ve got to pay.
The way Compete gets data have raised many eyebrows especially in the case of the Upromise toolbar, which was mentioned on TechCrunch. However, here I’m only discussing the accuracy of data rather than the legality of how they were obtained; on that front alone, Compete does offer values.
Google Ad Planner
Google Ad Planner does offer valuable data including unique visitors, total visits, page views, average time on site and even age, gender and education. More importantly, it’s free to use. However, it looks like the tool doesn’t have data for small sites. If your site and your competitors’ sites are heavy traffic ones, you may be lucky and get data from Google Ad Planner. Otherwise, the tool is sort of something that’s nice to know but of no practical use to you.
SEMRush is a lesser known tool compared to the above mentioned; however, their data seem to be pretty accurate and should offer value to your research. They have data for both big and small sites. I did check the reported data for some of the websites I know and noticed the data were pretty on point. Like most sites, they give away some free data, but to view more data, you’ll have to pay.
Together with the above mentioned tools, I’ve heard about Quantcast, ComScore. However, I didn’t have a chance to really find out whether or not those are noteworthy in terms of getting competitive web data.
Now you have it. Let’s do some SWOT Analysis for website!
Hope it’s helpful! Good, bad or just so so, let me know what you think.