Avinash wrote a great summary of competitive intelligence tools (CIs) and other good “market” data sources on his blog the other day, and it’s a must-read.
We’ve been saying for years that all of these tools come with caveats, but people still look at tools like comscore and think that the numbers are real. In truth, they’re often nowhere close.
Where the majority of competitive intelligence tools shine is in scalar measurement: what % up or down did we see in the data? Comscore, unless you’re talking about a mega-popular site, is a pretty terrible tool for measuring traffic levels, unique visitor levels, page views, actions, etc. It is, however, a good tool for seeing the percentage change of all of these things. While the small population it uses to measure audience behavior might not be a good sample size to get volume, it is a good sample of how these trends rise and fall.
Tools like Hitwise rely on ISP data, or data collected by the services you connect to the internet through. They typically have a sample size that is much higher (about 100X comscore), but they don’t get the same depth of data from a behavioral standpoint.
What’s the best tool for finding out how much traffic your competitor has? Twitter. Follow their marketing and web analytics people. They brag about their traffic and complain about their problems all the time. Make friends with a web analytics person over there, and they might voice their frustrations and ask you about yours. Hey, data sources are data sources.
Don’t forget to pay Avinash’s site a visit, though. He goes into a lot of detail.