Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tools: Keeping Up with Your Bloggy Neighbors

Have you ever wondered whether your site gets more traffic than those of your fellow bloggers? Nobody has to know that you took a peek at these free comparison tools to find out just how well you're doing:

Enter your domain in Alexa's search bar and select "site ranking" from the menu. Don't be surprised if your blog doesn't get enough hits for Alexa to show much data. Underneath the graph you'll be shown are five slots for typing in other domain names. Adjust the scale of the graph with a slider. Alexa also features a sidebar link to the Wayback Machine, which lets you see how your favorite blogs looked in the past.

Alexa's taken its share of criticism for a lack of accuracy that's due to how it collects information. According to Alexa, "traffic rankings are based on the usage patterns of Alexa Toolbar users and data collected from other, diverse sources over a rolling 3 month period" (link).

The site analytics at let you compare three domains at once. With Compete, you may have trouble getting stats if you have a blogspot address or if your blog is a blogspot blog forwarded to a .com url.

Of the tools listed here, Compete's analysis of traffic per month was the most accurate. Compete's data comes from "the daily web usage of more than two million members (and growing!) of the Compete community" (link).

Quantcast's open internet ratings service profile gives you tons of great, if questionably accurate, info. Enter a domain name at the index page (use if you've got a Blogger blog) and you'll be shown who's reading, how old they are, their ethnicity, whether they have kids, their income, and how much education they have. You'll also see visit frequency; are most of your visitors "addicts," "regulars," or "passers-by." You'll even get a list of other sites your visitors like. To fully use Quantcast, the blog(s) in question should be a year old.

How does Quantcast know all this? Quantcast starts with "a panel of several million people who anonymously share their web usage history" and combines that data with info from publishers who have tagged their sites for measurement (link). From the data Quantcast showed me for Baby Cheapskate, I don't have much confidence in the algorithm. You'll get more accurate results if you sign up with Quantcast to be "quantified."

Google Trends is a popular service, but your blog needs to be huge to be included. More about Google Trends.

Although the data from none of these sites is dependable for one site alone, the comparison tools still give you a pretty good idea of how your blog compares with others. Play around with these and let me know what you think.

Caveat: None of these services should be used to track your own site's traffic. They're way too inaccurate. What they can do is give you a measure of how your blog fares against others in terms of overall traffic volume and growth.