4 Free Competitive Metrics Research Tools

November 19th, 2008 Da Vinci

In the online marketing world, research tools like comScore Media Metrix, Nielsen Net Ratings and Hitwise are considered the authority for competitive metrics. But their measurement methods have been challenged and new and interesting competition has been booming. Significantly Google, the uber online force, has entered the space which means that the premium services are under pressure to reduce prices and deliver better products – great for us consumers!

No one market research tool is perfect and often it is best to look at more than one to get the information that you need. It is so much easier when they’re free! So here are four of the best free tools that you can use for competitive analysis.

Google Ad Planner

Google Ad Planner
The [big] new kid on the block that launched a few months ago, and when it did it knocked comScore shares down by over twenty percent. In typical Google style it is free and all you need is a Google account – that’s why we love Google!. The reason why Google Ad Planner made such an impact on comScore shares is because Google has so much more data – and information – at their disposal and just like Search, they have the ability to crush anyone in that space. Ad Planner gathers its data from:

a variety of sources, such as aggregated Google search data, opt-in anonymous Google Analytics data, opt-in external consumer panel data, and other third-party market research. link

Ad Planner has huge potential with their incredible database of marketing intelligence. Learn more about Ad Planner from this great post by Avinash Kaushik.

P.S. It is quite disturbing that they block stats to google.com, but not to Yahoo! or Microsoft! (You need to be logged in with your Google account to access these links)


The two year old company has been making quite a splash. Quantcast’s claim to fame is that they supplement panel data with server-level data from participating publishers via JavaScript tagging. What I do find really interesting is their approach towards bridging the gap between on-line and off-line marketing data: less people than cookies, rather than more people than circulation.

Addressing this challenge requires innovation in bridging the inherent differences between the directly measureable cookies and estimates of people. This is not unlike challenges that the media industry has previously faced in bridging the “what� (raw traffic) and the “who� (actual people) in Print. The magazine industry provides an analogy to the challenges in the digital space in that circulation is a “census� level data point (it represents the reported number of magazines printed and distributed) which is coupled with panel data for people-based adjustments (readers per copy, demographics, etc). As we shall see, in digital the correction factors are reversed (less people than cookies, rather than more people than circulation) but the hybrid approach leveraging raw circulation and panel data is relevant. link


CompeteInc, a research firm, also launched their competitive analytics service called Compete about 2 years ago and they are seen as the main Alexa alternative, mostly because of their toolbar. Compete collects it’s click stream data from participating ISPs, the Compete Toolbar and opt-in panels. Not everyone approved at first, but they have been quite busy as can be seen in their blog and they are continually improving.

However, they really are punting their premium services and are not giving enough away for free. Their free Site Analytics reports are the main attraction and they are excellent, but their Search Analytics and Referral Analytics are simply sample teasers. Perhaps they’ll loosen up now that Google has entered the market space!


Alexa has been around for a decade in spite of all the criticism of their data collection methods and how their stats can be manipulated. Even McAfee SiteAdvisor warns that their toolbar could be spyware. However, it remains a handy tool for quickly checking Web site metrics and for doing sanity checks.

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