Compete.com has become a popular way to gauge a website's traffic. But, the main purpose of the site is to compare up to 3 websites to see which is getting the better traffic.
Companies and PR reps often use this site to measure the amount of traffic that a blog is getting. But, this makes some site owners (like me) unhappy. Back in February I noticed that my Compete traffic took a nosedive. It has not come back since. In doing some poking around, I see that I am not the only one with this complaint. It seems to have happened to quite a few sites.
And that is just a few of them. There are many more!
But, what is the problem really? I reached out to Compete support a while ago and this is what I got:
Thanks for reaching out to us about your site. I know that it can often be confusing when comparing the traffic numbers for local analytics (google, omniture, etc.) to the numbers on Compete.com. At the core the methodologies are like comparing apples to oranges, they're both fruit – just produced from different trees. Think of compete numbers as an orange – research numbers that help you understand your size and trends against your competition. Local analytics is more like the apple that helps you understand what's happening on your site so you can improve your visitor's experience. They're great supplements to one another in terms of getting a more complete picture of the internet, but are inherently very different in the approach you take to consuming the data sets.
From a more technical perspective panel-based clickstream data (Compete.com) and web analytics data (local analytics (Google Analytics) and server logs) stems from the underlying methodologies that each approach use. At a high-level, panel-based providers like Compete measure online behavior based on consumers, whereas local analytics measure similar behaviors based on cookies. The consumer metrics that panel companies provide are based on statistically-derived estimates that are derived from a representative sample of consumers; in this instance, the behaviors of the sample are weighted and extrapolated to represent the entire internet browser population. The cookie-centric metrics that web analytics companies provide are developed on simple counts of cookies for all of the web pages that are a tagged on a site or a set of sites; when a consumer visits a specific page on a site, that visit is counted by the web analytics platform.
Both approaches have their strengths and limitations. Panel-based measurement provides excellent insight into visitor demographics, what consumers do across all of the websites they visit and analysis over long time periods. The limitation of consumer panels is that they sometimes do not provide sufficient sample to measure “low incidence” behaviors such as visiting very small sites, using rare search terms, or interacting with low-traffic pages on specific websites. Compete's panel is one of the largest in the industry, this helps us ensure that we can measure and report on more of these infrequent behaviors compared to other panel providers.
Cookie-based web solutions are good sources of information on all of the behaviors that occur within a website, and therefore can be used to calculate and optimize site flow, conversion rate and other onsite activities. In this manner, web analytics are not subject to the same sample requirements as panel companies. However, there are some limitations that cookie-based solutions are susceptible to that panel-based measurement services are not. Cookie-based data can be affected and sometimes inflated by the deletion of a user's cookies, incorrect page tagging, and susceptibility to bots or spiders. Also, the data found on Compete.com comes from our panel of U.S. users, local analytics and server logs collect U.S. and International data.
I hope this explanation can help clear up any questions that you might have with our numbers vs. those seen when looking at Google Analytics and server logs. Please let me know if you have any other questions that I can help you answer. If you'd like to learn more about our methodology please reference our data methodology whitepaper: http://media.compete.com/site_media/upl/img/Compete%20Data%20Methodology.pdf.
No matter how many fancy terms or explanations they use to explain it, the bottom line is that compete makes some sites traffic look bad. The biggest complaint from bloggers is that Compete ONLY MEASURES US TRAFFIC (imagine big flashing blinky red text). I get a fair amount of traffic from non-US sites. So, who is Compete to decide that only US traffic is important? When I check my stats on Compete, it usually only shows a 3rd of what Google Analytics shows for visitors. That is quite a difference. And that makes me feel like poo! 🙂
I have only had to apply for one opp so far that cared about my Compete numbers, and luckily the organizer did not care too much. But, I am concerned that more companies are using Compete to gauge a blog's influence because it is public and easy to use.
Have you checked your numbers on Compete? Do they seem accurate?