1. Site audience comparison tools

What do these tools do?

They provide marketers with industry and competitor intelligence to help inform decisions (e.g. new markets, new content strategies). Some of these tools also provide powerful segmentation capabilities. Typically, they do this either by aggregating Internet Service Provider data, panel data or a mixture of the two.

Why are they important to digital marketers?

þ Competitor benchmarking, search and content strategies, audience segmentation, market size and geo and demographic data; whether you’re launching a new product, entering a new market or wishing to understand what’s driving competitor growth, these tools can provide the relevant information to help inform key decisions. They’re often used to support business cases, helping to identify opportunities and threats in the competitor landscape. See the Smart Insight’s post for more on the capabilities of competitor intelligence.

Key things to consider before purchasing and when using these tools:

þ The majority of these tools require signi cant investment. They also provide huge amounts of raw data. It’s important to recognise that getting the most from these tools requires dedicated resource; agencies and brands with dedicated analytics teams will likely gleam the most value from these tools. Although limited, some (e.g. SimilarWeb) have a free version and most, if not all, will provide free trials.

þ Accuracy isn’t guaranteed. Bear this mind especially if other sources of data are limited when informing key decisions. If testing tools from this category, compare the metrics in each tool with the data in your web analytics (they won’t match exactly). Making these checks periodically is recommended once you’ve invested.

þ Data collection options. Due to the way these tools collect their data, there continues to be questions over the accuracy of the mobile statistics provided. Make this a key point of discussion with any of the providers you speak to in this category.

1.1 SimilarWeb

Free version provides top-level benchmark of site visitors without need for trial. Chrome extension.

Why do I need it?

Comparing the number of visits between sites can help make the case for more investment. You can also learn about acquisition tactics from the breakdown in traf c sources and keywords how your competitors are driving visits to their site.

What makes it stand out?

Free version is most useful for benchmarking of the other contenders in this category. It also has insights on the number of mobile app users.

Key features

þ Free version compares visits between sites broken down by channel
þ Paid version compares organic and paid keywords including not provided þ Review most popular pages and campaign strength (paid version)
þ Mobile app engagement (paid version)

The Smart Insights view

Best in class

We think this is now the best free benchmarking tool with the paid service offering good visibility.

As with all of these benchmarking services, you have to review the accuracy of the sample. In the case of SimilarWeb it’s based on browser toolbars and extensions.

Disclosure: SimilarWeb are a Content Partner of Smart Insights.

1.2 Alexa

Free forever but limited without paid subscription. 7-day free trials available for all plans. 3 tiers for plans; Basic, Insight and Advanced. Monthly subscription. Toolbar extension for Chrome.

Why do I need it?

Compare the visits to a domain across to monitor and benchmark against competition.

What makes it stand out?

Easy-to-use tools as part of Amazon. APIs can be integrated to validate own analytics software, but also allow comparisons against competitor sites.

Key features

þ Competitor intelligence to benchmark against competitors

þ Onsite intelligence to improve upon own site performance and highlight issues through site audit tools

The Smart Insights view

Top 5 Tool

This is a great tool for a quick look at a site domain, providing it is getting a decent traf c volume. Tools and visualisations are very easy to use, and although the free version offers limited insight, it can give indicative data. For smaller sites, free tools can offer little data however. The paid-for tool offers a large variety
of additional data to go into greater depth. Remember that like competitors, although based on a sample of millions of Internet users, data is only representative of users who have downloaded one of the browser extensions.

1.3 Google Analytics Benchmarking

Free to all Google Analytics users. Requires enabling in Google Analytics.

Why do I need it?

A free feature within Google Analytics which enables a top level view of the number of visits within category.

What makes it stand out?

Based on most accurate gures – recorded directly by Google Analytics across many sites within a speci c category, although actual visits not known.

Key features

þ Benchmarks provided in category for visits and engagement (based on bounce rate)

The Smart Insights view

Top 5 Tool

This is a neat feature in Google Analytics which you may not been aware of since it was re-introduced in 2014. It isn’t rated top since it doesn’t aim to show the absolute number of visits.

Read a Smart Insights article on how to set it up and use it.

1.4 Compete

No free trials available. Paid plans only with tiered functionality according to subscription: Intro, Advanced and Enterprise. Monthly or annual payments.

Why do I need it?

Monitor online competition, benchmark performance against industry, and discover new business opportunities.

What makes it stand out?

Great data visualisation built on Millward Brown research – dashboard but also for drill-down up to 2 years past. Offers cross-discipline insight.

Key features

þ Understand audience share of website
þ Reach, engagement and loyalty metrics for a domains þ Build upon SEO and SEM strategies
þ Keyword and click data for domains

The Smart Insights view

Top 5 tool

This service offers a great depth of cross-industry data to businesses with multi-functions e.g. sales, marketing, analysis, research etc. It is a key tool for larger businesses with multiple users and need for data driven campaigns and competitor monitoring, and agencies covering a variety of clients with different requirements. It comes are a high cost though, but does include training and support to get the most from the tool.

1.5 Experian Hitwise

No open access trial.

Paid service for large organisations looking for demographic information and understanding of customer journeys.

Why do I need it?

Provides benchmarking of websites with detailed audience breakdown Understand audience behaviour across different websites and devices

What makes it stand out?

Access to demographic information.
Good quality keyword data for comparing paid and natural keywords

Key features

þ Benchmark visits to sites across different sites broken down by channel
þ Understand competitor strategies for af liate marketing, display and search þ Understand customer journeys through upstream and downstream visits

The Smart Insights view

Top 5 Tool

Hitwise has no insight available for non-customers. It’s strengths are a good quality sample based on collaboration with ISPs and integration of audience data. Hitwise has become part of a broader marketing suite.

2. Digital Analytics tools

What these tools do

Traditionally, these services were known as ‘web analytics’ tools since they focused on measuring and reporting on visitors to websites including the source of the visits and the sequence of interactions on a site. Today they have broader scope including recording mobile interactions and linking to customer databases and other services, so are known as ‘Digital Analytics’.

Why are they important for digital marketers

The website is still at the heart of most online interactions with a business, so understanding which media sources have driven visits and the outcomes of these visits is still important. Today, digital analytics systems are an important part of business reporting either in their own right, or through integration with other systems.

Key things to consider before purchasing and when using these tools:

þ Accuracy. Google Analytics uses sampling for larger sites which is less accurate than recording each visit.

þ Reporting and analysis options. For examsple, ease of creating customer databases.

þ Recording of individual customer data. This is restricted in Google Analytics for privacy reasons.

þ Mobile reporting and analysis. Tools differ in their degree of mobile reporting.

þ Integration with other data sources. Integration with media services, customer data and business intelligence are key issues in larger organisations.

2.1 Google Analytics

Free tool up to limit of ten million hits per month.

Why do I need it?

Reports on traf c sources for visits to a website and how visitors interact with different pages on site to understand customer journeys. When customised it will report on business outcomes such as leads and sales

What makes it stand out?

Free! Simple usability and interface. De facto standard in

Key features

þ Reports on traf c sources, behaviour and conversion
þ Campaign tracking of links enables
þ Segments enable you to understand behaviour of visitor groups

The Smart Insights view

Best in category

You will almost certainly know this tool unless you have only worked for businesses that use the paid Adobe or IBM-Coremetrics services. We’re fortunate to have such a capable free tool to understand our traf c sources and visitor behaviour. The main limitation is for larger businesses where visits per month number in the hundreds of thousands to millions where sampling will occur meaning that absolute numbers aren’t available. In this case, you will have to consider the next option.

2.2 Google Analytics Premium

From a minimum of $150,000 per year
Standard Google Analytics is effectively a free forever trial

Why do I need it?

Larger organisations bene t from no restrictions on visits recorded, lower latency on reporting time plus availability of support.

What makes it stand out?

Improved capacity is the main difference

Key features

Additional features beyond standard Google Analytics:

þ Roll-up of data from across multiple properties (useful for companies with many country or brand sites)

þ Larger capacity for custom dimensions and metrics and improved attribution þ Improved integration for import and export of advertising and customer data

The Smart Insights view

Top 5 Tool

Most larger organisations who have not committed to Adobe or IBM Analytics will nd investment in GA Premium necessary for improved capacity, accuracy and data integration options.

2.3 Adobe Analytics

Fee only service
No trial
Part of broader Adobe Marketing Suite

Why do I need it?

For advanced analysis and reporting of Digital Marketing, particularly for a large organisation with different business units.

What makes it stand out?

Flexible customisation to fully assess customer journeys and media investments. Integration with other data sources including CRM systems.

Key features

þ Reporting of website audiences and on-site customer journeys þ Customer 360 option
þ Predictive Intelligence option

The Smart Insights view

Top 5 Tool

We’ve included Adobe Analytics at position 3 since it is a well-established, popular product formerly offered as Omniture. It is used widely in larger organisations who were looking for account management and improved data ownership when Google Analytics premium was unavailable.