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4 Free Tools for benchmarking competitor site popularity and more

By Dave Chaffey 23 Sep, 2010

Our recommended tools for comparing your visitor numbers against competitors

All site owners want to know "how do we compare to our rivals" in number of visitors, but of course web analytics tools don't give you that. Instead you have to turn to independent benchmarking tools. I still hear a lot of folk saying they use Alexa, but they really shouldn't unless force to - there are much better tools available - this is what we recommend.

Although the main purpose of these tools is comparing trends in visitor number, they also have other less well-known features that are also helpful to marketers when completing these activities:

  • Benchmark number of site visitors against competitors - can be useful for justifying investment in traffic building, reviewing their seasonality or comparing campaigns
  • Review audience composition e.g. demographics for competitors
  • Review the reach and audience of potential partner sites such as blogs or publisher sites
  • Find basic information on sites linking to your site or competitor sites. See our review of the best competitor backlink analysis tools for more capable tools.

I'll take the example of the clothing retailer to showcase the features of these tools.

Here are our suggestions on the best tools in order of which we think are most valuable

1. Doubleclick Adplanner

Overview: A relatively new tool compared to some on this list, this tool from Google Doubleclick is the best for accuracy since it's based on Google's own data of site popularity and affinity (based on Google Toolbar usage) and additional information such as demographics. But it's still not so well known.

Site address:

NB. Unfortunately on September 5th 2012, Ad Planner information became limited to placements within the Google Display Network (GDN) and this info became unavailable, so reducing it's value for competitor benchmarking. It is still valuable for comparing some media sites that are on the GDN.

  • Domain info
  • Site info
  • Non-GDN placement info
  • Household Income
  • Education
  • Keywords Searched For
  • Videos Also Watched
  • Regional Page Views
  • Worldwide Top Subdomains


  • Gives unique visitor numbers
  • Shows trends
  • Shows audience composition, i.e. age/sex demographic
  • Reports subdomain popularity, e.g. 76K on ASOS
  • Compare site engagement
  • Reports on country popularity
  • Shows related sites useful for identifying direct competitors and potential partners
  • Most accurage? Uses Google search information and where available Google Analytics


  • Information not available for smaller sites, < c 1K visits per day

2. Google Trends for Websites

Site address:

Overview: Many will know about Google Trends which is useful for keyphrase analysis but has been replaced by Google Insights for Search. This tool doesn't offer many additional benefits over Google Adplanner.


  • Main benefit: can compare sites side-by-side unlike Adplanner
  • Estimates of unique visitors when logged in
  • Shows related sites with relative popularity better than Adplanner


  • Lacks demographics

3. Compete

Site address:

Overview: A relatively new entrant rivalling Alexa and Hitwise.


  • Shows variation through time well
  • Great interface
  • Keyphrase share analysis and referrer benchmarking


  • Thin on methodology
  • US-based panel

4. Alexa

Site address:

Overview: One of the most established tools bought by Amazon some time ago, it's still the best option for smaller sites which don't appear in the other toolsets. I hear this recommended often, but for me it's a last resort. Why use it when the Google tools give you much more. You have to think seriously about the toolbar data collection which isn't representative of your average web users IMO.


  • Free
  • Provides engagement, including bounce rate measures for benchmarking


  • Data accuracy - not based on large sample of UK users - how many Alexa or IMDB toolbar users do you know
  • Doesn't give unique visitor values

So that's our round-up! Please share your preferred tools or let us know about any you think we're missing.

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of marketing publisher and learning platform Smart Insights. Dave is editor of the 100+ templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ digital marketing experts. Our resources are used by our Premium members in more than 100 countries to Plan, Manage and Optimize their digital marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is a keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. To learn about my books, see my personal site Digital marketing books by Dr. Dave Chaffey. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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