Jason Falls

Jason Falls

In the second of our short series on free ways to research website traffic, we’re taking a look at Quantcast today. This tool has become one of my favorite places to research websites and blogs as a public relations professional. There are many good things to say about Quantcast and I encourage you to go there, plug in some websites and see what you can see. However, Quantcast has one major drawback: A site owner has to volunteer to be measured by Quantcast, meaning if a blogger doesn’t install the Quantcast code on their site, you’re out of luck. Still, there’s a lot of good, so let’s dive in.

I spoke with Adam Gerber, Quantcast’s director of marketing recently to get past the fancy sales speak on the website and find out exactly what the product is for, how it operates and how someone like I can optimize its use. Essentially, Quantcast provides people-level data about a website’s visitors. Other traffic monitoring and measurement services, like Alexa (which apparently doesn’t care I’m trying to get hold of them) and Compete (which I profiled last week) provide panel data (sampling) that tracks clicks, page views, etc. Quantcast is more complete, census data that tracks every exchange that happens on a site.

Image representing Quantcast as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

Okay, so you have actual clicks and on-site behavior of visitors. But how can your code tell if they’re white/black, young/old, rich/poor, well educated/not?

“We model traffic at an aggregate internet level,” Gerber said. He went into an explanation of cookies and people and how they do and don’t relate. I zoned out because I had a research methods class in graduate school and the first stats term that hits a conversation makes me lapse into some sort of brain-freeze coma. But he did point to a number of reference points they used to sample data points, including several Internet Service Provider and toolbar data additionally supplied to Quantcast, that help them model the traffic to come up with the demographic profiles.

This means while they track census-level data, which is more accurate for traffic and on-site behavior than the sampling other competitors use, for the Quantcast demographic profiling, they do use sampling and modeling to come up with their audience profile numbers. Is there a better way to do this? My brain isn’t big enough to come up with one, so we’ll have to be satisfied the sampling isn’t grossly flawed.

How they collect their data is better. The number of publishers (websites or blogs) they collect isn’t as good because site monitoring by Quantcast is completely voluntary and opt-in for the publisher. They are currently tracking over 90,000 publishers. Gerber claims this gives them a strong view into the traffic patterns and media consumption happening on-line. But it could be better and will be with more opt-ins from publishers.

That said, Quantcast offers both bloggers and public relations professionals trying to reach them some very powerful tools for success. Here’s how.

HOW QUANTCAST HELPS PUBLIC RELATIONS

Quantcast is actually built as a tool for media planners and buyers. These are people who are given a budget to buy on-line (or off-line) advertising who must then find the most effective way to use the dollars to reach a certain target audience. Quantcast gives media planners and buyers a powerful tool to see the demographic makeup of an website or blog audience.

But like the media planner and buyer, public relations professionals need to know which blogs or websites are the most relevant to the target audience for their clients. Using Quantcast, PR pros can either verify the data of a single website by reviewing its Quantcast data or they can use the very useful Media Planner tool Quantcast provides.

By plugging in the makeup of the audience you are looking for (Let’s say men, aged 25-34 with a college or graduate level education in the Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio markets.), you’ll quickly find that Austinist.com had the highest composition index of that target of any site in those markets, but has just 4,000 or so of them visiting each month. You can also see that the newspapers — chron.com and dallasnews.com — offer the most eyeballs from the audience you’re looking for and that, surprisingly (at least to me) the third highest visited site in terms of total traffic of your demographic in question in these cities is evite.com.

You can search sites based on maximum or minimum levels of monthly uniques, so you can, in fact, get down to the niche or blog level with your research, giving your blogger outreach research some quantitative back-up.

The coolest thing about the tool is, of course, that it’s free. All you have to do is register to use the site.

HOW QUANTCAST HELPS BLOGGERS

I’ve reported this before but it’s worth repeating so that more bloggers see it and, hopefully, take advantage of it.

Many bloggers want to make money with their efforts and, thus, are constantly looking for advertising for their sites. But marketing managers aren’t going to actually pay to advertise on a blog without some indication that the buy makes sense. By having site demographics available for potential advertisers, bloggers can solidify the marketer’s decision-making to buy on your site. In some cases, particularly with the alcohol, wine and spirits industry of which I’m fairly familiar, a blog without third-party verification of site demographics is automatically out of consideration for advertising dollars.

The bottom line is this, bloggers: You can’t say, “I write about gadgets, Sony, so you should advertise on my site,” and expect to sell it. Sony spends millions of dollars on advertising every year. You have to say to them, “Eighty-seven percent of my audience is upper-income, highly educated males which means your advertisement will reach a higher percentage of your target on my blog than through other media you’re using.” That, and the total number of eyeballs (keep in mind big brands buy ads that reach millions of people) will get Sony’s attention.

Of course, there are bloggers out there who don’t want the public knowing their actual site traffic or demographic data. While there may be exceptions to this, I think those are bloggers who know they have little to offer, so they feel the need to have much to hide. If you want to monetize your blog, advertisers need third-party verification they’re spending money in the right places. Quantcast provides this in as accurate a form as any other service. Don’t be a wimp. Install the code.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Quantcast is a powerful free tool for both bloggers and public relations professionals, not to mention media planners and buyers. Frankly, it’s astonishing that the tool is free considering you cannot get this type of data on sites with less than 100-200K unique visitors from the paid services like Nielsen and ComScore. Yes, it is somewhat limited since the blogger or publisher has to opt-in to being measured, but the more publishers that learn its advantages and opt-in, the better it will be.

When I’m doing research on blogger outreach for my clients and need to understand traffic or demographic information about a site in question, I start with Quantcast. Sure, I wish there were a better way to research a site’s demographics other than modeling, but no one else can offer a better solution that I can find. So, as far as site research tools go, Quantcast is an excellent addition to your arsenal.

And, oh by the way, since I did a quality check on Compete.com last week bringing to light some major concerns with how their numbers stack up to Google Analytics, I checked on Social Media Explorer’s stats with Google and Quantcast. For the month of January, through Jan. 24, Quantcast and Google Analytics had a discrepancy of just 61 unique visits and 27 page views. For all of 2008 (or from April 11 on, which is when I installed Quantcast code on my site), Quantcast was only off by 61 page views and 372 unique visits. Why the differences? I don’t know. But the numbers are a lot closer than Compete’s.

But those are my opinions. What did I miss? Is Quantcast as cool as I think it is? Your experiences and thoughts are needed below. The comments are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • MoneyMan

    Your second to last paragraph is so flawed it does not even merit a comment – however, it just shows your ignorance from directly measured data vs. compiled panel based data. Any one reading this should stop since this is clearly a person who has no idea what they are reviewing. Comparing panel vs. directly measured is an abuse of data and should be laughed at. HA HA.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Not that I normally respond to turds who don't sign their name and are impolite in their comments on my blog, but the purpose of this series is to compare the three major free traffic measuring services — Compete, Alexa and Quantcast. The technical difference in how they are measured is pointed out before the paragraph in question and the information is provided only as comparison of the two tools, which are admittedly different.

      You are welcome to flippantly think whatever you want, but come armed with a better argument if you're going to do it in writing on my blog. Oh, and sign your name. It's much less chicken-shit-ish.

  • MoneyMan

    Your second to last paragraph is so flawed it does not even merit a comment – however, it just shows your ignorance from directly measured data vs. compiled panel based data. Any one reading this should stop since this is clearly a person who has no idea what they are reviewing. Comparing panel vs. directly measured is an abuse of data and should be laughed at. HA HA.

  • MoneyMan

    Your second to last paragraph is so flawed it does not even merit a comment – however, it just shows your ignorance from directly measured data vs. compiled panel based data. Any one reading this should stop since this is clearly a person who has no idea what they are reviewing. Comparing panel vs. directly measured is an abuse of data and should be laughed at. HA HA.

  • MoneyMan

    Your second to last paragraph is so flawed it does not even merit a comment – however, it just shows your ignorance from directly measured data vs. compiled panel based data. Any one reading this should stop since this is clearly a person who has no idea what they are reviewing. Comparing panel vs. directly measured is an abuse of data and should be laughed at. HA HA.

  • Charles Tranden

    As far as I know, Compete and Quantcast aren't competitors. I think you were trying to make some point about Quantcast being a better tool for PR pros than compete, but then you got into data accuracy… and then you lost me.

    Quantcast has “accurate” representation of 90,000 sites. Compete has data on millions of panelists and tracks millions of sites. Using your example of trying to locate sites in men's sites in texas, it is a near certainty that quantcast will miss and not even consider 10 smaller sites. And there are no comparison features.

    Compete isn't meant for media buyers, and I don't think they pretend to be either…

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thank you for the push back, Charles. While the series is meant to compare and contrast, I've tried to point out features of each tool that are useful in some form or fashion. Quantcast's media planning tool is just an independent add-on it has that I mentioned, not to distinguish it from Compete or Alexa. My hope is that I was clear that the methods of quantifying traffic data are vastly different between Compete and Quantcast. Perhaps I didn't make that point clear enough.

      Regardless of the technical debate points of my argument, I still recommend PR pros start with Quantcast because, if the site is one of the publishers they measure, they are going to get a more accurate view of that site's traffic than they would from Compete or Alexa. If the site isn't represented, Compete or Alexa are alternative solutions they should consider.

      My apologies if I confused those points. Thank you again for the feedback.

      • http://www.intersectionofonlineandoffline.com Mark Story

        Do you know what's incredible? It's hard to sit down and compose a blog post. It takes planning, thinking and good writing. And all are for the benefit of your readers. Oh – and it's usually FREE ADVICE.

        The easy (and really stupid) thing to do is lob bombshells without thinking about the consequences. Michael Arrington is shutting it down because he is tired of uniformed, virulent assholes like this guy. http://tinyurl.com/d92g3p

        Keep writing, Jason. And dear “Anonymous”: start your own damn blog and we'll critique it.

        Mark

  • Charles Tranden

    As far as I know, Compete and Quantcast aren't competitors. I think you were trying to make some point about Quantcast being a better tool for PR pros than compete, but then you got into data accuracy… and then you lost me.

    Quantcast has “accurate” representation of 90,000 sites. Compete has data on millions of panelists and tracks millions of sites. Using your example of trying to locate sites in men's sites in texas, it is a near certainty that quantcast will miss and not even consider 10 smaller sites. And there are no comparison features.

    Compete isn't meant for media buyers, and I don't think they pretend to be either…

  • Charles Tranden

    As far as I know, Compete and Quantcast aren't competitors. I think you were trying to make some point about Quantcast being a better tool for PR pros than compete, but then you got into data accuracy… and then you lost me.

    Quantcast has “accurate” representation of 90,000 sites. Compete has data on millions of panelists and tracks millions of sites. Using your example of trying to locate sites in men's sites in texas, it is a near certainty that quantcast will miss and not even consider 10 smaller sites. And there are no comparison features.

    Compete isn't meant for media buyers, and I don't think they pretend to be either…

  • Charles Tranden

    As far as I know, Compete and Quantcast aren't competitors. I think you were trying to make some point about Quantcast being a better tool for PR pros than compete, but then you got into data accuracy… and then you lost me.

    Quantcast has “accurate” representation of 90,000 sites. Compete has data on millions of panelists and tracks millions of sites. Using your example of trying to locate sites in men's sites in texas, it is a near certainty that quantcast will miss and not even consider 10 smaller sites. And there are no comparison features.

    Compete isn't meant for media buyers, and I don't think they pretend to be either…

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Not that I normally respond to turds who don't sign their name and are impolite in their comments on my blog, but the purpose of this series is to compare the three major free traffic measuring services — Compete, Alexa and Quantcast. The technical difference in how they are measured is pointed out before the paragraph in question and the information is provided only as comparison of the two tools, which are admittedly different.

    You are welcome to flippantly think whatever you want, but come armed with a better argument if you're going to do it in writing on my blog. Oh, and sign your name. It's much less chicken-shit-ish.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Not that I normally respond to turds who don't sign their name and are impolite in their comments on my blog, but the purpose of this series is to compare the three major free traffic measuring services — Compete, Alexa and Quantcast. The technical difference in how they are measured is pointed out before the paragraph in question and the information is provided only as comparison of the two tools, which are admittedly different.

    You are welcome to flippantly think whatever you want, but come armed with a better argument if you're going to do it in writing on my blog. Oh, and sign your name. It's much less chicken-shit-ish.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Not that I normally respond to turds who don't sign their name and are impolite in their comments on my blog, but the purpose of this series is to compare the three major free traffic measuring services — Compete, Alexa and Quantcast. The technical difference in how they are measured is pointed out before the paragraph in question and the information is provided only as comparison of the two tools, which are admittedly different.

    You are welcome to flippantly think whatever you want, but come armed with a better argument if you're going to do it in writing on my blog. Oh, and sign your name. It's much less chicken-shit-ish.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thank you for the push back, Charles. While the series is meant to compare and contrast, I've tried to point out features of each tool that are useful in some form or fashion. Quantcast's media planning tool is just an independent add-on it has that I mentioned, not to distinguish it from Compete or Alexa. My hope is that I was clear that the methods of quantifying traffic data are vastly different between Compete and Quantcast. Perhaps I didn't make that point clear enough.

    Regardless of the technical debate points of my argument, I still recommend PR pros start with Quantcast because, if the site is one of the publishers they measure, they are going to get a more accurate view of that site's traffic than they would from Compete or Alexa. If the site isn't represented, Compete or Alexa are alternative solutions they should consider.

    My apologies if I confused those points. Thank you again for the feedback.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thank you for the push back, Charles. While the series is meant to compare and contrast, I've tried to point out features of each tool that are useful in some form or fashion. Quantcast's media planning tool is just an independent add-on it has that I mentioned, not to distinguish it from Compete or Alexa. My hope is that I was clear that the methods of quantifying traffic data are vastly different between Compete and Quantcast. Perhaps I didn't make that point clear enough.

    Regardless of the technical debate points of my argument, I still recommend PR pros start with Quantcast because, if the site is one of the publishers they measure, they are going to get a more accurate view of that site's traffic than they would from Compete or Alexa. If the site isn't represented, Compete or Alexa are alternative solutions they should consider.

    My apologies if I confused those points. Thank you again for the feedback.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thank you for the push back, Charles. While the series is meant to compare and contrast, I've tried to point out features of each tool that are useful in some form or fashion. Quantcast's media planning tool is just an independent add-on it has that I mentioned, not to distinguish it from Compete or Alexa. My hope is that I was clear that the methods of quantifying traffic data are vastly different between Compete and Quantcast. Perhaps I didn't make that point clear enough.

    Regardless of the technical debate points of my argument, I still recommend PR pros start with Quantcast because, if the site is one of the publishers they measure, they are going to get a more accurate view of that site's traffic than they would from Compete or Alexa. If the site isn't represented, Compete or Alexa are alternative solutions they should consider.

    My apologies if I confused those points. Thank you again for the feedback.

  • http://www.intersectionofonlineandoffline.com Mark Story

    Do you know what's incredible? It's hard to sit down and compose a blog post. It takes planning, thinking and good writing. And all are for the benefit of your readers. Oh – and it's usually FREE ADVICE.

    The easy (and really stupid) thing to do is lob bombshells without thinking about the consequences. Michael Arrington is shutting it down because he is tired of uniformed, virulent assholes like this guy. http://tinyurl.com/d92g3p

    Keep writing, Jason. And dear “Anonymous”: start your own damn blog and we'll critique it.

    Mark

  • http://www.intersectionofonlineandoffline.com Mark Story

    Do you know what's incredible? It's hard to sit down and compose a blog post. It takes planning, thinking and good writing. And all are for the benefit of your readers. Oh – and it's usually FREE ADVICE.

    The easy (and really stupid) thing to do is lob bombshells without thinking about the consequences. Michael Arrington is shutting it down because he is tired of uniformed, virulent assholes like this guy. http://tinyurl.com/d92g3p

    Keep writing, Jason. And dear “Anonymous”: start your own damn blog and we'll critique it.

    Mark

  • http://www.intersectionofonlineandoffline.com Mark Story

    Do you know what's incredible? It's hard to sit down and compose a blog post. It takes planning, thinking and good writing. And all are for the benefit of your readers. Oh – and it's usually FREE ADVICE.

    The easy (and really stupid) thing to do is lob bombshells without thinking about the consequences. Michael Arrington is shutting it down because he is tired of uniformed, virulent assholes like this guy. http://tinyurl.com/d92g3p

    Keep writing, Jason. And dear “Anonymous”: start your own damn blog and we'll critique it.

    Mark

  • http://ericbrown.com ericbrown

    Oh the joys of running a blog. Anonymous users stop by to flame because 'you just don't get it.'

    MoneyMan (and any other trolls out there) – here's a thought:

    If you don't like what you read somewhere, do something about it. Write a response that is well though out and has actual arguments (don't just leave a flame in a comment).

    Write your own blog post about how directly measured data vs. compiled panel based data are different and why people should care.

    If you are out there MoneyMan, I'll give you the blog space to publish this comparison. If you contact me directly and send me an intelligent, well written article that makes your case without attacking anyone, I'll publish it on my blog.

    One caveat though: Along with the article, you'll need to provide your contact info (email and phone) so that people can respond to you.

    Sound like a plan?

  • http://ericbrown.com ericbrown

    Oh the joys of running a blog. Anonymous users stop by to flame because 'you just don't get it.'

    MoneyMan (and any other trolls out there) – here's a thought:

    If you don't like what you read somewhere, do something about it. Write a response that is well though out and has actual arguments (don't just leave a flame in a comment).

    Write your own blog post about how directly measured data vs. compiled panel based data are different and why people should care.

    If you are out there MoneyMan, I'll give you the blog space to publish this comparison. If you contact me directly and send me an intelligent, well written article that makes your case without attacking anyone, I'll publish it on my blog.

    One caveat though: Along with the article, you'll need to provide your contact info (email and phone) so that people can respond to you.

    Sound like a plan?

  • http://ericbrown.com ericbrown

    Oh the joys of running a blog. Anonymous users stop by to flame because 'you just don't get it.'

    MoneyMan (and any other trolls out there) – here's a thought:

    If you don't like what you read somewhere, do something about it. Write a response that is well though out and has actual arguments (don't just leave a flame in a comment).

    Write your own blog post about how directly measured data vs. compiled panel based data are different and why people should care.

    If you are out there MoneyMan, I'll give you the blog space to publish this comparison. If you contact me directly and send me an intelligent, well written article that makes your case without attacking anyone, I'll publish it on my blog.

    One caveat though: Along with the article, you'll need to provide your contact info (email and phone) so that people can respond to you.

    Sound like a plan?

  • http://ericbrown.com ericbrown

    Oh the joys of running a blog. Anonymous users stop by to flame because 'you just don't get it.'

    MoneyMan (and any other trolls out there) – here's a thought:

    If you don't like what you read somewhere, do something about it. Write a response that is well though out and has actual arguments (don't just leave a flame in a comment).

    Write your own blog post about how directly measured data vs. compiled panel based data are different and why people should care.

    If you are out there MoneyMan, I'll give you the blog space to publish this comparison. If you contact me directly and send me an intelligent, well written article that makes your case without attacking anyone, I'll publish it on my blog.

    One caveat though: Along with the article, you'll need to provide your contact info (email and phone) so that people can respond to you.

    Sound like a plan?

  • http://ericbrown.com ericbrown

    Jason – thanks for the write-up. I've not used Compete nor have I really messed with Quantcast…will take a look at both systems.

  • http://ericbrown.com ericbrown

    Jason – thanks for the write-up. I've not used Compete nor have I really messed with Quantcast…will take a look at both systems.

  • http://ericbrown.com ericbrown

    Jason – thanks for the write-up. I've not used Compete nor have I really messed with Quantcast…will take a look at both systems.

  • http://ericbrown.com ericbrown

    Jason – thanks for the write-up. I've not used Compete nor have I really messed with Quantcast…will take a look at both systems.

  • Anthony Power

    First, thanx for the series. I like and use all the services – sometimes Quantcast serves my needs, sometimes its Compete, sometimes Hitwise, sometimes just poking around. There is no silver bullet I'm aware of that combines precise generalities (panels) with exhaustive specifics (direct). Some thoughts on why that holy grail might not appear for a while.

    For as something as big and audacious as 'understanding web traffic' any technology company has to start somewhere – the panel approach has advantages for macro trends, strategy and big budgets and direct measurement has advantages for targeted, tactical decisions. And the funny thing is, once a technology company picks a strategy they're pretty much stuck with improving it. Branding and differentiating paints you onto a path – panels get bigger, but its still a panel; site coverage gets broader, but its still sites. The essence of a technology company can often be found in what problem the founders first solved.

    For panel data companies consistency is more important than truth. I need to be assured that the data I'm looking at is derived the same way over time, segments and properties. I'm much more interested in a10% swing over time than specific counts because decisions are often made on relative changes from a benchmark rather than an absolute. For direct measurement, precision is more important than consistency because the unit of thinking is different, e.g site paths and conversion.

    As to business models, seems to me that the likes of Compete, ComScore, Hitwise, Nielsen locked up the 'representative panel' approach while sacrificing specifics. For example, I tried to link TV spot logs to search traffic and got told by one of them that we don't measure that level of detail. Quantcast (and I've never spoken with them) might have chosen to focus on the opportunity around understanding specific sites. If I were pitching this idea to investors; I'd create a new category and damn the syndicated services with faint praise. “Oh, if you want to understand the 'music category' check out those guys, but if you need to identify specific sites for true relationship marketing and outreach then we're the only game in town. To do this we're going to recruit publishers, not people.'

    Someday, somewhere maybe the two will meet. But until then – different strokes for different folks. Use them all!

  • Anthony Power

    First, thanx for the series. I like and use all the services – sometimes Quantcast serves my needs, sometimes its Compete, sometimes Hitwise, sometimes just poking around. There is no silver bullet I'm aware of that combines precise generalities (panels) with exhaustive specifics (direct). Some thoughts on why that holy grail might not appear for a while.

    For as something as big and audacious as 'understanding web traffic' any technology company has to start somewhere – the panel approach has advantages for macro trends, strategy and big budgets and direct measurement has advantages for targeted, tactical decisions. And the funny thing is, once a technology company picks a strategy they're pretty much stuck with improving it. Branding and differentiating paints you onto a path – panels get bigger, but its still a panel; site coverage gets broader, but its still sites. The essence of a technology company can often be found in what problem the founders first solved.

    For panel data companies consistency is more important than truth. I need to be assured that the data I'm looking at is derived the same way over time, segments and properties. I'm much more interested in a10% swing over time than specific counts because decisions are often made on relative changes from a benchmark rather than an absolute. For direct measurement, precision is more important than consistency because the unit of thinking is different, e.g site paths and conversion.

    As to business models, seems to me that the likes of Compete, ComScore, Hitwise, Nielsen locked up the 'representative panel' approach while sacrificing specifics. For example, I tried to link TV spot logs to search traffic and got told by one of them that we don't measure that level of detail. Quantcast (and I've never spoken with them) might have chosen to focus on the opportunity around understanding specific sites. If I were pitching this idea to investors; I'd create a new category and damn the syndicated services with faint praise. “Oh, if you want to understand the 'music category' check out those guys, but if you need to identify specific sites for true relationship marketing and outreach then we're the only game in town. To do this we're going to recruit publishers, not people.'

    Someday, somewhere maybe the two will meet. But until then – different strokes for different folks. Use them all!

  • Anthony Power

    First, thanx for the series. I like and use all the services – sometimes Quantcast serves my needs, sometimes its Compete, sometimes Hitwise, sometimes just poking around. There is no silver bullet I'm aware of that combines precise generalities (panels) with exhaustive specifics (direct). Some thoughts on why that holy grail might not appear for a while.

    For as something as big and audacious as 'understanding web traffic' any technology company has to start somewhere – the panel approach has advantages for macro trends, strategy and big budgets and direct measurement has advantages for targeted, tactical decisions. And the funny thing is, once a technology company picks a strategy they're pretty much stuck with improving it. Branding and differentiating paints you onto a path – panels get bigger, but its still a panel; site coverage gets broader, but its still sites. The essence of a technology company can often be found in what problem the founders first solved.

    For panel data companies consistency is more important than truth. I need to be assured that the data I'm looking at is derived the same way over time, segments and properties. I'm much more interested in a10% swing over time than specific counts because decisions are often made on relative changes from a benchmark rather than an absolute. For direct measurement, precision is more important than consistency because the unit of thinking is different, e.g site paths and conversion.

    As to business models, seems to me that the likes of Compete, ComScore, Hitwise, Nielsen locked up the 'representative panel' approach while sacrificing specifics. For example, I tried to link TV spot logs to search traffic and got told by one of them that we don't measure that level of detail. Quantcast (and I've never spoken with them) might have chosen to focus on the opportunity around understanding specific sites. If I were pitching this idea to investors; I'd create a new category and damn the syndicated services with faint praise. “Oh, if you want to understand the 'music category' check out those guys, but if you need to identify specific sites for true relationship marketing and outreach then we're the only game in town. To do this we're going to recruit publishers, not people.'

    Someday, somewhere maybe the two will meet. But until then – different strokes for different folks. Use them all!

  • Anthony Power

    First, thanx for the series. I like and use all the services – sometimes Quantcast serves my needs, sometimes its Compete, sometimes Hitwise, sometimes just poking around. There is no silver bullet I'm aware of that combines precise generalities (panels) with exhaustive specifics (direct). Some thoughts on why that holy grail might not appear for a while.

    For as something as big and audacious as 'understanding web traffic' any technology company has to start somewhere – the panel approach has advantages for macro trends, strategy and big budgets and direct measurement has advantages for targeted, tactical decisions. And the funny thing is, once a technology company picks a strategy they're pretty much stuck with improving it. Branding and differentiating paints you onto a path – panels get bigger, but its still a panel; site coverage gets broader, but its still sites. The essence of a technology company can often be found in what problem the founders first solved.

    For panel data companies consistency is more important than truth. I need to be assured that the data I'm looking at is derived the same way over time, segments and properties. I'm much more interested in a10% swing over time than specific counts because decisions are often made on relative changes from a benchmark rather than an absolute. For direct measurement, precision is more important than consistency because the unit of thinking is different, e.g site paths and conversion.

    As to business models, seems to me that the likes of Compete, ComScore, Hitwise, Nielsen locked up the 'representative panel' approach while sacrificing specifics. For example, I tried to link TV spot logs to search traffic and got told by one of them that we don't measure that level of detail. Quantcast (and I've never spoken with them) might have chosen to focus on the opportunity around understanding specific sites. If I were pitching this idea to investors; I'd create a new category and damn the syndicated services with faint praise. “Oh, if you want to understand the 'music category' check out those guys, but if you need to identify specific sites for true relationship marketing and outreach then we're the only game in town. To do this we're going to recruit publishers, not people.'

    Someday, somewhere maybe the two will meet. But until then – different strokes for different folks. Use them all!

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  • ladybird1005

    Hi! I’ve found another site valuation tool and it seems to provide competitive analysis for free. I'm talking about http://www.estimix.com .The estimation provided by estimix is the result of a complex analysis based on factors like: the age of the website, the demographic structure of the traffic, the countries where the website is popular and sources of the traffic.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks for the point. I'll check it out.

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