When I (Melanie Nathan – hi!) mentioned looking into Compete.com on Twitter, Rae sent me an email offering to pay for my access to the Standard level of Compete Pro if I’d be willing to write a review about the service and explain to her and others what the heck Compete.com actually does outside of offer sparse, free data. Score!
I’ve spent a month checking out the nooks and crannies of Compete Pro. While there were some things I think could be done better, overall, I was surprised at the accuracy and usefulness of many of the tools and reporting that they provide.
The Good, the Bad, the Awesome
Consumer behavioral data is a powerful research source and Compete seems to have a large pool of data to fish from with over 2 million members. Unfortunately, the data is based on the daily usage of US users only, which leaves a lot of guess work if you’re a business that’s targeting other regions.
The upside is that their Site Referral tool is incredibly accurate. I ran many reports using my sites and the sites of others (who were nice enough to entrust me with their top traffic driving keywords) and in most cases 95% of the queries Compete.com said were the top 30 actually WERE in the real top 30. That’s some mighty awesome competitive intelligence.
The Sharpest Tools in the Shed?
Since I found their service’s to be pretty confusing at first (actually really confusing), I created a general breakdown of what the Compete tools are and what they do.
Get up to 2 years worth of data on one site’s traffic and page views or compare multiple sites at one time. Filter criteria to focus on visitors, engagement and growth for both daily and monthly time frames.
The main downfall is that there isn’t any data available for sites that aren’t widely known:
There are three main tools within the “Search Analytics” section; Site Referral Reports, Keyword Destination Reports and Comparison Reports.
Site Referral tool:
helps you understand what keyword phrases drive traffic to either a specific site or an entire industry. You can enter an individual URL and get specific data tailored to that site or you can choose a category/niche from a comprehensive drop down list of industries to get more general data.
For example, according to “Site Referral” here are the top few keywords driving traffic where it comes to the Automotive Dealers industry:
Even if the data isn’t 100% accurate it provides a nice list of related keywords depending on your industry or niche. These keywords can then be plugged into your favorite keyword research tool to determine their potential.
Keyword Destination tool:
helps you understand which sites are capturing traffic from specific keyword phrases and the variations of that phrase. Plug in a keyword you uncovered using Site Referral and get a list of the top sites.
Keyword destination reports can also be helpful for identifying places to distribute content for a non-commercial term that relates to a commercial topic. You can find the sites that get the most traffic for the non-commercial term, sort them by overall traffic and start contacting them to offer them free content in exchange for publicity.
Keyword destination also allows you to search for complimentary keywords to find people you might be able to cross promote with. For example a site that features wedding supplies might do a keyword destination report on “photography” to find sites that may be willing to exchange links in a fashion that actually drives juice AND traffic between two worthwhile, complimentary sites. Same with finding places to advertise.
lets you compare two different sites to highlight gaps in search referrals that might represent new search marketing opportunities for your site. For example you can see by the screenshot below that 1800flowers.com clearly has the advantage over ftd.com for the term “flowers” but ftd.com has the advantage when it comes to the term “flower delivery”.
Another tool that Compete offers is Ranked Lists which are lists of the most popular sites across the Internet, ranked by; unique visits, visits, page views, total time spent on site or monthly attention. This feature could be utilized to judge your site’s presence in the context of its peers, find new domains to partner with or simply analyze Internet trends.
Choose to run a report on 25 domains or go all the way up to 500,000 domains (download this ranked list for the top sites in August 2008 by unique visitors for an example). If you don’t know what to make of the data (or you require more in depth data), they also offer a “Custom Analysis” solution (which I’m going to guess costs extra).
Using this tool you can find out which sites are sending traffic to a specific website or which sites a website is sending traffic to.
Compete.com also offer information on Paid Clickthroughs, but to me, the data is extremely inaccurate. I plugged in a few sites which I know do not spend a dime on paid advertising yet it says they do. For now though, I’ve decided to reserve judgment on this tool until I experiment more.
They offer a free (but limited) version of their service, which allows you to compare up to 5 sites at one time and export the data. You can also grab a free tool bar for your browser. With a paid plan though, you gain access to the rest of the tools and you’re able to generate more reports. The subscription is priced and billed monthly but it also offers an “Enterprise” subscription which requires contacting Compete.com for a quote to obtain pricing.
Prices for their monthly plans range from $199 to $500 and are based on Intro, Standard and Advanced usage and also how many reports you plan to generate (you can generate 50 reports per month at the $199 level and 100 reports per month at the $299 level).
If you can do without the paid vs organic search breakdowns and can live with 200 sites for your ranked lists requests, the $199 plan should be sufficient for anyone without the need to run more than 50 reports a month (50 reports is a lot of data if you actually dig deep into what you learn from the reports and act upon it).
Also, I have to note that when looking for an easy way to cancel the Compete service to ensure it existed, I realized there wasn’t one. Unfortunately, at the moment, if you want to downgrade the paid plan you’re on or cancel the service all together, you have to email customer support at email@example.com.
While annoying, when questioned about this, Compete.com’s General Manager, Gregg Poulin stated:
“We are currently in the process of developing that functionality for end users to complete it through the interface. We outsource our billing/payment system and have hit some bumps in getting the two technologies to speak to each other – that will be resolved this month.”
I look forward to seeing them follow through on this point.
Learn How to Use Compete
Compete is a tad confusing to use – at first. Like many companies, they simply hand you their tools and tell you to jump right in. If you’re a data junkie, that’s not a problem, but if you’re new to all this then you’ll probably need some help getting started. Compete’s FAQ section answers a lot of questions. It’s full of basic information on:
- Where Compete gets their data
- How to use their individual tools
- Ideas for how to read and interpret the results
The most helpful resource is probably their blog which is a wealth of information due to the case studies they regularly publish. Reading their blog will help give you a grasp on what type of data can be gathered and how it can be used to help sculpt your marketing campaign.
Who Should Use Compete?
I think any marketer or site owner can use Compete and be reasonably happy with the results. In my opinion, Compete.com is for people who need:
- Either continuous access due to large ongoing projects or a month here/month there to look up info for ongoing smaller projects
- Ballpark traffic details about popular/known sites
- Help with brainstorming for new keywords
- Help identifying new sites to partner with or advertise on
I think Compete.com is well-suited to the user that wants to use the tools to look for related topics, keywords and niches for new ideas to get an idea of what they may be up against and where gaps and opportunities may lie.