Compete.com Doesn’t Compete

I can’t take it any more. For years I’ve suffered in (relative) silence, while we’ve continued to use a tool that doesn’t seem to reflect any form of reality, yet no-one seems to say anything about it. I need to ask:

Why do people still use Compete.com?

Case in point

Let’s take a look at my site – davefleet.com.

I’m not going to lie — I’ve neglected this poor thing recently, so traffic numbers have dropped… but Compete makes it look as though someone dropped a bomb on my server.

Let’s compare a few stats between Compete and Google Analytics, and see how things look.

Unique Visitors

  • Google Analytics: 14,972
  • Compete: 1,579 – an 89% variance

Visits

  • Google Analytics: 17,186
  • Compete: 1,900 – again, an 89% variance

“Ah but Dave, perhaps those Google numbers included bots,” I hear you say. Well, I heard myself say it too, so I thought I’d take a closer look.

That’s 97% of visits from browsers – from IE, Firefox, Chrome or Safari. My analytics also tell me that nearly 60% of traffic to the site comes from search engines.

So, where does that leave Compete. Maybe if I gave them access to my site, they’d be able to give more accurate numbers, right?

Wrong.

I have the Compete.com analytics code installed on my site, yet it still spills-out this garbage.

If I can’t trust Compete to get the numbers right when its own code is installed, how can I trust it to get it right when I’m looking at other sites? The numbers it reports border on bizarre, yet we just nod and keep on using it.

Should I believe that CNN.com’s traffic went up by 27% in March compared to February? Should I believe that Mashable’s traffic went down by nearly 30% in the last year?

*twitch*

I think I need to lie down now.

What tools do you use to estimate traffic on third party sites?

  • Matt

     Hi Dave – Matt here, Client Relations Director at compete.com.  I am happy to do my best to clear up any confusion if you reach out to me at support@compete.com.  Compete is based on a sample of 2 million, US based panelists.  We have a small sample warning on your website, which means we have limited data on your domain.  Even when considering your GA numbers, you are well down the long tail of the internet.  The code you’ve installed, it is just for audience profiles and it is only found within that tab of the product.  It does not impact any traffic numbers.  In any event, I’d be happy to explain more if you would like to reach out.

    • Thanks Matt. I saw your tweet (or that of your team) this morning, and have
      reached out – I would be happy to update the piece if there are inaccuracies
      within (and would be thrilled to learn more, too).

    • Hi Matt — one more question: given that, by definition, most websites are “well down the long tail of the internet” (in your words), are you recommending people look elsewhere when considering those sites?

    • Absolon Houlsiek

       Matt – what size of a site still gets the “small site” warning?  It also seems that compete.com skews toward US based “consumery” websites.  ie, even if I dominate a niche, it still seems that my site may get bad, low traffic results according to Compete.  Am I right?

  • Kris Bruynson

     I find resources like this are more research tools than analytics tools. The difference being that research tools are more for trending, finding direction, and supporting analysis. Analytics tools are more absolute; they have real data and figures from actual interactions. I don’t think that compete.com would ever be a tool that will replace analytics since it is based on sampling.

  •  I have used Alexa.com to get rough traffic numbers on 3rd party sites in the past. Its never been something I have focused on, so I suspect some Pro’s will have better suggestions. 

    • Hey Scott,

      Thanks for stopping by. You’re right – really, Alexa, Compete and Quantcast
      are the tri-fecta of traffic stats (plus Google Trends if you’re looking at
      larger sites). I’m not aware of anyone that really has good numbers on sites
      with lower traffic though (although I’d be thrilled to find someone who
      does!)

      Dave

  • I’ve only taken Compete.com (and any other traffic determination site) as subjective, rather than absolute. The numbers mean nothing, but as another commenter said, the relationship between the numbers and the trends are what I look at.

    Hey, at least the variance between your unique visitors and visits have the same variance! 😉

  • Lindsey

    Hi Dave,

    It’s Lindsey from compete Client Relations, we have been corresponding via our support email. I’m just checking in to let you know I’m working on the follow-up to your second round of questions. I’ll be sending you a bit more information in a few. Thanks!

  • Do you use Stumbleupon?  I believe Stumbleupon skews numbers greatly with Google Analytics counting way more than actually hit your site. Just my thought. 

  • Well to be picky, in March many news sites did see a large spike in traffic due to the epic and weeks-long news out of Japan.  That could explain the CNN spike you mention.

  •  I use Quantcast, Google Analytics and then maybe Alexa or Compete. Alexa and Compete state that two of my sites dropped 40-50% in the last few months when Google and Quantcast show they went up 20%. I know that my visitors numbers went up & not down by the number of emails and form submissions I received along with the upward trend in CPU and Memory usage on my Server for the last few months.

  • The problem with Compete is that it’s U.S.-specific. So if your readers are primarily outside the U.S., it’ll look like a ghost blog. Because everyone knows only the U.S. has blog readers… 😉

  • Pingback: Compete Responds To Criticism | davefleet.com()

  • Pingback: Brands: Please Stop Using Compete.com to Measure Blog Traffic | LittleTechGirl.com | A Techy Mom's Nerd Paradise | LittleTechGirl.com | A Techy Mom's Nerd Paradise()

  • Travis Van

    It’s beyond frustrating.  I’ve referred to Quantcast, Alexa, Compete and Google Analytics for the last four years of my business.  I obviously trust Google Analytics data more on our unique visitor stats.  The others I’ve found to be practically worthless.  They each trend our unique visitors in different / conflicting peaks and valleys.  At a certain point there’s just no value in referring to them.