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The Very Best Search Analysis Tools

The digital world is a busy, dizzying world of data that can easily leave your head swimming in the vast amounts of data available.

Luckily, help is on hand from the insightful world of web analytics tools.

These tools allow you to understand how your digital marketing efforts impact on your traffic performance; they also give you the scope to identify your competitors’ strengths and learn from their own campaigns.

The internet is awash with analytics tools all promising to give you the edge, but we’ve identified five of the best to examine a little closer. To help us with this task, we’ll be using one of them – SimilarWeb – to back up our findings.

The oldest of our chosen tools, Alexa has been crunching web analysis data since the heady days of 1996 when the internet first started to gather pace.

Using a toolbar tracker, Alexa tracks a sample selection of internet traffic activity which is then used by Alexa to structure their rankings and analysis.

To strengthen the validity of this data, Alexa also allows website owners to implement a tracking code directly into their website code for deeper verification.

This 1996 launch date has allowed Alexa to build a strong position in the market. SimilarWeb provides evidence of this by recording that January 2015 saw Alexa receiving an estimated 15.8 million desktop visits.

SimilarWeb shows that Alexa’s most successful traffic sources are direct, referrals and search.

In nearly 20 years of operation, Alexa have managed to carve out a very strong brand in their niche and their traffic reflects this. SimilarWeb shows that 46% of Alexa’s traffic is generated by direct sources; this indicates a brand that people can’t help but type into their browser as a force of habit.

Word of mouth marketing also makes its presence keenly felt as referral sources contribute 31% of Alexa’s traffic. Key contributors to this traffic include varied sites such as Wikipedia, Drudgereport and Amazon.

The third most successful traffic source for Alexa is search with 21% of their traffic originating in SEO efforts. Just over 99% of these SEO efforts arise from organic search, so it’s plain to see that Alexa have identified search as a priority for driving traffic.

Compete was founded by Bill Gross in 2000 and serves a unique purpose in that it primarily provides statistics relating to the behaviour of US visitors to the top million websites.

Compete achieve these statistics with the Compete toolbar which is used in two ways:

  • Firstly, it allows Compete to use recorded URLS to build their database of the top million websites.

Secondly, with this database in place, Compete can then issue a website with a trust score and US internet ranking to help users understand a website’s worth.

A solid history and strong relationship with its fellow Americans means that Compete receive respectful levels of traffic. SimilarWeb reveals that Compete received 4.1 million desktop visits in January 2015.

SimilarWeb demonstrates that the most successful traffic sources for Compete are direct and referrals.

Compete have concentrated strongly on building a brand and one that US citizens will identify as an authority. SimilarWeb demonstrates the effect of this by showing that Compete receive a huge 68% of their traffic from direct sources.

Referrals are important to Compete’s success with them making up 22% of their traffic. The majority of this traffic comes from ‘Internet and Telecom’ and ‘Technology’ sites such as, and

Search and social, however, only contribute small amounts of traffic (7% and 1% respectively), so these sources are less important for Compete.

Entrepreneurs Konrad Feldman and Paul Sutter founded Quantcast in 2006 with the promise that they would deliver direct website measurements as opposed to sampling panels of users.

Quantcast achieve this by allowing site publishers to integrate a tracking pixel into their web pages. The data gathered by these pixels is then used to generate a highly detailed snapshot of a site’s traffic.

This information is then combined with data extracted from browser cookies to build a profile of the web users visiting these sites.

At present, Quantcast are able to measure traffic for around 100 million sites worldwide.

SimilarWeb shows that, despite being less than a decade old, Quantcast are performing well in their niche with around 3.95million desktop visits in January 2015.

SimilarWeb shows how Quantcast have developed a number of different strategies to ensure traffic flows to their site. Direct, referrals, search and display advertising are most important.

Quantcast’s unique selling point of ‘open data’ has allowed them to develop a strong brand and, as SimilarWeb shows, its brand alone is responsible for 44% of Quantcast’s traffic.

Referrals are the second most popular source of traffic for Quantcast with a 23% traffic share. These referrals manifest themselves within in-house links such as and, but also from external tech sites such as

Search channels also contribute significant amounts of data towards Quantcast. 97% of this search traffic is organic search, so Quantcast have concentrated heavily on optimizing SEO to increase their site’s traffic share.

Display advertising for Quantcast is surprisingly high (12%) compared to its peers and reveals a useful ally in YouTube for paid advertising.

Hitwise was first launched in Melbourne, Australia during 1997 by Adrian Giles and Andrew Barlow.



This particular platform goes directly to ISP networks to develop their database of traffic to be analyzed. However, Hitwise do not limit themselves to just one source of stats, they also work with opt-in internet panel providers to strengthen their data.

Despite a history stretching back 18 years, Hitwise receive relatively little traffic compared with their peers. In January 2015 Hitwise received 490,000 monthly vists, but their engagement stats are very high. A time on site of over 10 minutes and a low bounce rate of 23% is very impressive.

Hitwise’s traffic is shown, by SimilarWeb, to mostly be made up from direct, referral and search sources.

As with the other platforms we’ve reviewed, SimilarWeb has a very strong brand with 54% of their traffic coming from direct visits. This shows that SimilarWeb have built a strong footing for their brand and rely on satisfied customers return visits.

Referral traffic is also high with a traffic share of 25%. The top referring sites in-house domains (, search engine compilers ( and tech sites ( Developing affiliate relationships is an important strategy for SimilarWeb, but so is the reliance on word of mouth.

Search traffic is responsible for 16% of SimilarWeb’s traffic, so this is an area they have identified as important. This reliance on SEO is indicated by a 97% dominance of organic keywords over paid ones.

Final Thoughts

All five platform offer innovative ways to compile traffic data and present this to customers.

This variety means that finding the correct platform to solve your analysis needs is that little bit easier.