Hitwise + Alexa = Compete.com

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Just as I am starting to despair about what to blog about today, I stumble upon compete.com – a new competitive traffic comparison site offering a hybrid Alexa/Hitwise approach which suddenly seems to have popped up all over the web (I’ve just seen two ads for it in the space of five minutes).

Reading the compete.com blog, I discover that the company’s actually been going for about five years, offering competitive intelligence services on a basis similar to Hitwise to corporate clients. They’ve just decided to open up their database for public browsing. You can compare the traffic (monthly unique users, rank, page views per visit, visit duration) of up to three sites which are charted competently if unglamorously in their nice, oh-so-web 2.0 interface (is there a mandatory course that website designers have to take these days, entitled “how to make your website look like every other new site on the planet”?)

They commit the unpardonable sin of not providing a mechanism for inserting a particular chart into your blog, so the above shot is a screen capture (courtesy of OneNote 2007’s screen clipping feature).

Historically, Compete Inc’s approach has been to use ISP data to capture traffic info, but they are in the process of launching a toolbar to gather user info, Alexa-style. The toolbar itself seems to be another monetization strategy in its own right – they plan to use the data they capture from toolbar users for targeted marketing (of course). But really, does the world need another toolbar? How often, as an end user, do you need to check the ranking of a site you’re visiting?

The toolbar’s only other visible benefit seems to be that it tries to warn users if it thinks the site they are using might be a phishing site (based upon its traffic history info). This is valiant, but since this functionality is in the newly-released IE7, not exactly essential. They will also face a data de-duplicating challenge when trying to knit the toolbar-gathered data together with the ISP data that is their bread and butter.

So will this fly? It’s nice to see a competitor to Alexa, and the blog seems thoughtful, though it’s the usual run of “How is Zune shaping up against the iPod?” posts that you would expect from a site of this nature. They need to increase their base size and get some international coverage (daily stats would be nice, too) in order to get the scale they need to succeed, though. But thanks for giving me something to write about today.