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February 11, 2008

Search Analytics Select from Compete

By Alex Cohen

I last wrote about Compete in my review of Compete Search Analytics.  The team has a new product: Search Analytics Select--a custom report with search marketing competitive intelligence.  Product Managers Alex Patriquin and Jeremy Crane walked me through the tool.

Is it worth your time and money? Maybe, maybe not.  Read on.

Search Analytics Select - A Review by Alex Cohen

Why Does Competitive Intelligence Matter?

The problem with web analytics data is that they're very insular.  You know what's happening on your site and with your marketing, but those data lack seasonal and competitive context.  You might think you hit the jackpot when your visits go up 30% one month, but what if you're competitors increased their visits 100% (assuming the same base, for illustration purposes)?

You want to know, but the problem is that your competitors aren't about to disclose their data.  There's a whole industry built around trying to solve this problem.  comScore, Nielsen, HitWise, Quantcast, Compete, Alexa--the options abound. 

In the world of search marketing is particularly focused: you're targeting keywords for your SEO or building out keywords for your paid search and you want information:

  • Which words convert the best? 
  • Who's winning for this query? 
  • What is my keyword share?
  • What words is my competitor winning that I'm not?

Enter Search Analytics Select.

What is Search Analytics Select?

Search Analytics Select, or SAS for short, is just a simple monthly Excel spreadsheet at the moment.  At the base level, you get a set of reports on your site plus 4 competitors for one sector (ex: car manufacturers) and one segment (mid-size car buyers).

The reports cover:

  • Top 100 search terms by visit for the most recent month
  • Time on site (engagement in their terms)--my least favorite metric ever
  • Conversions - specific conversion events on competitor sites that you want to track

Search Terms

This report shows only the terms used by this particular segment.  To get historical data, you must request additional analysis from Compete. As you get new reports, you can compare to the past.  A full list of terms, or a brand vs. unbranded breakdown, are available for additional fee. 

Conversion

Conversions are totally customizable during setup.  Non-ecommerce site analysis generally looks for common variables.  Annoyingly, conversion rate is not calculated for you, but the raw data are there and you can do it yourself.

Conversion is further broken down into immediate and total.

Immediate conversions are search referred visitors converting (think dealor locator or request for quote on a car site) in the same session as the search referral.  That is to say, I search, I arrived, I converted. 

Total conversions includes immediate or total and it

  • Goes beyond direct response activity

  • Includes people who at some point prior to their conversion got their by search

  • Came from search at some point within that month, but did not convert within the session and may have also gone through other channel

I think Total Conversions actually raises an interesting question: How many channels does it take to convert?  Sadly, SAS does not break out all referral activity; that's an extra charge.

Format

All of these data are in a spreadsheet.  Eventually, the plan is to convert SAS into a web based tool. For moment, Compete is focusing on adding features to Compete Search Analytics in the next few months.  Once that's finished, then will refocus on new functionality to Compete.com. The timing of SAS changes, such as the introduction of an API, depends on client pickup. It should happen in Q3/Q4, no sooner.

One Giant Caveat

Like Compete Search Analytics, Search Analytics Select does not separate paid and organic search traffic. Jeremy says this distinction should be rolled out in the next month on both products (Q2). 

I consider it a major weakness would advise you to think hard about exactly what data you need.

How Does Segmentation Work?

You can choose custom segments OR pre-defined segments (300-400 different ones). Segmentation is based on behaviors (site visitation and behaviors). 

If you're a more traditional brand marketer, they can do demographics based upon panel.  Jeremy claims that they have found behavior is a much more effective way to segment consumers. 

They can survey their panel for additional psychographic research though I'm wary of panel based data.  Sample sizes tend to be small and not always representative.

Where Do the Data Come From?

Compete has data from roughly 2 million people.  There are two main sources of data – proprietary data gathered from people who use their toolbar and other company's tools and 12 points of partner data that they purchase.

The proprietary data comes in real time from the Compete toolbar, private label toolbars (Upromise), and Firefox plugins like Search Status.

The partner data comes in daily feeds from internet service providers (ISPs) and application service providers (ASPs), like WeatherBug.

In case you're curious about privacy, the panel has PII filters and does not capture personal information.  Compete's technology has URL or clickstream rules to “star out” personal data in the data.

How is it Different From HitWise?

Jeremy believes that HitWise is a "very generic product".  He cites SAS's conversion data and in-depth and specific segmentation.  He claims that HitWise doesn't include conversion data at the level Compete does, though I have to verify this.

How Much?
Don't bother rooting around your account for Compete credits, they're aiming to make this a Hitwise competitor and are pricing it as such.

Pricing ranges from $50,000 - $250,000/year based on:

  • Number of competitors you want to track
  • How many segments you want to include

Is It Worth It?
I like Search Analytics Select's customization.  You can clearly articulate a business question about the competition and have the spreadsheet designed to answer that question. 

At the moment, however, the lack of separation of paid and organic search traffic is limiting.  Also, the presentation in a spreadsheet doesn't let you easily explore the data as you might in a web-based tool.

This product is obviously aimed at a mid-to-large size company with a substantial web analytics budget.  I would definitely include Compete in a request-for-proposal process for competitive intelligence information. 

That said, my inclination is that the product is too new to warrant $50k/yr+ investment.  Unless you have a question that just can't be answered by any of the other competitive intelligence vendors, I'd let the folks at Compete keep adding features and check back with them in 6 months.

--> If you liked this post, you might like my post about web analytics process over at my marketing optimization blog, Digital Alex.

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