Compete, a company formed in 2000 by Bill Gross of Overture fame, has quietly released a new search engine and at the same time opened up some of its analytics data to the public. What's more, there is an e-commerce component that displays special shopping deals next to search results. I spoke to Compete CEO Don McLagan and other members of his team today to find out more...US analytics firm
Formally Compete was a Web statistics firm that provided analytics services to private customers - similar to Hitwise and Nielsens. So this move to offer search and associated analytics tools is designed to increase their collaboration and community on the open Web.
SnapShot - web analytics
The main analytics product being offered is called Snapshot, which does Alexa-style comparisons between websites - as well as additional metrics such as 'trust'. Indeed the new Compete is similar in nature to Alexa, in that it collects data about website traffic and makes it available to the public. However Compete (unsurprisingly) says that its data is superior to Alexa's, because it uses more than just a toolbar to collect it. Compete gets its data in the following ways:
- The Compete toolbar - works very similar to Alexa toolbar, in that "community members" download the toolbar and opt in to share information on the web pages they visit, as well as other marketing data.
- Opt-In Panels
- Application Providers
Compete currently has more than two million members - and this is growing as new users download their toolbar and Compete expands its data collection, via ISP relationships and the other methods mentioned above.
As with Alexa, there is ranking, pages/visit, avg stay and comparisons (up to 3 domains in total). There's also a People metric - an estimate of unique visitors to a site.
Compete is really challenging Alexa (owned by Alazon) front-on here. The following table, which I found in the FAQs, makes this clear:
Source: Compete.com FAQ
Issues with SnapShot
However in my tests, I identified a couple of downsides to Compete's data - which makes me think that Alexa isn't vanquished just yet. The first is that Compete data is US only. Even the data of international toolbar users is not included. So, as with comScore, this immediately makes Compete's data less comprehensive than it could be. [update: comScore advised me that "comScore has offered international data for quite some time."] Compete told me that this will change over time, but for now they only offer US data.
The second issue is that Compete doesn't provide very accurate data on blogs or small websites. I tested Read/WriteWeb, Techcrunch and some other blogs - and the data was significantly under-reported and trends weren't accurate. So for this reason, Alexa maintains its edge for now as a stats service for blogs and small startups. The Compete data for large websites, like MySpace and Yahoo, is much more compelling though. Compete told me in our briefing that they do intend to cater to 'the long tail', so I'm hoping that data for small websites improves soon.
At first glance when you go to compete.com, you'd be forgiven for thinking it's just another search engine. But search results come with some nifty features. For example search for "computers" and the following page comes up:
At the top are 'sponsored links' (ads). These are followed by 'Compete Picks', which are search results that are determined by the 2 million + community of Compete users. In the FAQ it states that "Compete Picks 'promote' specific search results based on the input of the Compete community." Compete Picks only appear for popular search terms currently, but it's hoped that as Compete's memberbase grows it will be able to feature Compete Picks for more obscure search terms.
There are also icons for trustworthiness of websites and a Snapshot stats icon. But of most interest is the little blue dollar icon which displays on some results. This means there are special deals and promotional codes associated with the domain. Click through to the Snapshot page for the domain and you'll see something like this:
This is potentially a great feature, because it ties in specific shopping deals with search.
Below the Compete Picks are normal search results, provided by Yahoo.
Another feature is MyCompete, "a personalized homepage for Compete community members" (includes retail incentives). Add that to the search, analytics, shopping deals - and this is quite a package being released by Compete. I'd personally like to see the data expanded beyond US and improved in regards to blogs and small websites - but overall Compete's feature set is impressive. Also the shopping component seems to me to be a potentially very compelling part of their search site.
Compete.com will officially launch on November 1, but the site is currently available for testing.