The best free alternative to Hitwise and Comscore
Edit: I just re-read this and it comes off as pretty sale-sy for SimilarWeb. I promise I have had no compensation whatsoever from them. In fact, I have never even talked to anyone from SimilarWeb.
The toughest thing about moving from a massive global agency to one the size of Verve Search has been reshaping my view about SEO tools. When you’re in a giant media agency, no tool is off limits as money tends to be no object. When you work for a smaller boutique agency the purchase of a license to yet another tool makes a noticeable dent in the bottom line.
All of this is a longwinded way to say that I am now without my beloved Hitwise: the tool of tools, the competitor research database that other competitor research databases aspire to be. For me, Hitwise was the one. I loved it most for keyword research as I could see keywords driving traffic to competitors along with full industries, but at somewhere near £20,000, my head has told me I have to let it go.
To fill the competitor research void, I have been scouring forums, social groups, and SEO websites to find the best of the free, or at least moderately priced, alternative tools. Some of the points evaluated in tools I have been looking at are: accuracy of data, depth of data, competitor insight, ease of use/interface, and a few other elements. Through all of this there has been one standout favourite: SimilarWeb.
Simliarweb.com is the closest I can find to Hitwise. It gives you many of the same stats, upstream/downstream from referrers, time on site, page views, bounce rate, visits, visits by channel, top driving keywords, etc. These are normally what I’m looking for and can provide
valuable insight to my clients’ websites and their competitors which helps form strong, data-based strategy decisions.
The interface is easy on the eyes and the functionality is easy on the brain, just plug in a website and go.
You’ll see some basic but useful engagement metrics such as number of overall visits, time on site, bounce rate, etc. All of these are estimates but when you view them as relative to other sites you can begin to piece together some powerful insights.
Organic Keywords driving traffic is easily the best feature of SimilarWeb as you can see your competitors’ top traffic driving keywords. This is especially good if it’s not a huge website as you’ll
often be seeing some decent longer tail terms that could potentially be easy to rank for.
I also like that SimilarWeb breaks down social search traffic by platform. It lets me look at the social profiles that are providing my competitors with success and see if there are any tactics I can learn from them.
The data source on SimilarWeb leaves a bit to be desired, however. Whereas Hitwise buys their data direct from ISPs, SimilarWeb pulls in data from, according to their website, “[a] combination of our powerful crawler and click-stream data from our proprietary panel of tens of millions of users who have installed our apps.” A unique approach that seems to work as the stats they provide are relatively close to what we’re seeing in our Verve Search Google Analytics.
There are a couple of other drawbacks, the first being that you can’t change the geo targeting to the United Kingdom on the free version so you can’t see how you stack up across the UK market. This isn’t the end of the world if you’re just looking for a basic overview, but it’s incredibly inconvenient and means that the statistics can’t be relied on too much without heavily caveating them.
The second drawback (and the biggest bummer) is that the majority of SimilarWeb’s data sits behind a paywall. Fair enough, but I’m specifically looking for information that won’t break the bank. The basic package is one user with limited access to data, but at only £99 per month it isn’t a terrible option, especially when compared to the other-worldly costs of Hitwise and Comscore. It looks like the real power in this tool gets unlocked when you upgrade all the way to the Advanced package, although I don’t know exactly how different the two options are, the way they outline the two options makes it look like it could be worth your time and money to invest. They also offer a risk-free 24 hour trial, so that’s nice.
So there you have it
If you, like me, are having Hitwise withdrawals, take a quick peak at SimilarWeb and see if it satisfies your data needs as much as it has mine. As far as rebounds go, it’s not that bad.