Simple but valuable
While simple, it is a very interesting service as you can compare traffic trends of your site vs. your competitors. You can learn a lot like the impact of competitor advertising campaigns (were they successful?), product launches, announcements... You also get the key search terms used by visitors and the sites they also visited (and find out who are your biggest rivals). Super-cool isn't it?
(Note: for competitive search terms analysis, I strongly recommend Google Insights for search, another cool free Google service. See the practical example I did earlier this year)
For me the main limitation is the fact that data are only available for sites with traffic above a certain threshold (Google gives no details on this limit). Practically, it means that it is only usable for big sites and big countries.
Still, even if the provided information is limited, it can be very valuable and, hell, it is FREE (and ones knows that it is important nowadays :-)).
For more examples or details on Google Trends for Websites, read Avisnash's excellent post on that topic.
"But are Google data reliable?"
This is the question that usually comes when I show Google Trends for Websites. For quite some times, Alexa is offering similar service but it has received a lot of critics regarding its accuracy and reliability. Alexa collects data mainly from the Alexa toolbar - not the most used toolbar to be honest. The consequence is that the sample is rather limited (from a size & geographic perspective) and therefore it is quite biased in my opinion.
For Google it is quite different. Google has access to a huuuuuuuge amount of information from a variety of sources, such as aggregated Google search data, aggregated anonymous Google toolbar /Google Analytics data, consumer panel data, and other third-party market research. As Google claims in Google Trends for Websites help section - the data is aggregated over millions of users. So that is how Google can get information on your website traffic - even if you don't measure your site activity with Google Analytics.
Ok sounds good but still is it reliable? To answer the question in a simple way, I decided to do a simple test: compare our own data against Google Trends for websites data. I took the traffic trends for 2009, for 2 markets with high traffic volume, no Google Analytics on it! I put everything in Excel, I adapted the scale to get as close as possible to the scale of the Google tool and this is what I get (without any data tweaking, I swear!):
I think the result speaks for itself (a picture is always better than long explanations :-)). Spooky, isn't it?
Maybe I was lucky with my 2 examples but for me it is a simple way to show that Google data is certainly not bad quality and that somehow I can trust it. Therefore I usually propose it as a data source for benchmarking in appropriate cases - taking into accounts its limitations.
I would be really curious to know if anyone did similar comparisons and what was the outcome. Did it work out for you or Google Trends for Websites results were miles away from your own data? What do you think about this Google service? Like it or not? Please share your experience.
(A little side note: surprisingly Google Trends for Websites can give you trends for Yahoo.com or Bing.com but not for... Google.com (see here). Doh!)
Related posts & resources:
- Google Trends for Websites from Google
- "Competitive intelligence for free: a practical example" - May 2009
- "Competitive Intelligence Analysis: Google Trends for Websites" by Avinash Kaushik