Most people who work in digital marketing are familiar with the following scenario: someone in your company (other than you) gets approached by a business owner whose website seems to have the potential to bring valuable traffic to your company website. Your boss hears about what sounds like a fantastic opportunity from that employee he trusts, and immediately asks you, the person in charge of digital marketing, to close the deal. You’re now left with the responsibility to deal with a potential asset, or liability for your quarterly digital marketing results, depending on how much ROI this new website will bring to your business. And your boss really trusts that employee who put a bee in his bonnet and really wants you to go ahead with this.
Luckily enough, there are quite a few tools out there that allow you to assess a website’s potential for your business prior to signing any deal. Alexa, comScore and Nielsen Netrating would be the most famous of them, though other lesser known platforms such as SimilarWeb give you free Off-site analytics information that would be just as valuable for most companies.
How Off-Site web analytics works
Using Panel Data
This is probably the most common way of gathering off-site data. It consists in getting a group of so called “panelists” to install some third-party software in their browser that tracks their online activity. Nielsen Netrating and comScore are probably the best known companies to use this method, which allows them to extrapolate website’s metrics based on their respective panelists’ behavior. The drawback to this method is that it is based on a relatively small sample of data (comScore only has around 2 million users worldwide), which makes it harder to extrapolate accurate data on a global scale.
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Using Internet Service Provider (ISP) Data
This is probably the most accurate way of gathering off-site data. Companies such as Hitwise apply this method by aggregating anonymous data from popular ISP’s, which subsequently allows them to extrapolate websites’ metrics in a much more accurate way than paneling based solutions (Hitwise has a whopping 25 million users worldwide). The caveat to this method is that it collects anonymous data from ISPs, meaning that vendors using this method cannot offer websites’ demographic insights in their reports.
Applying Off-Site web analytics to the decision making process
Most free panel based Off-Site analytics tools such as SimilarWeb would give you enough insights to find out whether a website has enough potential in order to be profitable for your business. By accessing basic web metrics such as average monthly traffic, page views and average session time, you actually have enough information to come up with an estimate of how many leads you’re likely to receive from a particular partner site. It’s just a matter of benchmarking existing On-site data such as Google Analytics’ against the data offered by your Off-Site web analytics platform of choice.
Let's say you’re in charge of the digital marketing strategy of a bank that advertises mortgages through their website, which means you are probably already getting traffic from real estate websites as part of your digital marketing mix. Your on-site Analtyics tool is set up in order to track how much traffic you are getting from your current real estate website partner (let’s call it Website A for the sake of simplicity), as well as how many leads and sales that particular website is generating.
Now let’s say someone in the real estate industry approaches you with their website (let’s call this new potential partner Website B).
By looking up Websites A and B in your Off-site analytics tool, you could easily come up with an estimate of how many monthly page views each of them is receiving. Since you already know how much traffic and leads Website A is generating thanks to your On-site analytics platform, it shouldn’t take you too much effort to figure out how much traffic and leads Website B could potentially bring to your website by cross-multiplying data from Website A.
There are obviously more factors that should be taken into account in order to assess a new referring site’s marketing potential, such as where and how often your ads are going to be displayed on the website, the number and relevance of competitors already present, the average time a visitor spends on the website, etc. Cross-multiplying existing on-site data in order to extrapolate new data might not give you 100% accurate results as to how well a new website will perform, but it certainly is a good starting point in order to determine whether a website has yet reached the critical volume required for it to be considered as a potential partner for your business.