Barely able to walk, Kaleb at two years of age first exhibited a unique trait: He continuously sought “high ground.” Yes, he was a climber (He still is!), but it was something deeper than that. If you put a piece of paper on the floor, he would stand on top of it.
“High ground” in the internet industry can be interpreted as traffic, conversions, SERP placements, or any one of a hundred other measurements. Regardless which measurement is chosen, the effort is made to be better than the competition. The challenge comes in finding the right tool and being certain that it is calibrated properly.
The most important measurements to be made are those that compare current to past performance. There are pitfalls that can easily skew the data. For instance, a study of website performance between September and October 2009 reveals that there were 2,740 visitors in September and 3,010 visitors in October. Traffic on this website drops 10% on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Otherwise it remains constant at 100 visitors per day. How would you categorize overall monthly performance? Would it be up, down, or flat?
On the surface, it might appear as though traffic was up by a count of 270 visitors. Consider that October has 31 days and September has 30, September has a holiday (Labor Day) and October had none (Halloween doesn’t count!), and there were five Saturdays in October and only 4 in September (four Sundays each). The traffic was flat.
That analysis did not take into consideration seasonal and economic variables. You could never compare February to July performance. Seasonal differences are too dramatic. You could never compare April (Income Tax deadline) to any other month. As variables are eliminated through adjustment, your statistics become much more valid, and the analysis becomes more accurate.
Competing against yourself is by far the most accurate way of measuring performance. As soon as you begin to compare your performance to others, a whole slew of “X” factors come into play. Is the competition running an ad with an internet incentive? Banner ads? Pay-per-click? Reviews? Recognition? Eblasts? It’s virtually impossible to level the playing field.
But, if you are intent upon comparing your website to the entire universe, use Alexa. While the tools they use are flawed, Alexa (owned by amazon.com) is the one organization that rates all (nearly) websites and ranks them from #1 (Google) to infinity. Curiosity might be satisfied with the knowledge that your website is # 1,752,386 in the world, but monitoring it on a regular basis to see whether it goes up or down in the ranks can be an effective tool as you change content and design.