To build a healthy business in today’s climate, you need to understand your users, readers, and customers’ behavior — and this is true whether you’re a blog, publisher, or small business.

The analytics and audience insight industry is incredibly complex, and the major players continue to evolve and improve. We now have numerous traffic analytics options, but not all platforms are created equal.
Beyond gaining the insight these tools provide, you need to know how they work so you’ll have all the insight possible to make the best educated decisions concerning the direction of your business.

To make these intelligent — possibly even enlightened — decisions, your analytics tool must give you both accurate and useful information you can apply to your business.

In this post, we explore how audience analysis tools work, the differences between Quantcast, Alexa, and SimilarWeb, and how you can make the most out of the data you receive.

Two ways to measure

Before we dive into the details of the tools, you should understand the basics of how they measure web traffic data.

Estimation – This is the barebones approach to understanding your traffic and audience data. While panel data (i.e. Alexa) or sampling (i.e. Google Analytics) can be useful during preliminary research, it doesn’t give you a completely accurate look at your numbers. If you put too much stock in an estimation, you could make the wrong business decision. When you use this approach, use multiple tools to achieve better accuracy.

Direct measurement – This method is more accurate than sampling because it counts every pageview and cookie that visits your site or app. Quantcast Measure uses direct measurement.

Alexa, SimilarWeb, and Quantcast Measure compared

Now let’s look at how three audience analysis tools, Alexa, SimilarWeb, and Quantcast, work in more detail.


Alexa has been in the data analytics space for over two decades and has become a household name for marketers, business owners, and publishers around the world. Because this tool is so well respected, many publishers use their Alexa metrics as a way to display their value to potential advertisers and build powerful social proof.

[Alexa features and download for its Chrome browser extension]

How Alexa gathers information

According to the company, “Alexa’s traffic estimations are based on data from our global traffic panel, which is a sample of millions of internet users using one of over 25,000 different browser extensions. In addition, we gather much of our traffic data from direct sources in the form of sites that have chosen to install the Alexa script on their site and certify their metrics.”

What you get

Alexa provides three-month estimations, but when you install the Alexa toolbar, you’ll get more accurate estimates, see how popular your website is, find sites in similar genres, see how a site looked in the past, and get basic SEO metrics. This information can help you direct your company’s focus, gain useful information for your site, and find out what your competitors are up to.


While this tool offers a variety of paid options to better understand your traffic, you can get free insights to your audience when you install their toolbar.


If privacy is an issue for you or your business, you can always keep some metrics private.

The bottom line

If you choose Alexa, you’ll gain helpful audience metrics but a panel is a form of inference that is inferior to direct measurement.


SimilarWeb is another popular analytics tool used by marketers, publishers, and blogs. As with Alexa, you can install a toolbar in exchange for information about sites from all over the world. They also offer paid products and services to give you even more insight into site’s traffic data.

[SimilarWeb’s browser extension from the company’s home page]

How SimilarWeb gathers information

According to the company’s Our Data page, “SimilarWeb doesn’t rely on any single channel for data collection. We work with a variety of sources to create the most accurate and reliable picture of the digital world. All of this data is fed into SimilarWeb’s data processing servers where we turn billions of daily data points into insightful information.”
The “variety of sources” SimilarWeb uses to gather data include its international panel data set, web crawling, ISP data, and its data learning set.

What you get

Once SimilarWeb collects the data, its 5 billion plus dataset is cleaned and categorized for accuracy and easier understanding. Next, the tool breaks the data down to give you insight into your traffic behavior.


The extension is free, but the paid options offer more insight into your data and competitor data.

The bottom line

SimilarWeb is helpful for understanding audiences across the internet. The tool collects input data in a different manner than Alexa.

Quantcast Measure

While the first two tools are certainly good at what they do, Quantcast Measure offers the best audience insights in the industry.  Proprietary technology delivers all the audience data you need in a way that’s easy to understand.

[Simple breakdown showing how Quantcast Measure works]

How Quantcast Measure gathers information

We couple machine learning with massive quantities of directly measured data to deliver detailed audience data in real time for all forms of digital media, including, websites, video, mobile, widgets, and advertising campaigns.

What you get

This may come as a surprise, but you don’t have time to spend dozens of hours trying to understand your data. Quantcast Measure makes traffic data easy to understand so you can spend your time growing your business by putting the data to use.


Quantcast Measure is available for free. Enterprise-level solutions are available — contact for more information.

The bottom line

When you choose Quantcast Measure, you get accurate data, valuable insights, and an analytics company that never settles for anything less than delivering the best metrics in the business. Quantcast’s metrics are easy to understand so you can use them to meet your business needs fast.
Now that you have a better idea of how Alexa, SimilarWeb, and Quantcast Measure work, it’s time to quantify your site.