marketing research reports is big business. The two most well known companies in this market
are Nielsen//Netratings and comScore (including Media Metrix). Both companies provide some
general information publicly. One has to become a member by paying a hefty fee to gain access
to detailed data- something not everybody can afford.
In this paper, we introduce a methodology called Benchmarking Competitive Online
Performance (B-COP) based on free information that helps managers answer questions such as
these- Who are our competitors online? Are there some competitors we have not considered or
tracked? How many of our competitors are stronger? How many are weaker? Who competes
directly with us for traffic? Who is an indirect competitor (i.e., a competitor of a competitor)?
Our methodology is built on a publicly available, free data repository- Alexa.com. This
site has been in operation since 1996 and was acquired by Amazon.com in 1999. Alexa collects
web traffic data based on a toolbar. Individuals who download the Alexa toolbar become part of
the system that transmits information back to the company. Alexa toolbar runs on over 10
million personal computers worldwide- in comparison, Nielsen Net/Ratings “uses a panel of
40,000 to 50,000 people with software meters installed on their computers”1 . The Alexa web
site indicates that it collects 1.6 Terabytes per day and has collected information about 4.5 billion
pages from over 16 million sites. We use Alexa information to identify competitors and study
their relative strength only.
As with any methodology, B-COP is not without its limitations. First, we are focusing on
Web traffic only while conversion rates (i.e., the rate at which traffic is converted to dollars) may
be more important for commerce-oriented sites. Moreover, traffic is measured at the aggregate
level and we are not accounting for specific demographic preferences- e.g. a niche site with
desirable demographics may be in a better situation than our methodology allows. Second, our