BenchMark Narcissism – Why Benchmarks Rock but we Reject Them!
Benchmarks make for smarter businesses.
Driving a business with no benchmarks is like driving a car with the windows painted white – your dashboard means nothing without context. If you’d only driven cars with whitewashed windows and not spoken to any other car drivers, what would “fast” feel like? You’d be clueless!
I’ve found benchmarks invoke a visceral response! Benchmarks are like antibodies! We seek to kill their credibility and reject them! As such, people influence tools and website benchmarking tools come under a lot of criticism. I guess that’s the burden of being a benchmark vendor! Perhaps it’s that benchmarks make us vulnerable.
My theory: When it comes to benchmarks, people are narcissistic. We cannot see our vision of ourself in benchmark data, so we reject benchmarks as imperfections or mistruths! The problem with benchmarks, on a human level, is we compare their projections of our data to our real data. Unless they have perfect access or they hacked your servers, benchmarks will be different. We analyze and bitch about the imperfections. We miss their beauty. How wise is not knowing? How wise if ignorance?
We all feel twinges of narcissism when we see ourselves described by others. It’s never the picture we have in our mind. You’d better get used to being benchmarked. We’re at the beginning of a preference graph revolution! See Facebook, Pinterest & Twitter if you a benchmark. Your digital footprint/DNA is for sale. You’d better believe it.
Context only comes from outside the enterprise. Context is hard to acquire! And often expensive.
Supermarkets, for example, spend fortunes buying 3rd party data. Their suppliers do the same. Data is aggregated and sanitized to protect the innocent. You don’t make decisions and evaluate performance without market context. Knowledge is power.
I’d argue your Websites and your Social Profile are no different. Let’s take a simple question on your website.
What makes a good bounce rate?
I asked this question on Twitter. I learned “less than 50% is good”. I wanted a better answer. Wouldn’t you? I wanted to know what was good for people like me, for sites like mine! The trick is to use benchmark data and preference graph data to your advantage and you can’t do that by ignoring it or denying their value.
You can’t easily get answers to these bigger questions. However, you can pick specific sites and look up these benchmark metrics via the likes of Alexa.
I accept Alexa, Compete et al have flaws. This is not a census – no central body sees all the data. It’s an extrapolation game.
The absolute numbers don’t really matter because they are (for the sake of argument) consistently wrong. Each platform has a different way of sourcing its data and a different approach to statistically extrapolating the sample data to create their view of total web traffic. The higher your web traffic, the better the quality their data.
To use a real example, let me answer the Bounce question for List.ly, Pinterest & Delicious. Our internal metrics are different, but that’s not the point. What value do I derive from this analysis? The value here is enormous. I get an insight into what’s possible. I get a sense of our worth and our potential. I can see how we are performing relative to two companies who I care about. I care about how we benchmark to these sites for obvious reasons.
What about Time on Site?
This makes me smile. Were matching engagement times to Pinterest. I wonder what their data looked like at our stage in their growth? Oh Alexa – That’s an answer I’d pay to see!
What about Page Views Per User Per Day
Trends & Context Trump Actual Numbers
What matters is direction. Movement over time. How you are performing relative to your competition? Your competitors are not willing to share their internal data. Mean isn’t it! So unless you want to try espionage, get using tools like Alexa. It’s legal and it’s free. Here’s a list of alternative for you to explore.
Website Benchmark Tools
- crowd rank
list.ly is one of the top 100,000 sites in the world.
Drive your search marketing, business development, media planning and competitive strategy with the most powerful data on the planet.
Quantcast enables you to buy and sell targeted audiences in real time, and allows advertisers to view free audience reports on millions of web properties.
At the end of the day, we all compete for attention. Our time is finite, which is what makes these metrics so useful. Consumers vote with their clicks.
Today were are 90k on Alexa and Pinterest just took 3rd place in the social media traffic business according to Mashable. They are at 6 on Alexa and Delicious is at 412. Both these companies are much bigger than us, but they are kind of in the same business – Social Bookmarking, Social Collection Making, Social Sharing.
- Listly makes Lists
- Pinterest makes Pinboards
- Delicious makes Stacks (and maybe soon Magazines via Zeen.com)
With Zeen it sounds like Delicious et al may be heading in the direction of Scoop.it, Paper.li, Zite or Pulse. In this contest their choice of “Stacks” as a metaphor for Magazines makes a lot more sense! Perhaps this was in their original thinking when they recently added “Stacks” to Delicious
We are all in the curation business. We are all forms of curation tools.
I didn’t begin using these two sites as benchmarks. Earlier I’d focussed on beating smaller List.ly competitors.
What about the other Social List Sites
If you know the space at all you’ll know Ranker.com (4.9k on Alexa) and Listal.com (3.4k on Alexa). They makes list, but they are not truly social. They are not true competitors. They are more “Content Farms” than social collection sites. I think that is proven by the metrics. Their content can be found. That’s what drives their business model. Their high bounce rates are high, which is a reflection of their content and the experience.
The big difference here is engagement. The difference is community, mindset and culture. You don’t make these with 10 lines of code! The charts below are pretty startling.
Their search percentage is so high because they don’t have a large deeply committed community – ie there is little social sharing. It’s not about engagement. I’ve very happy with these numbers, but my focus now is on Pinterest and Delicious. For me Social has the power to win, which is why Pinterest and Delicious are beating Ranker and Listal.
What about Bounce Rate?
Pick your Benchmarks Wisely
Alexa offers amazing insight into your performance. It benchmarks your competition. What’s key is Pinterest, Delicious, Listal, Ranker and Listly are all being sampled and measured in the same way. So in that sense it’s a level playing field. Accuracy is not the issue. Context matters. It’s about not living in the dark. So remove the whitewash!
How about you? How do you compare yourself to your competitors. Do you rely on opinions or do you use real data? What do you use? I’d love to hear. I’m almost certain this post will sway nobody, but sometimes you’ve just got to say what you feel. I’m equally sure many people haven’t thought about it. That’s who this post is for. If one person adopts benchmarks as a result then writing this has been a good investment of my time.
I was interviewed by Eric Strait from TechHustlers.com last week. We had a blast. We totally connected on the value of Alexa. It was great to talk to someone who check Alexa before he talks with anyone. That was validating. Hopefully that interview will come out soon!
For me not enough people use Alexa ranking to prioritize their business activity. I say this because I find myself educating people on Alexa’s value. Had you heard of it before? Do you you use it to asses potential business partners? Do you track your website against your competition? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Image Credit : linnybinnypix via Flickr.com and Creative Commons