Any good website owner will naturally check his or her on-site analytics software regularly. But what if you’re interested in things that on-site analytics doesn’t directly measure, want to get data for sites for which you don’t have on-site analytics access or get an idea of where your site stands relative to its competitors? Luckily, there a number of tools that can help to uncover just that.

In this post I choose to focus on three very relevant key performance indicators for your site that you can get an estimate for using third-party software programs: traffic, authority & links.

Let’s start with what it comes down to at the end of the day for many website owners: traffic.

Estimate your traffic: Alexa, SimilarWeb & co.

Traffic measurement tools are useful particularly when you want to compare your site against competitors or when you are collecting data on a number of different sites.

The best known player in the market is probably Alexa, a subsidiary of Amazon. Users can see, among other things, the global Alexa Traffic Rank, which is what most people are primarily interested in (making assumptions here). With the Alexa Traffic Rank, it’s important to note that the rank is better the closer it is to 1 (a position held by – who else could it be – Google). It’s all relative of course, but if you own a pharma website and your rank is below 100,000 (as in your site is estimated to be among the 100,000 most visited websites in the world), you’re doing something right.

SimilarWeb offers a very similar service to Alexa. Through a toolbar or its website it displays a Global Rank in the same fashion as Alexa: the closer you are to 1, the better.

SEMrush, focused on SEM & SEO, is interesting to mention in this context as well. This service gives you an estimate of your site’s monthly organic search traffic and the SEMrush rank, which is based on traffic to your site from Google top 20 search results. Again, the closer you are to 1, the better.

So how accurate are these metrics? Well, out of the three categories we look at, traffic is for sure the most approximated one. Alexa bases its estimates on the browsing behaviour of people using “one of over 25,000 different browser extensions” and on websites that have installed the Alexa script. SimilarWeb states that it gets its data, among other sources, from a panel of over 100 million monitored devices, local internet service providers and websites directly connected to it. SEMrush bases all its data on Google and Bing top 20 results for keywords that it has in its database. All of these service providers undoubtedly put a lot of effort into providing the most accurate traffic estimates. And the traffic ranks offer an extremely useful piece of information. But they should definitely be viewed as trends and indications. A good rule of thumb to remember is that the higher the traffic rank (aka the further it is away from 1), the less accurate it becomes.

For a metric that’s directly related to the amount of traffic and gets a lot of attention in the world of SEO, look to your site’s authority.

Gauging your authority: Moz is king

Why is authority deemed to be so important? Because the logic goes that the higher the authority, the better the ranking in search engines, the more traffic your site gets. Hence the direct connection to site traffic.

The most used metrics for authority are those by Moz. Moz offers a host of authority metrics both on the page and the root domain level, one of the central ones being Domain Authority. This metric takes into account a multitude of different signals to calculate a score between 0-100, with 100 being the best. Domain Authority gives online marketers a useful indication for judging the quality of a website. Another important score is Domain MozRank, a link popularity metric that’s scored from 1 to 10, similar to the now discontinued Google PageRank.

Other services that provide authority metrics include Ahrefs (Domain Rating) and Searchmetrics (SEO Rank).

Authority metrics certainly have an accuracy advantage over traffic metrics. Your domain authority is of course also just an estimation of how well you will rank on search engines, but the important thing is that authority metrics are much more than traffic metrics based on measurable technical factors, most notably the amount and quality of links to a given site or page.

Inbound links: What authority is (mostly) based on

Authority metrics do consider other factors, sure. But the truth is that metrics like Moz Domain Authority are mostly based on a site’s link profile. The more quality inbound links you have, the higher your authority. Naturally search engines consider many factors besides links as well, but a site’s link profile has over time proven to be a very important and constant factor in search engine rankings.

That’s why in addition to looking at software-calculated authority metrics, it makes sense to also look at the number of inbound links, if they’re follow or no-follow and how many root domains link to your site. The sheer number of links won’t tell you anything about the quality of those links of course. But looking at the Domain Authority of the sites linking to you or at your Moz DomainTrust score can quickly give you an impression.

Out of the three categories this post looks at, inbound links is the most accurate as this is crawlable information and represents a raw number without any mathematical algorithm behind it. There are often differences in the number of inbound links depending on which program you use and some domains can’t be crawled for inbound links at all, but generally this is easily obtainable information for SEO programs.

Marketing Grader: The metric that doesn’t fit into any category

This post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Hubspot’s Marketing Grader. Hubspot has made quite a name for itself in the field of digital marketing software, which is why many digital marketers like to use Marketing Grader.

So why does Marketing Grader not fit into any category? Because it looks at a great variety of factors and sub-factors, namely blogging, social media, SEO, lead generation & mobile. Marketing Grader is thus good for getting a top-level impression of your website’s marketing activities and suggestions for improvement across a number of areas, but not as accurate on a granular level as other metrics that focus on one particular thing.

Key takeaways

If you remember one thing from this blog post, it should be this: There are a number of tools available that can help you assess your own and other websites beyond the point of making a subjective qualitative evaluation. These tools are in no position to replace on-site analytics, but should be used complimentary to it. It’s important to consider accuracy limitations (especially for traffic metrics) and view these metrics as indicative rather than taking them at face value. Keeping that in mind, they can be a great help.