10 recommended situation analysis tools and insights sources for digital marketing planning

Chapter 2,  Table 2.1 in Digital Marketing: Strategy, Planning and Implementation lists a selection of free and paid-for services that can be used for online marketplace analysis. I’ve provided them here for convenience for readers.

The first 6 sources mainly give primary data with insights on consumer usage and behaviour and for benchmarking businesses.

The final four groups of sources publish reports about consumer and adoption covering secondary data – 9 and 10 are the best sources covering consumer and business adoption.

By reviewing insights compiled by searching these information providers, digital marketing strategist can build an informed picture of customer behaviour, competitive performance and make forecasts for strategic planning.

1 Google and Facebook tools

The two largest digital ad platforms provide tools to help forecast campaign results and encourage advertiser investment, yet they also provide the best sources of free, accurate tools for marketplace analysis.

Recommended Google tools are:

  • Display planner tool: this Google Ads tool shows the relative size and audience composition of publishers in the Google programme.
  • Google Trends:  trends in search volume by country – no sign-in required.
  • Keyword Planner – this tool requiring registration in Google Ads gives details on number of searches each month.
  • Find My Audience – this YouTube tool defines in-market and affinity audience.

Unfortunately, Google Trends is the only tool that now enables comparison of consumer search volume through time without requiring sign-on.

SimilarWeb website comparison

Freemium tool enabling comparison of visitors to sites and which channels prompt the visits. Sample dependent on users of the toolbar.

A paid alternative is Alexa. Hitwise and Jumpshot are no longer available.

Socialbakers social media benchmarking

Freemium tool with some free tools for benchmarking brand social media popularity, e.g. Facebook page popularity.

4 Global Web Index

Paid-for global audience panel service with useful insights on social media adoption via its blog.

Nielsen is an alternative, but limited free data.


Paid-for home-panel tool but free reports on consumer behaviour including mobile and e-commerce adoption are available from the Insights section.

Google Analytics

Free and paid-for services, which provide insights into website traffic. Includes competitor benchmarking. Only available to companies who have verified their site in Google search console

7 Internet or Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)

IABs are managed separately in different countries with the US and European reports on ad spend having the most insight

Research focusing on investment in different digital media channels, in particular display ads and search marketing.

8 Internet Media in Retail Group (IMRG)

Data, Analysis and insights for the retail industry in the UK. The IMRG Capgemini Sales index provides statistics on UK e-retail sales, mostly limited to members.

9 Government sources

Government statistical agencies compile data on Internet, E-commerce and social media. Don’t miss the excellent OfCom Communications Market reports if you’re looking for UK insight.

10 Non-government organisations

About Smart Insights

Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of digital marketing advice site Smart Insights. We’re a publisher and learning platform that helps our 150,000 active members in over 100 countries plan, manage and optimize their digital marketing activities by applying the actionable advice in our planning templates, guides and interactive e-learning tools.

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