Beer Advocate vs. RateBeer: A Look at the Numbers (Part 1)

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[Update: When I made this post, I thought I understood web traffic analytics and believed the numbers I see online. Since adopting Google Analytics, I’ve seen firsthand how full of crap these Alexa numbers are, etc. I failed to listen to Jonathon at Beermapping among others. While I was glad to see that there was this much interest in a post, I also regret portraying it as one side vs. the other. I thought that as an unbiased third-party, I could provide some interesting analysis. What we really need to do is to figure out how to get the two sides on the same page and fight for craft beer. And we do have a big fight ahead of us.]

A quick and dirty web traffic comparison of the two most beloved beer sites on the internet. Keep in mind that the tools discussed here can be used to learn more about your other favorite sites. If any of this appears confusing, just skip down to the summary at the bottom. Here’s a quick profile of Beer Advocate and RateBeer:

Beer Advocate:

Site started: May 31, 2000
Founded by: Todd and Jason Alstrom, Cambridge, MA
Beers in database: 40,687
Reviews in database: 606,663

Ratebeer:

Site started: March 8, 2000
Founded by: Bill Buchanan
Beers in database: 81,005
Reviews in database: 1,664,306

There are three sites that come to mind when discussing traffic rankings (for me, at least): 1) Alexa, 2) Compete, and 3) Quantcast. I won’t go into it too much here but for legitimate reasons, there is controversy surrounding internet stats because they’re inherently unreliable. But for purposes of our comparison, the traffic sites work OK. Without further ado, let’s look at Alexa, perhaps the most well-known web traffic stats service:

Beer Advocate:
3 month avg. ranking: 23,776

Ratebeer:
3 month avg. ranking: 32,011

Alexa.com - Beer Advocate vs Ratebeer

Both sites appear to be generally trending upward though Beer Advocate has separated itself in the past few months.

Beer Advocate:
Monthly rank: 15,166
Monthly people count: 124,393

Ratebeer:
Monthly rank: 24,017
Monthly people count: 77,765

Note that ‘people count’ probably refers to unique IP addresses. So the actual number of people using the site is probably much less than these numbers indicate when factoring home AND work usage. The graph below paints a different story than Alexa does, showing that traffic has plateaued for both sites though Beer Advocate is still showing more activity here.

Beer Advocate:
Rank: 23,370

Ratebeer:
Rank: 37,238

The image below shows daily unique visits since Quantcast doesn’t show traffic graphs. It appears that these visits are actually dropping though traffic appears to be level or at a slight incline according to Alexa and Compete.

If you’re not snoring away already, let’s look at one more thing at Quantcast: demographics. More specifically, what makes up the monthly traffic at the two sites? Below is a chart showing that very few users make up the lion’s share of traffic at Ratebeer.com. If we take 3% of the unique visits per month, we come to 1600 unique (IP addresses). Say that a little more than 1/3 of them access it from either multiple computers or at work, etc. So we have 1000 actual people accounting for 67% of the total visits per month or about 250,000.

That is extreme. Beer Advocate is not quite as extreme but still more drastic than the norm. Type in Dead.net, the official site for the Grateful Dead (another cult following similar in nature to beer enthusiasts), into Quantcast stats and you won’t find anything near the level of loyalty of these two sites. That’s great if you’re looking to sell something (like a premium membership or a magazine). Whether it’s good for site growth is another discussion.

There is a ton more that can be discussed looking deeper into Quantcast’s demographics including income, ethnicity, etc. but we’ll stop there and summarize what we’ve learned.

    Takeaways:
  • 1. Beer Advocate is seeing stronger traffic numbers than Ratebeer.
  • 2. Ratebeer appears to be more community-centric in that it has a deeper interaction between its core users.
  • 3. Unique visits appear to be dropping though traffic is steady if not slightly on the rise.
  • If anything, these figures raise more questions. Why would unique uses be slipping? Where else might the regular and fringe users be going? There are a number of possibilities. Without giving it much thought, I might hypothesize that it boils down to homebrewing. The niche is growing and homebrewing boards like homebrewtalk.com and northernbrewer.com boast over 20,000 and 11,000 board members, respectively. As commercial beers become more expensive and more people decide to experiment with or are exposed to homebrewing, one would think that trend will continue. That begs the question: how viable will the two sites be if their core users leave the commercial niche and flock to the homebrewing niche?

    What do you think? Post a comment or bring this discussion to one of the boards!

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    13 thoughts on “Beer Advocate vs. RateBeer: A Look at the Numbers (Part 1)

    1. You left out key (and easily found) statistics:

      -Ratebeer-
      Total Beers: 81,005
      Total Ratings: 1,664,306

    2. Thanks!

      For a site whose appearance hasn’t changed in oh..several years, I definitely had a hard time finding those numbers!

    3. Also don’t forget the forums at…

      http://www.realbeer.com/discussions

      …with approx. 11,000 members.

      Flocking to homebrew boards eh? What would make you think that? Is their membership growing at a faster rate than they did before Rate Beer and Beer Advocate were around?

      BTW I’m registered at almost all of those sites. I don’t think I would cancel my BA account or my RateBeer account when I open up a new one over at a homebrew site.

    4. Re: Argo

      My plan is working perfectly! The more I mess up the more fin that people make comments! 😉 I’ll make the adjustment, thanks.

      As for the Euro piece, I don’t think I want to go into anymore traffic stats than I have already and as far as general commentary, I think it’s well-known that RB is big on the international side whereas BA is big on the US side. Just not sure a piece on that would add much value. I’ll stir up something interesting in a week or two though..

    5. Re: Beer Bits

      The homebrew hypothesis is partly a side effect of recently discovering the community over at The Brewing Network. I’ve been in some Ratebeer chats and never seen 30 or so people like I did in the Brewing Network chat the other night.

      Do the numbers say this? Not necessarily but I think there are homebrewing boards out there that I haven’t yet discovered.

      Maybe the drop in unique visits is a product of market saturation. I need to re-take an economics class!

    6. “Just not sure a piece on that would add much value.”

      You make a conclusion that BA is clearly “separating” itself from ratebeer. That conclusion may not be accurate if you include foreign visitation. It also speaks to the fact that RB has vastly more ratings and beers in the database.

      Without addressing the fact that you are basically not including much of RB’s site traffic it makes it seem like RB’s members are so in insanely prolific that they can more than double beer entries and almost triple ratings even with fewer numbers. But that isn’t what is really happening.

    7. Re: Joe

      Ahh, I may have not been clear. There is a point at which I add US rankings just for kicks though the charts and other numbers are all reflective of visits from other countries as well. Removing those two lines should help clear up some confusion.

      Hope I’m interpreting correctly.

    8. Your hypothesis about homebrewers is wrong. I’ve been a homebrewer for over a decade but only a member of ratebeer and beeradvocate for 4 years. There are a lot of others out there like me.

      I belong to realbeer, beeradvocate and ratebeer and visit all three sites daily. So do a lot of the other core members of both sites and something you don’t take into account above.

    9. I was admittedly hasty in conjuring up a conclusion to the end of the article after taking so much time grabbing all those figures. I should’ve linked to a large picture but the Quantcast snapshot shows around 6000 unique visits a day for the two sites. Several months ago, it looked to be much closer to 8000 visitors. That’s a drop of about 25% assuming Quantcast’s numbers are accurate.

      Maybe homebrewing isn’t the reason. Maybe visits to the two sites are just cyclical?

    10. All of those “web traffic stats service” are all useless.

      We use Google Analytics. 8 Million plus page views a mont. We also get about 1 Million visitors a month too boot.

      Lastly, we purge old content. We’d have over 2 Million reviews if we kept that content around. Over 70% of our 150,00+ users have been active with the past three months.

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