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Popular price comparison sites – October 2008

This is October 2008 revision of the Popular Price Comparison web sites list. You can find the last month revision of the list here.

The change in rating shows the difference compared to September results. The list has a total of 34 web sites which is the same number as last month. There are 18 more sites in my database that don’t meet Alexa Rank < 100,000 requirement.

Just as I predicted last month, jellyfish.com dropped off the list, but I added one more website this month - dealio.com is now taking position #20, so the total number of sites in the list hasn't changed

The best performer this month is shopwiki.com (26.23%) who passed bottomdollar, the last month leader, by a small margin. Another notable event is that shopzilla.com has passed pricegrabber.com who has been on a steady decline for some time. The worst performer this month is again dealtime.com (-41.28%). Please enjoy the complete list below.

#Web SiteAlexa RankPage RankOnline Since
1shopping.yahoo.com 1 (*) 8 18-Jan-1995
2froogle.google.com 2 (*) 7 11-Sep-2001
3shopping.msn.com 6 (*) 7 10-Nov-1994
4shopping.aol.com 25 (*) (-19.05%)7 22-Jun-1995
5shopper.cnet.com (info) 157 (*) (-9.03%)7 05-Jul-1996
6shopping.com 518 (0.19%)6 03-Jul-1997
7nextag.com 532 (0.75%)6 15-Oct-1998
8bizrate.com 591 (2.96%)7 24-Apr-1996
9shoplocal.com 1007 (-10.66%)7 24-Sep-1998
10 (2)pronto.com 1228 (3.76%)8 01-Jan-2006
11shopzilla.com 1282 (-1.5%)6 04-Jul-2002
12 (2)pricegrabber.com (info) 1290 (-9.04%)8 10-Mar-1999
13 (2)smarter.com 1779 (4.66%)5 28-Apr-1998
14 (1)dealtime.com 1855 (-41.28%)6 07-Oct-1998
15 (1)epinions.com 1886 (-13.41%)7 12-Feb-1999
16thefind.com (info) 2686 (18.21%)6 19-Oct-2006
17become.com 3443 (4.12%)6 20-Jan-2004
18 (1)like.com 4174 (6.68%)6 22-Feb-1995
19 (1)pricerunner.com 4223 (-17.21%)6 19-May-1999
20dealio.com 4714 (n/a) 5 (n/a) 08-Sep-2004
21 (2)shopwiki.com 6090 (26.23%)5 15-Dec-2004
22 (1)retrevo.com 7394 (-1.25%)6 10-May-2006
23 (1)mysimon.com 8677 (-9.91%)7 15-Apr-1998
24 (4)calibex.com 9226 (-27.27%)4 02-Oct-2000
25 (1)ebates.com 10032 (11.71%)5 29-Dec-1998
26 (1)pricewatch.com 15254 (-4.96%)6 26-Sep-1995
27 (2)bottomdollar.com 19108 (24.22%)0 04-Jul-1997
28dealighted.com (info) 23991 (4.84%)6 09-Oct-2006
29 (3)sortprice.com 26317 (-7.07%)4 15-Jan-2004
30 (3)bestwebbuys.com 26391 (-5.05%)6 06-Jan-1998
31 (1)pricescan.com 44471 (-2.93%)6 03-Sep-1997
32 (1)hawkee.com 52197 (**) (-1.45%)5 02-Jan-1997
33 (1)mpire.com 53275 (4.94%)5 01-Jun-2006
34 (1)streetprices.com 84852 (5.59%)5 16-Oct-1997

(*) Note: traffic stats for these sites is an aggregate of all traffic to the top domain (e.g. Yahoo.com or Google.com) and thus cannot be used to judge how popular this particular price comparison service is.

(**) Note: the web site is a portal with price comparison engine being one of the offered web services. Alexa rank cannot be used to judge how popular this price comparison engine is.

Price Comparison Site – Shopper.cnet.com review

This week I am reviewing shopper.cnet.com and is the second price comparison site being reviewed by me. This review will be similar to the review of Pricegrabber.com to make it fair.

The homepage is clean with nice categorized menu options. Major part of the top of the main page content is for popular products, which lists three products in each of the popular product categories. Biggest strength for Shopper.cnet.com is the editorial product reviews by its staff and these reviews also help in deciding the popular products.

We start with first evaluating the search functionality. I am using the same 6 search terms as used for Pricegrabber. Pricegrabber performed well for the first 5 while not for the 6th. Here is now Shopper performed:

  1. Canon Powershot (perfect)
  2. Elph (Perfect, expected various cameras)
  3. 2077B001 (A manufacturer product number and this showed the proper product)
  4. Digital Recorder (purposefully skipped the word ‘Voice’ in-between and the results were perfect)
  5. Recorder (perfect)
  6. Nikon Powershot (Yes, purposefully goofed up, I expected all Nikon products as well as Canon powershot cameras to be listed. But very impressively, it suggested “Canon Powershot” and also showed the results for Canon Powershot. Impressive in comparison to Pricegrabber)

shopper.com screenshot

Continue reading ‘Price Comparison Site – Shopper.cnet.com review’

Price Comparison Site – Pricegrabber Reviewed

Having decided to review online deal sites, picking the first site was a bit puzzling. There were numerous questions like should it be a new site, should it be a infamous site, should it be one of the leading sites, should it be a daily deal site or a price comparison site and so on. And while just browsing through several deal sites, I noticed that they were either a price comparison site or a daily deal site with little links called “Price Comparison” next to each deal. Most (not all) of the daily deal sites seem to partner with PriceGrabber and thus these “Price Comparison” links take you to a slightly different looking version of PriceGrabber.com with the header and footer edited to look like the site you came from (the daily deal site). To the best of my estimates, this trend of including a “Price Comparison” link next to each deal in a daily deal site started about a year ago and has slowly but steadily spread. This makes PriceGrabber a website visited by pretty much anyone deal hunting online and with their new found higher popularity (not that they were not popular earlier), I thought they would be a good choice for my first review and here it is for you.

People visit price comparison websites with the following expectations:

  1. Be able to choose a product based on various technical details and features of the product.
  2. Analyze the reliability of the product based on the product reviews.
  3. Find the seller with the cheapest price.
  4. Analyze the reliability of the seller.

Now let’s see how PriceGrabber performs in these fronts with some objective testing as well my subjective view points. Before that, let’s see a generic review of the website.

Continue reading ‘Price Comparison Site – Pricegrabber Reviewed’

Tips for smart price comparison shopping

I have been looking for an upgrade to my camcorder lately and I used this opportunity to test how well the comparison sites from my list do the job. So I picked a search term and tried each site.

At the end of this post I have a table with results that lists what each of these websites produced including number of products and the best price.

While these results are just one snapshot of a much bigger picture, they did help me uncover certain facts that in turn resulted in a few useful shopping tips.

Many websites share the same list of products

One might think that the more sites you use for price comparison, the better result you will get. It is certainly true to some extend. However I noticed that many websites share the same product listings in results. Please read my previous post on the subject and use the facts you find there to build your own list of sites to use.

One of the tools that you might find useful is RoboShopper which is an aggregator that combines a few comparison engines under one roof. You enter your search term once and then simply switch between multiple websites to see what results each of them gives you.

Remember to re-sort the search results

Majority of price comparison websites make their living by offering merchants prominent positions in search results. These are often marked as “Sponsored” or “Certified” but they usually mean nothing more than the fact that the merchant paid to rank high in the results. Make sure you resort the list by price to avoid getting caught by this little trick.

Watch out for scam shops

Websites who have low barriers for merchants to list their products tend to list a lot of scam shops in search results. This is not the first time I face the problem. Some price comparison websites have been attempting to limit the customer exposure to these merchants. CNET for example will only show “trusted” merchants by default and you will have to click on “Show all” to see the rest.

The most affected services are TheFind, ShopWiki, and Froogle. In my tests they produced the largest number of results, however the merchants in the list that have the lowest price are often nothing else than scam shops. Read this extended PC World research for details on the tricks that these merchants employ to get you on the hook.

Prices and merchants change every day

I didn’t finish my test within a day and had to continue next morning. What I noticed right away is that some merchants have changed prices, some merchants were removed, and others were added. The picture overall has significantly changed. This brought me to an important conclusion. If you can’t find today what you want for the price you like, wait till tomorrow. Certain sites (e.g. Nextag) publish price trend graphs that will assist you when in doubt.

Sometimes websites go down

This is exactly what happened during my tests. The message below was up during a good part of the day yesterday at MSN shopping. Now tell me Microsoft software is reliable. ;-)

MSN error

My search results

I used keyword “sony sr300” in my tests. Sony SR300 is Sony’s flagman consumer camcorder released earlier this year. Here are my results, excluding the websites that republish the content they obtain from other companies (see my previous post on this).

(*) indicates that the price doesn’t include shipping charges. This also may mean that the website doesn’t offer the functionality to show the shipping charges on products. I highlighted the best results using bold font.

Web Site Results Best Result
shopping.yahoo.com 26 $712 (*) PrestigeCamera
froogle.google.com 61 $735 FotoSprint
shopper.cnet.com 17 $749 ButterflyPhoto
shopping.com 12 $777 AbesOfMaine
nextag.com 18 $739 EnterprisePhoto
pricegrabber.com 20 $749 ButterflyPhoto
shopzilla.com 26 $766 FotoConnection
smarter.com 33 $739 EnterprisePhoto
pricerunner.com 15 $749 ButterflyPhoto
pricewatch.com 0 doesn’t list any of Sony SR line
become.com 26 $749 PrestigeCamera
ebates.com 0 doesn’t list any of Sony SR line
thefind.com 30 $731 (*) WildDigital
sortprice.com 5 $732 (*) Access2Digital
like.com 0 offers no/few technology products
pricescan.com 14 $739 EnterprisePhoto
jellyfish.com 0 only lists the previous model, SR 200
pronto.com couldn’t get search to work
activeshopper.com 6 $777 AbesOfMaine
shopwiki.com 88 $459 BestPriceCameras (scam)
streetprices.com 8 $742 BroadwayPhoto
mytriggers.com 30 $769 eBay

My overall impression, recommended websites

Looking at all the websites, I will single out a few that I liked the most and explain why. I excluded all sites that don’t calculate shipping charges. I think this is a critical piece of price comparison. Also, Shopping.com didn’t make my list. While I like the site a lot, it is hard to find a bargain taking into account how many other sites republish the content.

SlickDeals popularity — a case study

This post starts a weekly series of website reviews. Just as I promised I will review one bargain site a week. With rare exceptions, the website needs to be in my popular websites list. The websites that offers something unique will be given a priority over the rest.

The bargain site of this week is SlickDeals. It is a very popular website, in fact they just bypassed their archi-rival FatWallet for the first time since I started tracking both in September 2006. So what makes SlickDeals “the number one” bargain site in the entire web?

Some not so slick pages

For starters they hand pick the hottest deals and post them on the front page which perfectly works for the “lazy” majority. The collection of coupons looks pretty impressive as well. The Price Comparison is powered by PriceGrabber and doesn’t present anything special just as the Store Ratings page which is co-branded with ResellerRatings, the leader in this niche. SlickDeals has a very nice home grown Amazon Fillers tool. Use it when you need to add a buck or two to qualify for Amazon’s free shipping on orders of $25 or more. However I bet none of these pages get much use.

Coupons Bug

Here is a proof. Browse to Store Ratings page and from there try clicking on the Coupons menu. You will notice that the link is broken and redirects to a domain squatter, “betaslickdeals.com”. It is hard to believe that something like this would go unnoticed for long on a website that gets many thousands of visitors a day. The only explanation I can think of is that all of the visitors don’t browse to these parts of the website. They all go straight to the forums which is where all of the action happens. (Update: the team fixed the bug after this article was published)

Where all the action happens

SlickDeals user forums are arguably the most popular bargain hunting web forums on the net. Hot Deals, the most popular of them, produces hundreds of posts and thousands of user comments daily. This is the place where I go if I need details on a certain promotion or discount. Since there are so many people participating there is a good chance someone has already attempted to use it and posted their feedback. The community behind these forums is SlickDeals’ most valuable asset.

SlickDeals forum posts

SlickDeals is doing a great job keeping the posters rewarded for digging out bargains. Reputation based voting system is the cornerstone of the SlickDeals forums community. As users gain reputation they obtain certain profile attributes and other perks such as ability to give negative reputation to other users and access to closed areas of the forums.

Forums openness is another important factor that attracts people to SlickDeals. Life stories like this (Title: Another case of hurt feelings on FW) produce flame posts like this (Title: Oh why does Fatwallet suck?) and the ball just keeps rolling. “Corporate shills” is how SlickDeal’ers commonly refer to FatWallet forum moderators in The Lounge, the second popular forum where there is absolutely no inappropriate topic to discuss.

New features improve the site

SlickDeals keep adding features, and maybe not as aggressively as they should, they make the website easier to use with each upgrade. The recent addition includes Post Tags, First Post Preview and Deal Alerts (right now in closed beta testing). The preview lets you read the first post of a forum thread without opening the thread page. The alerts allow you to set up instant email notifications on forum new posts by keywords and/or thread rating.

SlickDeals New Features

This long overdue functionality is exactly what prompted me to start WiredDeals back in summer of 2006. Thank you Mr. SlickDeals! What took you so long? Now how about a more advanced search and threads filtering? ;-)

Conclusion

As with any social website an active community is ultimately the best way to build an even bigger community. As the web expands small sites get bigger but big established sites get bigger even faster. SlickDeals benefited from an early start and firmly established itself as the leader among the younger part of population.

If customizable avatars, long signatures, and fancy smile icons is what important for you — head for SlickDeals and you will feel yourself home. If you think you are too grown up for this childish stuff, wait a week until I review a SlickDeals alternative for conservative type — FatWallet. Until then, so long!

So long!




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