In June, Google launched a closed, invite-only beta test of their media buying planning tool Ad Planner. Many pundits predicted that Google’s offering would be damaging to established competitors like comScore, whose stock tumbled when Google’s product was announced. Those competitors were quick to dismiss the product as an inferior offering, but they may have reason to start worrying again: today Google opened up the free Ad Planner product to everyone and beefed up its feature set.
Though Ad Planner is aimed at media buyers to help them find the best sites to advertise on to reach their target audience, we’ve often used it as a way to compare sites within the same niche. We noticed during initial testing that Google’s product, which some surmise might be getting data from the Google Toolbar among other sources, had an uncanny ability to be able to accurately report traffic information. It isn’t perfect, but we’ve found it to be spot on more often than other free tools.
In addition to traffic stats, Ad Planner also gives demographic data on a site’s traffic — age, gender, education, household income — and suggests related sites and keywords. It’s hard to tell how accurate that information is, so it’s not easy to gauge value. But certainly, Ad Planner provides a nice starting point for ad buyers.
The new public release of Ad Planner adds a number of new features, including expansion into five new international territories: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Great Britain. Ad Planner can also filter results by keyword and geo-target. So, for example, you could find sites about certain topics (like model trains) that are frequented by visitors from specific countries, regions, or metro areas (like Washington, DC).
Ad Planner also offers a new bubble chart view to compare sites in your media plan and figure out where to allocate the brunt of your advertising budget.
The new Ad Planner still might not match the paid metrics from rivals like comScore and Neilsen, but as a free alternative it is definitely a useful tool for online advertisers to have in their arsenal. And as we noted, it can also be a great tool for site owners to use when researching competitors and new markets.
The video below comes from Google and introduces the Ad Planner product.
Josh Catone joined Mashable in May 2009 and is Executive Director of Editorial Projects. Before joining Mashable, Josh was the Lead Writer at ReadWriteWeb, the Lead Blogger at SitePoint, and the Community Evangelist at DandyID.