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Whose is Bigger? Local Website Traffic Boasts De-Bunked

A small kerfluffle erupted online recently here in Kansas City about web traffic and whose is bigger.

On December 26, 2009 Hearne Christopher posted this bit of braggadocio:

“KCC launched late last February with just under 700 visitors to the spanking new site the first day. We wrapped up the month of November with a smidgen under 3 million hits for the month and a seven-day average of more than 99,000 hits a day. Not a bad beginning.”

Comments to the posting questioned the numbers and another thread was started on a Gatewaycityradio message board (I didn’t know those still existed…) about it.  And Christopher responded:

“Hey guys, thanks for your expressions of support. And criticism.  Allow me to tell you that I would not put these numbers into print were they not accurate. There are a number of “sources” that attempt to measure - from the outside in - Web hits, etc. IT experts tell me they vary widely in accuracy. What does not vary is the actual measures that we get. They are accurate and EXACTLY as described.”

The problem is that Hearne Christopher did not “exactly describe” anything.

Christopher's new BFF, Tony Botello of Tony’s Kansas City, then chimed in to defend Hearne’s manhood, see that they are now conjoined at the hip with their sites. Tony’s missive can found here:  https://www.kcconfidential.com/?p=11438#more-11438

Although he makes some valid points, Tony’s response did not address the real issue.  Maybe he is spending too much time with his “KickAss Tipsters” because his defense of Christopher’s assertion is more like a politician’s “confuse and distract” non-answer, answer.

The “stats” that Hearne Christopher explains concerning “hits” and “visitors”) are two completely different things. A hit on a website occurs anytime a file is downloaded when another computer visits a site. This includes the index file and all of the graphics on the web page – so one visitor could conceivably count as dozens of “hits” on a page.

It gets even more complicated with caching. If visitors have been to the site before, their computer may have “cached” some of the files so the next visit the page will load more quickly. Not only do individual computers cache data, but so do service providers like AOL, TimeWarner and AT&T. They may cache commonly used files to reduce the load on their servers.

It is true most website design and hosting providers may have their own website statistic tracking software. That data usually is more reliable than what may be found at online sites like www.userstatistics.com linked to by “Midtown Miscreant”, another well-read local blogger who questioned Hearne’s numbers.

Tony references sites that claim to measure traffic like Quantcast, Compete and Alexa – but the problem is that they only offer accurate counts from users who have downloaded and use their software because each of them wants website owners to purchase a subscription or their software, many experts discount their published numbers.

To confuse the issue even further, web traffic statistics are clouded by the fact that literally thousands of spiders and bots from search engines around the world are looking for keywords on websites. When they find the keywords – they may register as a visitor in web traffic analysis software. Most advertisers would not be happy to know that a claim of 10,000 visitors per month includes 3,000 electronic hits from software – not people.

This is really the heart of the problem when trying to “monetize” a website. No one has figured the solution out yet, and advertisers are understandably confused, befuddled and dismayed when trying to decide how, or even if, to spend their ad dollars online. This is especially true with local advertising.

It is a rare small business owner who has the time or inclination to learn the facts and pitfalls of online advertising. Tony makes a good case in his response that small sites like the KCTribune.com are more suited for advertisers who are looking for branding and association with a specific genre or category of reader.

Traditional print advertising seems like a simple equation in comparison. A newspaper or magazine can claim readership by subscription and distribution numbers. Although if you think about it – these numbers can also be questioned – nothing guarantees that a subscriber is going to open the page and see the specific ad. And just like the internet, a print issue may be read by more than one person, just as one computer screen does not always equal one person at the other end of the flickering light.

This brings me back to boys comparing things in the shower room.  After all, if a site is getting the comparable of 10+ inches of hits, it doesn’t necessarily speak well of the site's content.  Internet porn sites have proven that!

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