Thursday, 18 June 2009

lies damned lies and online statistics

When i first started in digital media everybody talked in hits, this then moved to page impressions and then to unique visitors and there is has stayed for a number of years. The common theme to this is quoting the largest possible number to business owners or advertisers. However that number has never truly reflected the engagement with an online offering.

The problem with online traffic is that is is now vast, think of the page impressions Facebook alone generates. But what is the value of those impressions? This growth combined with the recssion has caused the decline in the channel sell of online inventory reducing ad rates significantly.

Simon Waldman from Guardian Media Group has recently openden the loyalty debate once again. In simple terms if you have 100 people visit your site every day and spend an hour on it you have 100 monthly unique visitors. If you have 100 people visiting your site for 2 mins every day for a month you have 3,000 monthly uniques. One is clearly a bigger number but which in effect is more valuable to the site owner and the advertiser?

Right now we are all still chasing U/V's but it was not long ago it was page views and i suspect we will see another change in the next couple of years.


  1. Cromer Cricket Club had 996 unique visitors in May. That's pretty fucking good, I think.

  2. obviously not a lot going on in Cromer, then!

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  4. That's why all major ad platforms (including Facebook, Adsense) have offered pay per click based advertising for the last 5 years?

    PVs / Impressions are quite frankly useless as a metric. You have absolutely no way of judging the value of those impressions, I could make a website tonight and buy 100,000 pop-under visitors per month for $20, so what?

    Most of these adverts are run with horribly broad "profiling", without consideration for intent or content - where is the value of the end user (engagement?). It isn't there in 99% of cases, even with more advanced platorms such as Adsense.

    Even getting past that, in an age of mashups, bots, crawlers and conjiggery you have to tackle click-fraud, which currently constitutes around 50% of Facebook ad clicks.

    I think people talked (and still do) talk about "hits" because they don't understand the difference. I'm sure you do Tim, but I'd like to explain the difference for everyone:

    A "hit" is when a single request is sent to your web server, meaning if you have some text and 5 images - 1 visitor produces 6 hits (1 for text content, 5 for images). As you can see, add in a few thumbnails and voilá, I have 500 "hits" for every visitor.

    A hit is used to measure server load, not any kind of measure of users.