A Peek Behind the Curtain on Traffic

Over at the Arkansas Times blog, I posted a note today on traffic numbers for and This, after someone put up some inaccurate numbers from

My comment below. I should also note that not only do I think numbers for our Web sites are way off, but numbers for other sites the person mentions are off badly as well.

A note about the traffic numbers from Meet John Doe. Those numbers are way off what Google Analytics tells us about and

According to Google:

– had 36,502 unique visitors in the last 30 days, with 60,382 visits total
– had 80,279 unique visitors in the last 30 days, with 217,659 total visits

I guess I’ll geek out a minute and talk Google Analytics vs. other traffic numbers:

Meet John Doe’s numbers appear to come from, which bases its traffic on a sample of users (they say 2 million-plus) who respond to surveys and have given them permission to see what sites they visit.

Compete is similar to Alexa, Comscore and others in that they don’t directly measure traffic across a large portion of the Web. They rely on survey samples and traffic derived from folks who, for example, download and install a special toolbar to their browser. That toolbar tracks what sites those people visit and reports the numbers back to Compete.

Google Analytics, however, measures all the traffic coming into a site — no survey sample, no toolbars, just pure total traffic. Webmasters who use Analytics give Google front row access to the numbers that other services don’t have.

So while Compete asks 10 people on the street if they’ve been to your site, Google stands at the door and counts them as they come in.

Of course, Google Analytics doesn’t put numbers for client sites out there for everyone to see. I can’t, for example, go into Analytics to get traffic numbers (assuming they even use Analytics) because that data is available only to the site’s Webmaster.

Compete, Alexa and Comscore perform better with major Web sites — those with 500,000 unique visitors or more, which is why the big boys like Yahoo!, MSNBC, CNN and Drudge quote them all the time. It’s simply a question of massive popularity and sample size. But for smaller sites, the numbers can be wildly inaccurate.

– Lance Turner, Internet Editor, Arkansas Business Publishing Group

More than you’d ever want to know about Web traffic. But know us “print” people now how the TV guys have felt all these years, with folks spouting off ratings numbers all willy-nilly.


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