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Playing In Traffic

More than a few sites have commented on Michelle Malkin's post on how many people are reading political blogs. I decided to compare the to services that have been mentioned (Alexa and Site Meter) with one that has been overlooked - server logs. Most hosting accounts come with statistics reporting packages such Awestats or Webalizer which give highly accurate traffic statistics because they use the web servers own log files to generate their reports.

I ran the numbers for these three measures for February 2005 at Wizbang to see the differences in the three methods of measurement [Stats shown after the break]. February was a bit of a down month compared to January 2005, but I'm missing a 10 days of server stats for January. I extrapolated the daily average to those days 10 days to estimate the total visits for January, then generated the same stats as shown below for February. The differences in traffic measurement between the three methods was (as a percentage) almost exactly the same as for February.

A couple notes:

  1. Alexa rankings are estimates pulled from the universe of Alexa Toolbar users then extrapolated to the internet in general. Alexa numbers are particularly useful for comparing the traffic of two sites to each other and in generating traffic rankings because all sites are measured in a uniform fashion. Using Alexa reach per million estimates to try to generate statistics for daily page views is basically a SWAG**, as both the reach and the number of daily internet user are estimates.

  2. Here is what Site Meter tracks: Site Meter tracks page views and visits. You may also have heard the term "hits". When someone comes to your site, they generate a "hit" for every piece of content that is sent to their computer. Viewing a single web site page would generate one hit for the page and one hit for every individual graphics file that was on the page. A single page could easily generate a dozen or more hits. When you are browsing a site, every time you follow a link, it is treated as a single "page view". Site Meter defines a "visit" as a series of page views by one person with no more than 30 minutes in between page views.

  3. Awestats and Webalizer numbers will almost always be higher than Site Meter numbers since it does not discard visits from the same IP address less than 30 minutes apart, as does Site Meter. In this regard Site Meter's methodology is probably more accurate than Awestats and Webalizer. Additionally the host based reporting packages capture RSS/Atom page loads where Site Meter and Alexa cannot and do not. In a typical month at Wizbang the RSS/Atom feeds are anywhere from 15% to 25% of the server measured page views. As all but one of the feeds includes full content, the majority of those page loads are never captured as visits by Site Meter. After adjusting for the feed issue (~5,000 visits a day) the server generated statistics and the Site Meter statistics are much closer.

Awestats - February 2005

Unique visitors - 344,302
Number of visits - 659,646 (1.91 visits/visitor)
Page view - 1,653,716 (2.5 pages/visit)
Hits - 11,346,005 (17.2 hits/visit)
Bandwidth - 126.60 GB (201.24 KB/visit)
Average visits per day 23,559

Site Meter February 2005

Site Meter visits - ~500,000
Site Meter page views ~ 640,000
Average visits per day 17,857

Alexa February 2005

Alexa Reach Rank - 90 per million
Average visits per day 10,800


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Comments (13)

KevinWe just start... (Below threshold)
Tom:

Kevin

We just started up our weblog, and noticing that the Sitemeter traffic is about 40% less that that shown on our hosting companies logs.
I remember James Joyner mentioning this a while back.

Tom

I think that since the Alex... (Below threshold)
bullwinkle:

I think that since the Alexa toolbar is considered spyware by most reasonable people that it would automatically inflate visits to sites by frequented by unreasonable people, like DU and Kos, most conservatives have enough sense to avoid spyware and delete it if they get it. That would really inflate visits to sites that attract stupid people, you know, like magnets to moonbats.

I only really read this blo... (Below threshold)
Rob Hackney:

I only really read this blog, even if it does have some liberal apologetic and socialist oriented posts on it from time to time, which is disappointing...

I also read amconmag.com, DAMN GOOD SITE yall.

So, alexa's rankings are ba... (Below threshold)

So, alexa's rankings are based entirely in its spyware?

Gadzooks.

So... who is this Alexa chi... (Below threshold)

So... who is this Alexa chick, and why haven't you posted naked pictures of her yet? :-)

<a href="http://www.bodymod... (Below threshold)
bullwinkle:
SiteMeter shows less traffi... (Below threshold)

SiteMeter shows less traffic than Web server logs because it filters out referrer spam. SiteMeter's stats are more honest - esp. when communicating stats to current or potential advertisers.

Kevin, this is very interes... (Below threshold)

Kevin, this is very interesting. It's a bit confusing, however, because you use the word "visits" to describe the Alexa statistics. I think you mean "unique visitors," no? If so, the statistics from all three packages seem to track together fairly well: roughly 11,000 unique vistors per day averaging between 18,000 - 24,000 visits per day (roughly 2 visits per day for each visitor).

There is one strange thing. The Awstats figure of 344,302 unique visitors last month seems impossibly high. As you point out, that figure implies that the average visitor came to your site only 1.9 times during the entire month of February. I probably clicked on your site more than 100 times last month, and I bet I'm not unusual. If the average visitor viewed your site, say, 20 times last month, then the Awstats number for unique visitors would be 32,982 (659,646/20=32,982). That strikes me as a lot more reasonable.

About spyware, I performed ... (Below threshold)
-S-:

About spyware, I performed an online scan yesterday and was pronounced to have "spyware" on my computer, and it was identified as being from "sitemeter."

Surprise, surprise, sitemeter tracks your web history if you don't prevent them from doing so. Thus, spyware.

Just saying.

And, yes, Alexa is spyware ... (Below threshold)
-S-:

And, yes, Alexa is spyware (too). Which I prevent from interacting with my computer.

Did you find whether they w... (Below threshold)

Did you find whether they weed out bots? That can really throw things off since there are plenty of bots, and they do a lot of browsing.

BTW, I wrote my own traffic monitor, and weed out any "user agent" that has accessed the robots.txt -- which removes bots from the count. I still get roughly 5% more visits on my own counter than on the sitemeter counter I also use.

Another trend I've noticed is porn sites hitting my pages, apparently in an effort to get listed in any "who's sent us traffic" type list.

For a peek at my home made traffic monitor display you can go to http://jacklewis.net/_parse_jl_traffic.php, but I remove the data files every so often to my home computer to save online disk space.

Here is a page that may hel... (Below threshold)

Here is a page that may help in making comparisons between the different tracking services.

http://www.sitemeter.com/default.asp?action=help&area=COMPARE

SiteMeter filters out most ... (Below threshold)

SiteMeter filters out most bots and referrer spam, but it also filters out people without JavaScript enabled. It is always going to be lower than server stats because of that reason.




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