Monday, October 22, 2007

Site Hits

How to count the number of people who visit a website is a perennial problem--ask any webmaster. Pace Law Library runs a database on the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, and frequently must tell potential donors and others how many "hits" the site gets. I always says it depends on how you define a "hit," and wish I had software that would give me a precise count. It turns out that such software may not exist, according to an article in today's New York Times. At best, if it does exist, it is far from precise.

The number of visitors to a site translates directly into advertising revenue--the more visited a site is, the more online advertising it can attract. This is why the inability to get precise numbers of visitors is frustrating to "big media companies" whose "counts of Web visitors keep coming in vastly higher than those of the tracking companies." The numbers generated by tracking companies such as ComScore and Nielsen/NetRatings are used to figure advertising rates, which means that "growth of online advertising is being stunted...nobody can get the basic visitor counts straight." The discrepancies are striking. According to the article, officials at calculated that the site had received 11.6 million visitors from the United States last month, while Nielsen/NetRatings calculated 7.5 million visitors, and ComScore calculated only 5.8 million visitors. The speculation is that these discrepancies result from the difficulty of measuring use of the Internet by people at work; "corporate software makes the wanderings invisible to the tracking system." I find online advertising to be extremely irritating, but realize that someone needs to pay so I can continue to get my content for free.

1 comment:

Betsy McKenzie said...

Dear Marie,
Those of us subscribing to the Berkley Electronic Press are also seeing discussions of how to count "hits" in a real and verifiable way. They have redone their hit counter to discount "double clicks" when people want to download an article, and to weed out hits by spiders and robots roaming the web. A fascinating problem!