28 October 2009

How should web traffic be measured?

A key factor in attracting advertisers is to be able to deliver an audience. So what is the best way to measure traffic to a newspaper’s website? This is something discussed in an article on the Guardian’s PDA blog.

According to the report, methods of evaluating data online are always changing. It describes how, initially, the most important web traffic measurement was page impressions.

This however prompted some publishers to try and boost ratings by using picture galleries and a move to counting unique users on a monthly basis was made.

This method counts the unique device – a computer or mobile phone for example – that requests content from a website. This monthly count does not account for the individual user, however, only the device used.

Daily newspapers, however, would prefer a daily figure so a discussion is underway as to whether the system should change again. When last week, the ABCes were published, the statistics included figures for daily unique users for the third time.

The calculation is not as simple as taking the total unique user figure and dividing it by the number of days in the month.

As the ABC explained to the Guardian: "The total monthly unique user/browser figure is deduplicated over the period of time being measured, which is a calendar month. For example, if a unique user/browser visits a website on day five and on day 12 in the month it will be counted as a daily unique user/browser on day five and a daily unique user/browser on day 12.

"Hence, it will be counted twice (once per day present) when calculating the daily average unique user/browser figure. However, it will only be counted once within the total monthly UUB figure."

Looking at monthly users rather than daily users, says the article, can reward a site that is attracting a lot of different users rather than the same regular users and has remained the more important measurement.

But, it says, a change to daily measurements could still be on the horizon.

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