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Tracking The Websurfer 17 October 2002 Edition
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Both IDG and the NZ Herald are carrying stories about the release of the first lot of RedSheriff website ratings this week.

RedSheriff were given the job of measuring and reporting traffic to those websites who are prepared to pay $1,200 per year for the privilege.

The results are interesting but not surprising in their content. XtraMSN takes out the top position with nearly 620K "unique visitors", the NZ Herald comes second with 170K, and Stuff sits in third place with 166K.

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Of course this can all be taken with a pinch of salt when it's remembered that only those who cough up that $1,200 are included. I suspect for example, that if NZ's own 7am.com were to pay their money then they'd easily eclipse XtraMSN as the number-one Kiwi-based online publisher.

Is Aardvark in the list? Hell no!

Despite the kind sponsorship this site now receives, I'm in no position to spend $1,200 a year just so someone can tell me how well (or badly) my website is doing. HitWise does that for free anyway.

Just yesterday they sent me an email telling me that Aardvark now ranks third in the "News and Media - IT Media" category and inviting me to give them some free advertising by way of placing their logo on my pages.

Readers Say
(updated irregularly)
  • Rating websites... - Peter
  • xtramsn... - Mike
  • Have Your Say
    So where do you go if you want the *actual* rankings of NZ's websites?

    Well nowhere I guess.

    RedSheriff only includes those who pay, HitWise uses traffic figures from the web-caches of some unnamed ISPs (which don't include most of the big ones) and extrapolate from there, and Nielsens/NetRatings extrapolate from an even smaller group.

    And now, thanks to agressive ISP webcaching, if you host your site offshore you can't even trust your own webserver to tell you the truth about how many unique users and "hits" your own website has received from NZ.

    What I did find interesting in the results published by RedSheriff was the various factors that obviously drive traffic (in seeming order of importance):

    1. Being the default homepage on a user's browser (XtraMSN)
    2. Being content-rich with a finger in print-media (NZ Herald/Stuff)
    3. Having your own TV channels (NZoom)
    4. Offering people a bargain or two (TradeMe)
    5. Giving money away (Kachingo)
    So it seems that when it comes to generating huge amounts of traffic on the Web, content isn't king at all. Having a close relationship with the company that makes the browsers is the key to success!

    But is it really important to know exactly how may websurfers cruise by your website?

    There's the argument that independently generated webstats are important if you're going to carry advertising -- but are they?

    Ultimately, most online advertising is sold on the basis of the number of views an ad receives, or the number of click-throughs it generates. Both of these figures can be easily measured as they occur and don't require the type of reports the traffic measuring services are touting.

    Two or three years ago the size of your audience was just about the only metric for measuring an online venture's success.

    These days however, more traditional factors such as the amount of revenue generated tend to feature more highly in the success equation.

    Ultimately, website traffic is just another expense if your online venture isn't designed to convert those eyes into cash. Unfortunately for most publishers, this is conversion remains a bit of a problem area.

    For that reason I suggest that people don't get too fixated on traffic until they've discovered the magic X-factor needed to squeeze all those wallets.

    Still, it would be quite nice if there were a service available to all website operators which didn't cost money but which gave relative rankings right across the board. Maybe there's an opportunity there?

    If you want to have your say on the contents of today's column then please do so. Only comments marked "For Publication" will (if I have time) be published in the readers' comments section.

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