Web Traffic Counts Are Off; Will Advertisers Run?

Last Updated Oct 23, 2007 6:19 PM EDT

traffic-counter.jpgDo you know how much traffic your website gets? Here's a better question: do your advertisers trust that number's accuracy? Tracking companies seem to be at odds when it comes to keeping count -- and their estimates are often dramatically less than companies' internal calculations. The New York Times used Style.com to illustrate the issue that -- according to NYT -- is slowing the growth of online advertising. Parent company Conde Nast counted 1.8 million visitors to Style.com in September, as opposed to comScore's 421,000 and Nielson/Net Ratings' 497,000. Looks like someone's off a little.

Online publishing companies argue that comScore's and Nielsen/NetRatings' methodology (which uses a representative panel's activity to extrapolate total traffic) doesn't account for the influx of Web surfers who visit sites at work. Some companies take the argument even further, questioning whether the panels actually represent all Web users.

So the numbers are off. Will advertisers really care? Peter Kafka at Silicon Alley Insider thinks not:

The more relevant question: How much does this really matter to Web advertisers? The Times argues that the confusion is slowing the growth of the Web ad market, but given that marketers continue to pour money into the Internet, it's hard to make that case. One reason why that's so: Web advertisers are most often buying a certain number of impressions, and those impressions are usually purchased and audited by a third-party insertion company. So it's not terribly relevant if a Web site claims they have 15.3 million uniques, and comScore says they have 13.2 million: Advertiser X just needs to know that their ad was served up Y times in Z time-frame.
If you take a look at the comments on his blog, you'll notice readers are not in agreement with Kafka. What's your take?

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(Traffic Counter image by marstheinfomage)