How to Verify a Website's Traffic Before You Advertise

Knowing how to verify a website owner's claims can save a lot of money when it comes to advertising.  If you own a business you have probably been approached by someone offering to let you advertise on their website for "only" one hundred dollars per month.  They may tell you that their website has thousands of visitors per day. How do you know their claims are valid?

Website statistical programs and services are as common as mosquitoes on a summer night.  Most of them are designed for website owners to analyze their website traffic.  Services that allow you to examine other people's web statistics are much less common.

The granddaddy of web statistics services is Alexa ( Alexa has been around for a long time, and if you view their results in a very broad manner they can be very useful. 

Alexa relies on statistical analysis based on raw data gathered by observing the browsing habits of people who have the Alexa toolbar installed in their web browser.  The problem is that very few people actually have the toolbar installed.  The sparsity of data means that their numbers become more reliable as the number of website visits goes up.  They will even tell you that their numbers for websites below the top 100,000 most popular should be regarded as estimates.

I run the Alexa toolbar in my browser and I use it quite frequently to check the veracity of website owners claims regarding the number of visitors and page views their sites receive.  On poorly performing websites, those below 10,000,000 or so,I can actually see their statistics rise simply because I visited their website while running the Alexa toolbar.

Another service, Quantcast ( uses a different approach.  They rely on website owners to place a small java script on their websites. The script "quantifies" website visitors on a real-time basis. Website owners and marketers can view the website statistics as well as a host of information about the demographics of the site's audience.

The most detailed reports are reserved for website owners, but marketers may request to be given access to detailed reports.  The reports cover standard website stats like number of visits, unique visitors, page views, etc. Quantcast really begins to shine when it displays the audience demographic breakdown.  It covers geographic location, gender, ethnicity, income and generalized interests.

While Quantcast is reluctant to disclose exactly how they generate all of their demographics, but it is obvious that they cross reference their raw web data with a number of other sources.  The result is live reports and graphs that are easy to read and understand.  Their marketing push comes in their ability to provide marketers with "look-alikes" to people who already visit a website

When someone tells you that their website gets millions of hits, don't take them at their word.  Check it out.  You could save yourself a lot of money.

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