Yahoo`s Popularity Underreported

Yahoo may be a distant second to Google in popularity as a search engine, but those numbers aren’t quite as bad as we may have been led to believe. The venerable site claims that comScore seriously under-reported the number of its US page views for June.

How serious was the error? According to Yahoo, comScore somehow missed more than a billion page views. And that’s not even counting the amount of time US visitors spent on Yahoo’s pages. Somehow, the Internet survey company missed about 850 million minutes spent by US visitors on Yahoo’s pages. Do the math; that’s more than 16 centuries!

ComScore explained that they use a panel of two million users and websites’ traffic logs in their site analysis and reporting, and blamed a processing error for the lost visits and time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exactly take Yahoo off the hook. After correcting for the omission, Yahoo’s page views were still way down from May, just by not quite as much. It was a decrease of a little under five percent as opposed to more than seven percent.

That still makes a big difference to Yahoo…and to those who advertise with the company. “It’s important that our business partners, advertisers, and shareholders have an accurate, independent third-party measurement of our performance,” Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz explained. As one of the oldest search engines that stills draws significant traffic, Yahoo has been trying to turn things around for years. When third parties make mistakes in measuring Internet traffic, it doesn’t help; mistaken impressions have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.

This isn’t the first time comScore has made a mistake in its numbers for Yahoo. Earlier this year, when comScore reported that the search engine’s page views had increased, others called into question what comScore counted as a “page view.” It turns out that the company included search results on slide shows in the numbers, which may have been a controversial decision.

Unfortunately for Yahoo, either way, the numbers this time really weren’t enough to make a difference. At less than 40 billion views, Yahoo came in third for page views, behind Facebook with about 58 billion and Google with about 47 billion. These results may indicate that the real battleground on the Internet is changing, and the next major frontier for online marketers and advertisers isn’t search engines, but social media sites. That evolution has been going on for quite some time now, of course; the numbers simply reinforce that view.

If you’re trying to track the popularity of the top websites for marketing purposes, there’s a lesson you can learn from this. When possible, get your information on the number of visitors to a website from at least two independent sources. If you can ascertain that they use different (but rigorous) techniques for tracking a site’s  visits, so much the better. Tracking a site’s visitor numbers as a third party is tricky, but if there’s significant disagreement between your two sources, there may be something going on that merits closer examination.

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