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How to Check Online “Circulation”
In an Internet world where everyone and his dog claim to be number one, in terms of traffic to their website, number one on Google etc, how do you know who is telling the truth about web traffic and who is just hyping up their business by telling porkies?
Traditionally, in print journalism everybody was interested in just one statistic – circulation. That meant how many papers or magazines they actually sold.
As sales in print started to decline, some nifty newspapers resorted to giving away free copies, usually on trains, airlines and in hotels in the hope that recipients of these free hand-outs would like the publication and become regular buyers or take out a subscription.
An alternative business model to the paid for paper came along next where all the issues were circulated free and those advertisers in the issue would then pay the cost of the publication, plus a margin of profit.
When circulation in the newsprint industry continued to fall managers came up with a clever new statistic: readership.
Newspapers with a circulation of say 300,000 may then be said to have a readership of 1m. They were estimating how many people read every edition, so if a household takes the Sunday Mail, perhaps dad reads the sport and business section, mum reads the ladies fashion and junior reads the comic section.
The totally free press would claim that copies left on seats on trains and buses may be read by fellow passengers, so readership statistics became a life saver to the advert salespeople.
Print circulation and with it advertising revenue continued to fall despite the proprietors playing with the numbers. Then, along came the internet which brought in many different ways to measure “circulation”, but which is no longer called circulation.
There are various ways of measuring traffic to websites, which signifies the equivalent of print circulation: Webaliser, Alexa.com, Google Analytics and various other tools, all of which seem to vary wildly in terms of the figures they come up with.
In the early days of the internet (LandlordZONE® started in 1999 around the same time that the Google search engine came along) “hits” were the measure everyone talked about. But people soon started to realise that measuring hits was a very misleading concept: in reality HITS are clocked up on elements present on a single page, so pictures, links, tables and other content would all produce one hit each for any one visit to a page, wildly overstating traffic volume.
The next measure which became important to advertisers and website publishers became visits. The actual number of visits a page and in turn a whole website receives in a given period of time therefore represents a far more accurate measure of traffic volume than hits.
The next measure to come along was not mere “visits” but “unique visits”.
That means that each computer visiting a website (as denoted by its unique IP address) is counted as one visit per 24 hours. This means that a visitor to LandlordZONE® at 9am in the morning, and perhaps again several times that day up until 12 midnight, would be counted as one visit or “click”. The visitor is counted as one user in that 24 hour period.
So, if our website generates 100,000 unique visitors in a day, it means the 100,000 totally unique or different visitors came in that day, even though some of them may have visited several times in the day.
This unique visitor metric becomes a very important measure to our advertisers as it tells them our “reach”, our power to get actual different users visiting the website from real different places.
Advertisers are also interested in how many “page views” we have and this is different from “impressions”. A page view is counted for every page loaded, so a visitor entering the LandlordZONE® home page, clicks on a news story and then clicks on a forum page before exiting, will clock up three page views. The page view count is important because the more pages viewed, the more ads will have been presented to the visitor.
Impressions are different because this is a count of how many times an individual ad. has been presented to a visitor. That’s because many ad. banners and logos rotate, so the same ads will not necessarily appear on every page view.
If there are three rotating ads to a single ad space, then 90,000 visits will general on average 30,000 impressions for an individual ad.
Another important measure for advertisers is the click through rate (CTR) which can be tracked and accurately measured by the server which serves the ads to a website.
This CTR varies a lot given many factors including the attractiveness of the ad, the position on the page, the popularity and brand recognition, the relevance of the product to a specific audience, and the popularity of the product being advertised etc.
So, for example an ad. receives 150 clicks from 5,000 impressions. Divide 150/5,000 and you have a CTR of 3%.
Advertisers on LandlordZONE® need to know our traffic in relation to our competition, to know that we have a focussed and unique audience relating to rental property, and to realise that a product which is popular with our audience is likely to generate more click throughs.
We have found from experience that advertisers who take a long-term strategy of developing a presence and brand recognition will get better results than a short, sharp campaign. A longer term campaign is often more cost effective on price as discounts are available.
We encourage all our advertisers to compare our traffic (using the available web tools) relative to our competitors as we are confident of our claim to be the UK’s number one, most visited Landlord website – it’s not just marketing hype.
by Tom Entwistle