Basic Web Analytics for Hong Kong City Guide Websites

How do website owners attract advertisers? The first thing that comes to mind is provision of unique, consistent content that’s useful to the advertiser’s target audience. This is quite subjective and also we find many similar sites in Hong Kong competing for attention. I wonder if the next step is.. grab an unsuspecting journalist and paint him/her a good picture about you, enough to catapult you into one of the feature stories for next issue. And throw in some random visitor stat numbers so if advertisers take a glance at the article, they’ll notice you.

I often think that print media is much more reliable than online because of one reason. With print, editors realize there’s no turning back; whatever information printed on a newspaper page or magazine cover stays like that. With online, editor, blogger or webmaster can modify information thanks to blog platforms and content management systems. I think corrections, errata and the like are simply too late.

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Websites of city guides in Hong Kong were questioned on the accuracy of the data they presented through Marketing Magazine‘s Media Relations section on its October 2009 issue. I always think that the magazine has the power to verify information. But sometimes it is at the mercy of these people who answer their questions, more particularly on objective stuff like visitor numbers. If I tell you my website has 3,500 visitors or 250 visitors a day, it’s hard to figure out by just looking at my website. Surely we can use Compete, Alexa and other tools that have big deviations with the real numbers but why do we need to do so? Can these website owners simply share to us their Omniture or Google Analytics reports and prove to us naysayers we are wrong by judging the website by its homepage?

To a site that’s built with the aim of generating ads to make money, it’s a cardinal sin to disclose you have a paltry number of visitors coming to your website. Hip Hong Kong’s 60,000 unique visitors claim is literally unbelievable although by any means not impossible. It’s absolutely difficult to verify the number unless the owner discloses analytics data. Sharing analytics data should be more effective in convincing advertisers, rather than just put up arbitrary numbers into your rate card.

Maybe, it might help to give a little refresher about some of the most commonly used, and sometimes abused, web analytics terms.

Page Views Per Month
The total number of pages visited by all visitors in a month. If I visited your site three times this month, and on average I viewed two pages I contributed six page views to your site this month regardless if they are the same or unique pages.

Unique Visitors Per Month
The unique number of visitors coming to your site each month. That means regardless if I visit your site every single day and average 10 page views per visit, I would still be counted as one unique visitor.

Hits
Number of hits is also synonymous to the number of requests from the server. A web page with many images, uses multiple JavaScript and stylesheet files, can register multiple hits at a single page view instance.

Number of hits is a pretty outdated metric that when Dim Sum and Then Some used it, it occurred to me that either the website is using some pretty outdated web analytics tool or that the interviewees only wanted people (who don’t understand what “hits” is all about) to see gaudy numbers. Or both.

To me the number of visitors of a website is not as important as the quality of content and how targeted your army of loyal readers are. Other than the element of brand awareness, a large proportion of the audience will ignore an ad. Comscore (through New York Times) has reported that ad blindness continue to persist as a drop of 50% of Internet users who click on ads between July 2007 and March 2009. Worse, some of them might think negatively of ads as a disruption to their website experience and avoid engaging on that advertiser.

Hong Kong has been inundated with city guides — resource websites that tell you where’s the hippest party, coolest bar, where to meet the prettiest ladies, latest gadgets and anything that you haven’t even thought of before. Despite its relatively high broadband penetration, Hong Kong’s Internet population is still small. But there’s room — albeit tiny — for everyone to join the party and outsmart each other. It’s just a matter of time the natural law of attrition takes its toll.

Photo credit: Gustavo G