I have never believed figures provided by web traffic estimators like Alexa, Compete and Quantcast. My personal opinion is that it’s impossible to estimate the traffic of any website unless you are actively tracking the site with a piece of code.
Tests on my own sites have revealed that their estimates are way off, which gives me enough reason to believe that traffic figures for other sites must be incorrect too. Of course, the Internet is abound with evidences that proves this.
Social news site Reddit today provided further evidence by publishing their traffic data. Here are Reddit’s actual numbers as measured by Google Analytics, which they say, match with their own direct analysis of server logs.
More than 8,000,000 unique visitors in the last 30 days and 400,000,000 pageviews. This is a typical month for us. In fact, our numbers would have been even higher if not for some site issues at the end of June.
But Alexa, Compete and Quantcast puts up a very different picture.
Compete.com reports that we get around 927,000 unique visitors a month. Their page views number for us isn't available to the public, but we're told it's similarly sorry-looking.
Quantcast also seems to have no option for displaying the most important category (total page views), but here's their graph of visits per month:
They paint a picture of a visit count drooping from around 13,000,000 to 10,000,000 so far this year. It isn't. It's two to four times as much, and we haven't had two consecutive months of declining traffic since spring 2007.
Alexa is just plain weird:
They don't seem to like tallying actual totals, and instead seem to prefer to rate sites by their "percentage of total Internet traffic." If I could find their guess for last month's total global Internet traffic, I could multiply those two numbers together and calculate what they think our pageviews were, but since I can't find that key statistic, I can only look at their graphs comparing us to competing sites. Those graphs seem to indicate that Alexa, too, is drastically underrepresenting the size of reddit.
Finally, Nielsen might be the cagiest of all: I don't have a screenshot to present, but someone with a subscription to their ranking service tells us that they estimate our "Online Market Size Estimate" (whatever that is) to be 652,000.
Reddit hasn’t mentioned it, but there is another traffic estimator – Google Trends.
The graph indicates about 350K daily visitors during the month of June-July, which translates to 10,500,000 monthly visitors. This is closer to Reddit’s actual figures although it overestimates by about 2.5 million.
It’s a shame that advertisers and Internet marketers constantly trust numbers from such unreliable and worthless metric companies. The shocking thing is many of them are paying these companies in return for these dubious numbers.