One way to separate padded stats from real stats

I've seen in several instances where web sites will show a really neat graph of site stats, displaying a huge amount of traffic, yet you have to pull back and scratch your head because there seems to be very little actual activity on the site.

I could go into examples, but shouldn't site activity somehow relate to actual traffic numbers?  Yes, it should.  But, traffic numbers can be manipulated in various ways, as I talk about one in particular in my recent post on Sites that provide active content *only* by pulling in information from other places.

From a perspective, we know that there is activity every day in the forums, email lists, new articles, blogs, the Wiki, news, newsletter, FAQs, TV, etc.  There's not a single inactive day that goes by on  So, in our case, at least, the traffic does relate to actual activity.

But, as a vendor who might want to advertise on a specific site to reach a specific audience…how do you know the difference?  How do you know the stats you are looking at are actual instead of padded?  How can you determine if your marketing dollar will see real benefits?

Simple.  Ask for activity stats.  Ask for how many visitors a day, week, or month.  Then ask for details of where activity is taking place, how often, and by whom.  Take those numbers and relate them to the traffic stats (btw, traffic stats should be based on page views) you were given.  This will give you better idea where your marketing dollar has the most value, and if the traffic stats you were given held any credence.

The last thing you want to do is buy advertising based on traffic stats alone, and then 3 months down the road have to tell management that you only made a couple contacts.

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