A Sharp Change In How Web Traffic Is Analyzed

With so much of E-Commerce analytics dependent on industry-accepted definitions of pageviews, visitors and visit length, changes in the way that is tracked can have a huge impact. So when Nielsen/NetRatings on Tuesday announced that radical changes it how it tracks Web site popularity, it's something to be seriously examined.

The first impact of the change—which will now measure popularity by how long users linger on sites, not by how many pages they view—was that it sent AOL, Yahoo and MSN way up, leapfrogging Google, according to this well-done Washington Post story. The story reported that IM and E-mail usage was a key factor.

The change in audience measurement comes as the frequent use of online video and streaming sports scores and stock quotes make the number of page views increasingly irrelevant to a Web site's popularity, the story said. "New technology has also altered the way consumers engage sites. For example, a system called Ajax automatically refreshes Web page content without the user clicking to reload the page, which reduced the number of page views in the old rankings. Now new e-mails also appear without pressing the "check mail" button. Nielsen rival ComScore addressed these changes in March by measuring the frequency with which users return to sites." A piece very much worth reading.