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  Stats Market  
StatMarket Vs. Other Rating Services

There are pluses and minuses to StatMarket's data, as it relates to search engines. These are outlined below.

Statistics from major ratings services such as Media Metrix and Nielsen NetRatings do not break out the search-specific traffic from other traffic to popular sites such as Yahoo, Excite and Go. For instance, this means someone who is visiting Excite to get their mail or check their horoscope is counted right alongside those doing searches. That makes it difficult to know whether a top ranked site is really top ranked when it comes to search-specific activities.

In contrast, StatMarket's data ranks search engines based on the actual searches that were done to reach web sites that use the HitBox tracker. Potentially, this makes it far more accurate than the ratings services for understanding which sites are popular from a search-specific perspective.

Unfortunately, StatMarket's data depends on users installing code on their pages. Many do this to their home pages but ignore their "inside" pages. That means some visits to inside pages may not be recorded. This has a serious impact on crawler-based search engines, which often bring users directly inside a web site, not just to the home page. If there is no tracking code on the pages they reference, then visits that they are sending will be missed.

One other concern is that a significant number of pornographic sites make use of HitBox trackers. That could possibly skew the data from that an "average" web site would receive. However, StatMarket says that it has done studies that show traffic to porn sites does not produce such skewing.

Current Comparison
Below is a look at the latest StatMarket ratings that have been released. This shows what percentage of all search engine-related traffic came from each search engine to web pages with HitBox counters on them. Only the top ten search engines generating traffic are shown, so the total does not equal 100 percent. The chart reflects traffic measured on Monday, April 3, 2000.

KEY: YH=Yahoo, AV=AltaVista, EX=Excite, GO=Go (Infoseek), LY=Lycos, SP=Snap, GT=GoTo, MSN=MSN, WC=WebCrawler, AJ=Ask Jeeves.
Also use this key for charts below. See the Major Search Engines page for links to these services.

Yahoo stands well above the other search engines, and that fits in with statistics from other ratings services and reports by webmasters who often find Yahoo to be their top traffic generator.

However, concerns that I have about inside pages possibly being missed and skewing the statistics feel confirmed when you examine the next services listed: AltaVista and Excite. Both of these are crawler-based search engines that favor home pages. All things being equal, they'll list a home page rather than an inside page. This is probably giving them an advantage in StatMarket's system, while some of their competitors might be penalized.

Additionally, the presence of WebCrawler in the top ten is a sure sign of skewing. WebCrawler's listings are heavily dominated by home pages. Most sites will not have inside pages listed in WebCrawler. Because of this, WebCrawler is especially likely to do unusually well in StatMarket's system. Moreover, having seen referral data from a variety of web sites, I simply do not believe WebCrawler sends traffic to more sites than hugely-popular services such as AOL Search, MSN Search and Netscape Search.

Trend Comparison
The chart below shows StatMarket ratings over time. The company released data in 1999 for these days: Tuesday, March 30; Sunday, August 29; Sunday, Dec. 19. In 2000, data for Monday, April 3 has been released. If a search engine is not shown for all days, this is because it didn't appear in the top ten list for that date.

As with other rating services, StatMarket ranks Yahoo far above the rest of the search engines. Here's a look with Yahoo removed, which makes it easier to see changes among the other search engines:
The latest figures show a huge gain by AltaVista. The search engine began advertising itself in Fall 1999, but the rise comes after this. Perhaps the increase is a delayed reaction to AltaVista's brand-building efforts.

As for Excite, StatMarket previously explained its drop from March 1999 to a lower level in August 1999 as due to Excite no longer powering the AOL search service, then known as AOL NetFind. However, this only makes sense if StatMarket was previously counting AOL-related traffic as part of Excite's totals in March. If so, and this seems the case, then Excite may have been over-reported and really didn't have such a dramatic fall.

Finally, one last closer look, at those generating 10 percent or less of search engine-related traffic:

Notable here is the gain by Snap, which doubled its previous rating from 12/99. Snap made a chance since December that allowed webmasters to more easily list their sites. Consequently, this is probably why it shows an increase in the share of search engine related traffic that it is driving.
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