Calling Active Rain traffic statistics into question

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So I was looking at my Active Rain statistics today (To be honest not something I had ever really done before aside from the occasional glance. And of course, being the curious cat that I am, I decided to take the time to figure out how these things were calculated and what exactly I was looking at. Also I wanted to see how my stats stacked up in terms of traffic vs my REW Blog.

A quick overview of Active Rain the stats as I understand them (This is for blog entries)

The stats break down the following

  • Date: This is when you submitted an article
  • Title: This is the title of your article
  • Comments: This is how many comments the article has received
  • Views: This (I think) is impressions (One of the numbers I want to go into detail about, see below)
  • Clicks: This is total page refreshes NOT unique readers (Another one of the numbers I want to go into detail about, see below) 

Now let's get into some detail:

Views: This is NOT how many times a particular blog article has been viewed. (Which is what I and many others had assumed) - this is actually a total count of how many opportunities to get clicked on and read for an individual blog post at AR. I really think this needs to be renamed as it is kind of misleading - Here I am thinking that my particular blog article is being read by all these people, when actually that is not what "views" means at all. Kind of feels like they are trying to inflate my stats. This should be called "Opportunities to get clicked" or to use a more familiar term "impressions".

Here is why this is important - "Impressions" gauge potential. If a link to your blog article gets an "impression" that means there is the "potential" for someone to click on it and read it. But it is not the same thing as the blog post actually being read. Just like in Adsense - I can bid on a keyword that has 100 searches per day, and show if I have appropriate bidding etc, my Ad will be shown on Google's search page 100 times. Now I am purchasing this ad because I want potential customers to be exposed to my services, but the only time these people are actually exposed to my services is when they "Click" on my add. The impressions aren't really valuable to me, the "clicks" are. This is why Google charges "Per click" as opposed to "Per Impression" - If my ad was shown 100 times and no one clicked it, those impressions are basically worthless to me.

The same goes for Active Rain - I may write a blog, and it might show up in a list of most recent posts, or other places - but this link to my post shares the page with no less than 20 other posts and is pushed down the list quite quickly as other posts are made. Also on this same page are all the other links that are part of Active Rain - Advertisements, links to the main sections of the site, all kinds of things. So if my post shows up somewhere on a page with 50+ other links, it's nice to know, but it is not really all that valuable of a statistic unless it is actually being read.

What I want to know is "How many potential customers and / or peers have actually read what I wrote" - Views suggests this, but as I said, the description and name of the statistic are actually mis-leading.

So let's move onto "Clicks" - maybe  that will actually prove to be a more useful metric.

Clicks: This should actually be called "Non unique page views". What clicks actually means is how many times the full blog article has been loaded. I tested this out, by clicking on an old post I had made and sitting there and hitting refresh - What I found was that every time I refreshed the page my "Clicks" went up. So this actually does not mean what they say it means which in their words is "Clicks are the number of times someone has clicked-through to your blog entry".

Now - "Clicks" does contain the information that I want as part of its total, however I have absolutely no way of knowing how many of the "Clicks" hold any potential for generating business for me because they are lumped in with all sorts of other reasons for page loads that are NOT going to produce anything positive for me or my business. These things include:
  • Every time I visit my own blog post to see if someone has commented, this registers a click
  • Every time my post does not load correctly, or I want to refresh the page for some reason, this registers a click
  • Every time a point monger makes a "great post" or "me to" comment, I receive an email, click through to my post to read it, this registers a click (We all know there are many members who comment, just to get points)
  • Every time someone who has made a "real" comment receives an email about a new comment (From a point monger), this registers a click.
There are so many other reasons that have nothing to do with me getting a benefit from my blog posts exposure that Active Rain reports as a "Click" that it basically calls the entire stat into question, that I have absolutely no confidence in using it as a measure of success and it certainly does not motivate me to want to blog at Active Rain as it once did before I realized what these stats actually were.

Why do I seem upset?

It is my own fault that I did not verify their reporting methods before I gave credence to the effectiveness of the system, sure you could make that argument - however I should not have to. "Unique visitors, page views, clicks etc" are all relatively known and understood terms and they are using them (I feel) intentionally in a different context to trick me (An Active Rain user) into believing that their system is more effective and beneficial than it really is.

Also, as one of the more influential personalities online when it comes to web savvy agents and brokers, I have been singing the praises of active rain and recommending them to my community, and extended SOI. I am not saying that there is no value in Active Rain, that is not what this is about, but what I am saying is that this investigation has caused me to question the integrity of their system and thus makes me feel a lot less confident in their system as a whole and even less confident in the referrals I have sent them.

My "stats" say I have referred 91 members to Active Rain, which only means those that followed an referral link of some sort, I would venture to guess I am responsible for at least 10 times that amount of actual registrants via positive Active Rain expose in my communities.

I am also upset because there is likely a large % of members there who do not have the experience or knowledge to be able to undergo this same investigative process and thus are potentially investing a LOT of effort contributing content to a system that claims to be more effective than it is and they may have been able to invest that time and energy in other venues that would have produced more for the same amount of time invested.

OK nice rant, what do you expect to accomplish?

  1. What I would like to see is proper explanations for the current stats that do not mislead me and the members I have referred into believing that my time spent blogging at AR is not more beneficial than it actually is.
  2. I would like have the stats that actually matter reported to me - such as "unique views" (Based on IP) of each blog post so that I can gauge how many of my potential customers and / or peers I am reaching. Time for all of us is limited, and we need to make sure we are investing it in the right places to achieve the highest returns.
With more accurate statistics will I continue to use Active Rain? Probably. I am looking at the last post I made at active rain and it registers "177 clicks" (Although at least 20 of those were mean hitting refresh to test the system) - I would assume even with unique data, this means I probably managed to get exposed to at least 50 potential customers and or peers. For the hour it took me to write it, so yeah 1 hour, 50 sets of eyeballs - at least that gives me real information to compare against the returns of other places that I could have invested that hour, and if the net is positive, I will post again.

Comments

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Ryan Ward

Wow! That's quite dissapointing. I've never checked out my stats, but, I did after reading this post and if I just did a quick look through, it would seem I too have done quite well. Unfortunately, I don't see a total for all posts either...that would be helpful. Of course, in light of what these stats actually mean, I don't think it matters. I would have thought Active Rain would do a better job and I wonder if this is intentional. If it is, it's shameful. Good post and back to an old thread on the forum, I believe that I personally have more "real" traffic from REW blogs. The proof here is in my bank account :-) I have closed deals from REW. I have never even been contacted from Active Rain. Of course this would be market dependent. In a less competitive market, Active Rain might well be quite helpful in being found by actual consumers seeking my services. I'm not knocking AR, it's just my experience. I use and very much enjoy Active Rain.

Morgan Carey

You know, I have been thinking about this post since I wrote it, and I think it is important to state - There is nothing wrong with reporting non unique page views, or impressions - Some people may actually value those stats as well. My real problem I think, was when I wanted to look into how their stats worked - their "descriptions" were mis-leading in fact border-line deceitful. I mean am I reading to much into this? Here are the descriptions: (And my comments) Views are how often your blog was viewed in the group blog roll. This is how many times it has been seen.(Active Rain Current description) This is not how many times "My Blog" has been seen or read, it is how many times any page on active rain that is being viewed had a link on it to one of my posts. Not even close to the same thing. Clicks are the number of times someone has clicked-through to your blog entry (Instead of just viewing it in the general / group blog roll (Active Rain) Once again - this is not true at all. Although someone clicking on a link to my blog post would be registered as a "click" so would me or anyone else refreshing the page, a moderator reviewing the post, a comment spammer trying to up their points and many other reason. Don't make me think I am reaching all these prospects when I am not.

Ryan Ward

Agreed. I think it's a matter of what value the stats have as they are. If you think they are one thing and they are something else... I think it's safe to say (at least for me) I am more interested in unique views of posts because I can use that info to help make myself a better blogger. So really what we be good to know is what was the motivation. Was it to "pad" the numbers or was it an oversight or something entirely different on the part of Active Rain.

Morgan Carey

Definitely unique views mean a world of difference - however, there is value in having total page views as well so that you can get a sense on average how many visitors return to your article more than once (Hopefully for legitimate reasons) such as showing it to their spouse from the same computer etc. Actually now that I think about it, I only report "unique page views" in REW Blogs statistics, I think I am going to put "total page views" in there for those authors interested in that metric as well

OCTeam

Ever think maybe they label stats intentionally as they do as it does misleads people from reality? Many sites do this so someone may think there is more value than there is. Impressions labeled as views is a common one practiced, as you indicated, that most don't understand.

Morgan Carey

Well that is the thing OC - I didn't want to think they mis-labeled them intentionally (As many other sites do) because I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. But then when I read their descriptions, I thought to myself - Ok this is a bit silly, these guys are way smarter than that, I really think they are actually trying to mis-represent stats after reading the descriptions of the stats. These guys were smart enough to build AR (And I have spoken to many of them, they are very savvy guys and gals) - there is no way that they were ignorant of the fact that what they were writing was not a true representation of what they were reporting - I mean shoot - you just built it, shouldn't you be able to explain what it does?

Morgan Carey

Think of it this way OC (This is kind of how I see it) - you use our SEO services and IDX right? And as you know, because the IDX is spiderable and we can use GA to track analytics, we are able to track tons of page views etc - Now let's say you got 1000 unique visitors (Which we both know you AND I know what those are) and lets say you got 27,000 page views - If I called you up and said, Hey OC, great news, we got 27,000 unique visitors today - That would make you go WOW can I spend another $100,000 with you! Sure you can. Then you go back (After trusting me and already writing a check) to verify the good news, and show off to your friends with a screenshot of your GA, only to find that you only had 1000 unique visitors, and what I had reported as such was actually the pageviews for that day. I think you "might" be a little upset with me - no? ;)

OCTeam

Hey, Morgan, we are on the same page..I am in total agreement with you. Active Rain knows what they are doing .. the stats are misleading to agents who have no clue what stats mean based on the description. It is the same as using "hits" thinking those are visitors. How many time do we see some agent post how effective their site is by citing how many "hits" they are getting when the visitor count could actually be only 10% of hits, and unique visitors even less? I think Realtor.com still uses impressions as a meassure so most agents will think their listing are getting a bunch of activity and they will re-subscribe! It is almost comical what I hear from some agent about their "stats".

RyanRE

Morgan – I have noticed that ActiveRain’s statistics seemed skewed. The “views” and “clicks” are anything but reliable. I do pay attention to the “clicks”, but I don’t put a lot of weight into them. I am far more concerned generating comments by engaged readers. For you being a webmaster of a competing/complementary real estate network, I can how this could rub you the wrong way. There are a lot of things about ActiveRain that I really like. For me REW is more of a “hardcore” real estate network and blogging atmosphere. I will say that I really appreciate the “unique visitor” statistics that REW provides and I feel more comfortable about who is really reading my posts.

Karen Rice

I post on ActiveRain for two things - the community; I have friends there, and google juice. My blogs show up very well in Google. I really don't pay much attention to the "stats" - what I pay attention to is the contacts I actually get, or the visits on my website from Active Rain. Particularly the visitors that come back again - not just once and leave.

Bob Stewart

Great post Morgan! Thanks for taking the time to dissect a point of confusion on our site. I do agree with you that those are not the best names for the specific stats. I just sent off an email to our team to look into renaming some of items and including a link to a description of what each stat means. Or at the very least, if we determine that renaming the stats will cause additional confusion, we will add a link to each stat with a description of what the stat means. Thanks for the critique, many of the changes we have made to date have been based on suggestions from the members of the community. We appreciate them :)

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