Metrics of competitive webmastering

I run a competition of wine websites based on methods derived from the study explained here.

CompetitionThe purpose of this study is to design a methodology that estimates the quality of websites. It is scientific in that it calculates ranks from objective metrics.

Website publishing agencies follow certain metrics. The 4 criteria explained here are used for assessing online marketing success: Google PageRank, inbound links, subscribers, traffic.

Then we’ll aggregate them into valuation and popularity metrics.

PageRank

PageRank has a patent by Google. It was supposed to represent the likelihood of a websurfer to stumble on a given web page.

In practice it is now correlated with the level of trust Google puts in the website domain. It is biased to older websites and big corporations.

Google also manipulates the public PageRanks for their corporate agenda. That makes at least two reasons why we should not limit ourselves to this metric. You can find details at a rant on Google PageRank.

Inbound links

In a certain way the webmasters ‘vote’ for pages by linking to them. So the links that point to a website can count as votes.

Update: I stopped using Yahoo! Site Explorer in April 2008. I found that this measure is unreliable.

For assessing a website quality we take into account the number of links that point to this website. The data comes from Yahoo! Site Explorer like so.
In practice a website shows incoming links of mainly one of three forms:

  1. the links demonstrate the website authority;
  2. the links show the website popularity among webmasters;
  3. the links are created by the same webmaster.

Therefore this metric is essentially useful to counter PageRank.

Feed subscribers

An interesting measure would be the number of people who read the blog feed. This metric is restricted to blogs. Furthermore the available statistics are severely limited, unreliable and biased.

This amounts to several reasons why feed statistics are not used to build the Cellarer.com directory of the best wine websites or the Cellarer.com directory of the top 100 food blogs.

Traffic

This is the democratic metric. It assesses the number of people who are likely to visit the website next month. Update (on Andre’s suggestion in comment): these numbers are not taken from the webservers and therefore do not show the actual traffic.

This measure derives from the USA traffic levels measured by Compete.com. Update in April 2008: the metric is not the Compete value. The Compete figures over the past year are averaged, compensated and trended so that an aggregate is built.

The Compete figure is not available for sites that do not use their own domain name. Such sites are thus put at a disadvantage on this criterion. On the contrary the same sites are favoured by the two other measures since they receive links from well known platforms — which (usually) have nothing do to with the niche (food or wine). (Examples: the New York Times, Blogspot).

Valuation

The valuation is a sum (in USD) that the website could sell for. This is hypothetical: it is a value that would serve as a reference if the owner wanted to sell and if she negotiated with a buyer.

There are a lot of things to consider for assessing how much a website is worth. Most of them are not public information: the revenue, the number of subscribers and registered users.

Cellarer.com calculates the valuation by aggregating two metrics: PageRank and traffic. Eh! we have just done bulk site appraisal!

Popularity

Update: I terminated this test in April 2008. I found that this aggregate is unreliable.

Many websurfers read top 100 lists to learn of a website they would read. They will probably not use most pages of the website. The popularity metric is an attempt to show how useful or entertaining each page in the website is. It is calculated by taking a measure of user interest (incoming links and traffic) and substracting a measure of the publisher size (PageRank). So popularity shows public support as opposed to institutional strength.

Wrap-up

This methodology of PR + links + traffic is used to assess websites related to wine or food. Here is the directory of the best wine websites.

Follow up

You can follow the directory evolution by subscribing to the feed of website articles blog RSS or by subscribing to the mailing list of comments available below.

If you have a different view on website metrics, please share it by posting a comment.

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15 Responses to “Metrics of competitive webmastering”

  1. I would like to add my site for consideration

  2. Arthur says:

    Estelle the “PR + links + traffic” may not be the best calculation. Gary V has tons of people linking to him, that does not guarantee that each link results in an actual visit and page view. What about paid avertisements as links?

    Also, Alexa and Compete grossly underestimate traffic – they do in my case.

    How about creating a short piece of code that I can put on my pages and it will notify your software every time one of my pages is viewed a la: http://www.statcounter.com

  3. Arthur, you have good ideas!
    Let’s start with my basic premise: I want a competition that is open to all, even those who do not wish to participate. This is why RSS figures or placing a piece of code are out.
    Alexa and Compete are wrong about traffic. The idea I am testing is that they would be wrong in a even manner: across all sites. If this proves to bear some ground then I’ll keep this metric.
    Paid inbound links put an illegitimate bias to the traffic metric but downgrade the PageRank (because they are theoretically disappproved by Google).
    By mixing these 3 metrics I hope to obtain a balanced aggregate that would represent quality (not traffic).

  4. Arthur says:

    Well, let’s see how this pans out.

    Drop me a line when you have my site added. I’ll be happy to feedback with my server-side information if that is of any help.

  5. Robert says:

    Estelle, your comments on my post at: http://wineculture.blogspot.com/2008/03/what-awards-are-we-talking-about.html

    have created a bit of a stir (from Tom Wark and Fred Koeppel) and you might like to respond?

    R

  6. ryan says:

    Since you and everyone else knows that your traffic numbers are wrong on your list, why would you put them up? It does a disservice to sites that are using their real traffic numbers to get advertisements. These numbers you list are way below what the real numbers are. I know I wouldn’t like my sponsors, who are not tech savy and need to have things explained to them to happen across your site and think that I am lying.

    Just a thought

  7. Ryan,
    Thank you for commenting.
    The traffic numbers are not “mine”. They are issued by “professional experts”: Compete.com. I did not think that it was a problem to reproduce them since are already public. Sorry for that.
    We agree that they are inaccurate and this is why I will improve on them for the April issue. The idea I am checking is that their bias would be evenly distributed across the board: every sites have a traffic figure that would be too low in the same proportion. So I will “correct” the traffic figures in an homogenuous manner. (It would help if you would email me your actual traffic for March, December, September and June 2007).

  8. Robert says:

    Estelle, I would reckon that there are all sorts of reasons the stats are wrong – not systematic across all sites (like underreporting a type of visitor that would be common to all sites). In fact, it is to do with redirects, shared domains, etc. and therefore they are likely to be wildly innacurate and variable. I think I’m with Ryan in saying that unless it can be proven that it is fair to all, it probably shouldn’t be included.

    Also, we should apply some common sense to the results too.

    Any “system” that values, for example (and nothing against Andrew of course), Spittoon.biz above WineLibrary.tv must be somewhat suspect, no?

  9. It is possible that Spittoon “should” be slightly lower with respect to its authority. A way to achieve this is to put less weight on the traffic metric. I will try such a move for the next issue.
    More generally such a “system” can only be suspect in so far many bloggers will have opinions on it. I propose that the skew of the traffic metric counterbalances the skew of the other 2 metrics (PR and backlinks).
    In other words excluding traffic would be unfair to the reader interest.

  10. ryan says:

    As I said in my private email, the numbers you quote are drastically wrong. They may be fair as they relate to each other, but they are very wrong in terms of overall traffic across the the wine bloggers world/wine website world. Therefore why wouldn’t you just list a list of wine ranking, as others do, so as not to cause a problem.

    I really don’t want to see the wine world represented this way with numbers that are wrong. Oh and Compete may be full of professional’s but they are wrong too!

    Unless all wine websites felt there was a benefit to including a counter for each one to track traffic with, something that will never happen, it cannot be fair to list “false numbers” about any sites. No matter how innocent they may seem, they could do more harm then good.

  11. Ryan,
    Thank you for your private email and this comment. I understand your concern. Indeed it will not happen that all wine websites agree.
    So we have a problem: you don’t want inaccurate figures to show up and I would like to show a measure of user interest. I’ll think it over and in the next weeks I will try to obtain traffic figures from some webmasters.

  12. Hi Estelle,
    I think making a list like this is always interesting so that you can take a different overview of the wine world site.

    Regarding the traffic numbers I agree with Ryan that this might be misleading to potential advertising clients. I think you could include a more clearly visible note (maybe below the “Monthly traffic” tile) stating that these are numbers that might not be correct because they are not provided by the sites themselves.

    Cheers,

  13. Very nice article. I to do not agree with what Google chooses as pagerank. I mean some sites that are dedicated to the content they provide will only have a pr of 7 while some sites that have virtually no content but a lot of traffic will have a pr 9. Pagerank is highly over rated but we are stuck with it.

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  15. Michael Smith says:

    Was searching for new SEO innovations when I found this one. Interesting, but do you think it has a long shelf life?