Lies, Damn Lies and Google+ Statistics

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One of the big stories making the rounds in the tech world today is that traffic at Google+ has 'plummeted' a full 60% this week over last week. All of these reports cite a graph from advertising company Chitika (who conveniently become a 'web analytics firm' in the Daily Mail story).

There are a few problems with these reports. First, the Chitika graph measures a 'traffic index'. There is no published methodology on how this index is measured or what it is measuring. Chitika are an advertising network, but they do not advertise on Google+. There isn't even a hint of what the 'traffic index' is or how it is measured. This has not stopped blogs and news outlets from reporting the graph as measuring pageviews.

Second, Google+ launched to the public last week. It was linked to from the homepage of Google.com - the most trafficked page on the entire world-wide web. You would expect a traffic 'bump' associated with the launch of Google+ and the associated traffic being referred to it from the Google homepage.

What these reports are based on is both an unknown black-box measurement - the Chitika 'traffic index' dropped from 119 to 45 - whatever that means, and is measuring the back-end of a launch bump. Show me a single product that has launched that has ever risen out of a traffic bump, especially one coming out of a launch on the Google home page, no less.

I left a comment on the ReadWriteWeb post about this story calling bullshit on both the graph and the story. When I asked the writer of the story in the comments what the methodology of the Chikita reporting is, his response was:

You're right. Chitika hasn't yet responded to our request for more information, and when we get it, we'll update.

A suggestion: do that before a post is published citing the Chitika source as an authoritative measure of pageviews and visitors to Google+

The blog post at Forbes saw straight through this and more accurately concluded:

what the report is actually saying is that in less than a month traffic has risen 480%, or 4.8 times.

The story with a 'traffic drops 60%' headline is being picked up absolutely everywhere - the blogs (who should know better) started out and now it is being picked up by mainstream outlets everywhere.

Update: The original Chikita source is from this blog post on their company blog. Same crappy statistics, but they go further with unfounded conclusions on why Google+ didn't 'take off'.

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