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Battelle: Google Ad Planner Underreporting Site Traffic

Figures vastly under comScore numbers

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Google’s keenly anticipated Ad Planner should be delivering an accurate look at traffic going to websites, but as John Battelle learned, Google is a bit on the low side.

A lot of us following the search industry thought Google’s move into providing, for free, the kind of data about website traffic and where it goes would be a tremendous boon for its advertising clients. Through the Google Ad Planner, one should be able to determine with a reasonable expectation of accuracy where the best places for their advertising exist.

Battelle dug into this with a look at comScore and the data it provides about traffic hitting third-party websites. On Battelle’s blog, he showed how the numbers coming from comScore’s panel-based approach hewed much closer to real traffic levels on a monthly basis than Google.

“The world expected that Google, with its unparalleled access to web-wide data, would validate publishers’ concerns and show that Comscore’s numbers were significantly under-reporting reality,” said Battelle.

“Turns out, the reverse is true.”

ComScore chairman Gian Fulgoni served up a couple of samples of data as evidence. One compared monthly traffic figures for 20,163 sites from comScore and Google Ad Planner; the second smaller sample looked at sites that are part of Google’s AdSense network.

Both comparisons showed far less traffic by Google’s reckoning, though the AdSense network member sites seemed to be less undercounted by Google. It doesn’t sit well with Battelle, who noted comScore’s observation of a “significant bias in Google Ad Planner data” pushing ad planners toward Google’s partner sites.

This may be happening as a result of Google biasing numbers toward what it gleans from usage of its Toolbar by online surfers. Others have made that claim, but the real issue of underreporting traffic is the disappointing problem. How can Google, with its access to data, provide figures so easily disproved publicly?

Battelle: Google Ad Planner Underreporting Site Traffic
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