Here at Econsultancy we are many things, one of them being a B2B publisher.

Like most publishers (B2B or otherwise) we carry ads on our site and have an in-house team to sell and manage the advertising. 

A recent in-house project at Econsultancy kicked up the dust on the issue of traffic figures and what gets quoted when selling advertising.

In three years managing ad inventory on Econsultancy, I have only ever been asked for two numbers: unique visitors and page impressions.

Quality, not quantity

Basing your media buying decisions around who has the highest volume of traffic is not the best approach. It’s very much a quantity over quality view. 

It’s like going to view a flat and asking about the total square footage for the entire block. It does not impact your decision making (unless you are planning on buying all the advertising inventory that site serves).

In a B2C, mass market, brand-focused approach this would work, but in the world of B2B this does not make sense!

Regardless of my opinion, direct advertisers and agencies alike always ask for the same numbers and the publishers have to be able to push the right buttons.

It has become commonplace to ask these questions and, as a result, various figures are always quoted in media kits, sales letters and all other kind of promotions with a view to selling ad space, because that is what the buyers are asking for.

What do these numbers really tell us about the site as an advertising channel?

Er, not a great deal I’m afraid. At a glance, you could suggest that the higher the traffic, the more popular the site is which could lead to all kinds of assumptions about the quality of the audience, the engagement of the reader, the quality of the content etc.

This is a fair, if vague, assumption.

If these factors were genuinely of importance to an advertiser, they would be looking at other metrics.  

Bounce rates, time on site, page views per visit, and frequency of visits can tell advertisers if traffic is actually engaged visitors or just those that stumbled over the site by mistake. But they don’t.

I think, in general, a relevant site that has high traffic and high uniques is better than the same site with low traffic and low uniques.

However, in isolation, these two numbers do not tell an advertiser enough about the site to make a well informed decision.

So where do the figures come from? 

Any online publisher will want to be seen to have as much traffic as they can get away with quoting. That makes sense.

As long as these are seen by buyers as key metrics, then the publishers will quote as high a number as possible.

How as a buyer do you know that the figures are accurate?

Audited figures from the likes of ABC can help reassure buyers that the figures have been checked by a third party
and that they were are accurate at the time of audit. ABC works perfectly well
for offline media.

Print publications have used this certification for years
and it is widely regarded as trustworthy.

In the world of digital publishing, every publisher worth their salt knows what there “vitals” are. With tools such as Google Analytics available for free and fairly straightforward to use for the basics, it is inconceivable that a publisher does not know what their traffic is.

If they say this, they one of two things, dishonest or incompetent. Either way, avoid like the plague!

From a buyer’s point of view, it can be tricky to track down details of site traffic for a particular publisher as they are not publicly available. This means emailing the sales team.

Many will not wish to do this as the second you do, you can expect daily calls from ‘Johnny Sales-rep’ trying to flog you roll-out, overlay, pop ups etcat 34.6% of the rate card price if you sign today. Not much fun.

Why would a publisher not want prospective advertisers to see what their traffic statistics are?

There is only one logical reason, they are not very good.

Econsultancy has always maintained a transparent approach to most
of the projects we run, and being open about our traffic etc is a no brainer.

One of the tools available to advertisers is Google Ad Planner, where you can search by a site
domain and get an idea of, amongst other things, traffic information.

Each publisher that uses Google Analytics has the option to open
up their data to this tool so that when an advertiser is looking at their
listing they can see whether the figures are an estimate,
or whether they are accurate.

I think there needs to be an acceptance amongst publishers that
your traffic is what it is and hiding the fact or quoting misleading figures is
not acceptable.

There can’t be any real excuses with free tools available to
gather the info and to communicate it effectively.

My key tips to any B2B advertiser would be:

  • Do not base your media buying decisions around traffic volumes alone.
  • Think about who you want to target and work from there.
  • Think about where your audience would be. This will stem from content and editorial influence of various publications.
  • Be sure to ask where any traffic figures come from and exactly what they mean.
  • Before you even think about a media campaign, make sure you have some relevant content to offer.