Web traffic stats and weather forecasts. Both inaccurate. Both useful.

Web traffic stats and weather forecasts. Both inaccurate. Both useful.

Complaining about the inaccuracy of web traffic numbers is almost like complaining about weather forecasts. Yes, weather forecasts are inaccurate. We still want those forecasts even though we know that they’re not 100% accurate.

Web traffic numbers are inaccurate, but still useful. Some numbers are more accurate than others, but no number can be said to be 100% accurate. Inaccuracy causes major angst when someone has hyped the ‘accuracy’ of web stats as a major selling point, whether selling a tool or selling the business case for Web analytics.

Alright, as many as 40% of the website visitors delete their cookies via spyware or security settings. That means that we’re capturing the behaviour of about 60% of visitors with higher accuracy. In the traditional media world, can you tell your CEO how many people have seen the print ads run in a magazine, each and every time, with even 60% accuracy? How costly (or useful) would it be to gather this information for even the majority of print ads? Online web traffic data beats traditional media measurement hands down, execution frequency, timeless and comparative accuracy.

Make sure you’ve done the most you possibly can to increase your accuracy. Then, if you mitigate web traffic data inaccuracy by focusing on trends and ratios rather than the raw numbers, you will improve your website or your online marketing campaigns. Guaranteed. Isn’t this what really matters, not how accurate the numbers are?

Know and understand the risk and possible variability of the numbers. Manage accordingly.

60% chance of rain? Do I haul my raincoat around for the day? Well, if it’s been raining for 3 days and it’s in the fall, yes I will. If it’s summer, been sunny for a week and the rain clouds don’t look threatening, then I probably won’t. If we didn’t complain about weather forecasts what might we complain about? Likewise for web traffic stats inaccuracies.

Lots has been written about minimizing and working with inaccuracies. It’s not easy, but definitely manageable. For starters:


June Li


By |2018-07-25T14:20:43-04:00June 19th, 2006|5 Comments


  1. Avinash Kaushik June 25, 2006 at 3:29 am - Reply

    June: Great post and I agree with it. My thought is that given how most “analysts” come into the web analytics field it is very difficult for them to transition into a world where data quality is such a challenge. Most of the times we are stuck in the “recon trap”.

    As you point out there are great insights even in data that is of a sub optimal quality. I share some tips in this post I had done recently on my blog:


  2. June Li July 5, 2006 at 11:10 am - Reply

    Thanks for the reinforcement. The ‘recon’ trap is unfortunately alive and well :).
    Here’s a working link to Avinash’s post Data Quality Sucks: Let’s Just Get Over It

  3. Dulee2005mm March 14, 2008 at 6:55 am - Reply

    Isn’t internet marketing all about generating as much traffic as possible and converting this traffic into signups and sales?

    I know it is… that’s why I concentrate on getting as much free traffic to my website as possible. Here is one great source that has helped me a lot.

  4. June Li March 14, 2008 at 9:34 am - Reply

    If your product is relevant to your target audience, your free traffic will indeed convert.

    [BTW – your post was submitted twice. The dup’d post has been deleted.]

  5. Anonymous August 19, 2008 at 5:53 am - Reply

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