Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More on Web Traffic Rankings for Demand Generation Vendors

Last week’s post on Web traffic rankings of demand generation vendors generated a couple of private responses from vendors, pointing out that the Alexa statistics include traffic to operational subdomains for client landing pages and user log-in. In itself, this doesn’t bother me, since it provides data on actual use of the systems. But different products work differently*, so figures for some vendors include landing page traffic while figures for other vendors do not. This makes the rankings even less accurate than they seemed before (which wasn’t very accurate to begin with).

Despite these concerns, I still think the Alexa figures are a useful measure of vendors’ relative market position. My ultimate justification is that the rankings roughly correspond to the vendors self-reported client counts and growth rates. There's value in having an objective, non-self-reported measure, even a crude one, to put the different competitors in perspective.

Some of the vendors offered alternative measures, such as search counts from Google AdWords. Those are interesting too, although they are probably more driven by the scope of the vendor’s marketing program than anything else. My admittedly vague notion of “market presence” includes more than the number of inquiries a vendor is attracting. Basically the goal is to help people identify the “major players” in the industry, since most buyers want to focus on those products.

An interesting by-product of the post was to learn that some marketers were apparently questioned by their management about why they ranked where they did, with the implicit suggestion that a low rank suggested they were doing a poor job. Given that the Alexa figures are heavily influenced by existing client activities, this is not at all a fair inference.

That the question came up at all suggests these companies have not already established standard measures of marketing performance. If such measures were in place and reported regularly, then a random and irrelevant factiod like the Alexa rankings would not have raised any concerns or at least would have made it easy to respond. I guess it’s no news that many companies don't have proper marketing performance measures, but this is still more evidence of why they need them.

* Most vendors host landing pages for their clients, but sometimes the addresses are a subdomain of the client site rather than of the vendor. Client subdomains would presumably not be captured in the Alexa statistics. Many vendors offer both options, so their statistics would capture traffic for some client landing pages but not others.

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