According to a recent study by Borrell Associates, the average local website’s unique visitor count overstates the number of actual people who have visited the site by a factor of about 3.6. The number of local people is overstated by a factor of 51. This means that, in many cases, the actual number of consumers in the market reach visiting a website is actually only a fraction of what a unique visitor counter states it is. However, business owners often view high unique visitor counts as an indication of success, a misconception that can ultimately result in lost sales.

Unique Visitor Counts vs. Actual People

In the vast world of advertising, it is much more important to receive a few visitors who make a purchase than many “unique visitors” who simply click on your website but fail to take further action. Local visitors (those in your market) who are likely to benefit from your products and services are the types of consumers you want to draw. However, according to Borrell Associates, about 30 percent of a local website’s visitors do not even live in the market, and about one-fourth of a site’s page views are delivered to users who likely will not return for another year, if ever2.

Unique Visitor Counts Get Scrambled with Lost Cookies

Oddly enough, one of the main causes of inaccurate unique visitor counts is lost, blocked, or deleted cookies. Research has shown that after just four weeks almost one-third of tracking cookies are missing, which means a visitor will be incorrectly considered “unique” if he or she visits the same website during that period3. Unfortunately, the longer the period, the more likely this cookie loss is to occur.

Multiple Devices Cause Inaccurate Unique Visitor Counts

Considering that nearly one-third of Americans now owns a smartphone with Internet access, browsing the Web for local products and services is easier than ever4. However, this also means that more Americans can access the Web with different devices, which causes inaccuracy with unique visitor counts. For example, consider the following scenario:
You and your spouse decide to plan your next vacation and use your computer at home to bookmark a list of links. Unable to decide which destination you like most, you email the list of websites to your office and continue browsing at work the next day and again on your smartphone on your break. The following day, you resume your search at your friend’s house, where you seek a second opinion.

While it may seem extensive, this scenario is actually very common, especially if you are considering a costly purchase like a vacation abroad. Moreover, even if you end up booking your vacation from one of the websites you bookmarked, you appear as a unique visitor on the website each time you use a different device.

As the online industry has matured significantly in recent years, it has become extremely important for consumers to be able to find your business easily. SuperMedia not only helps you target prospective, long-term customers, but also obtain local visitors that are truly interested in your products and services. While understanding the browsing habits of unique visitors is definitely an important factor in achieving these goals, simply relying on unique visitor counts alone to obtain the right types of customers is ultimately a waste of both advertising dollars and energy.

12011 Borrell Associates

2Borrell Associates Visitor Estimates Summary: February 2011



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