A lot of noise is being made today about the fact that Hitwise is reporting that Facebook is now the most visited in the United States, beating out long-time top dog Google. The problem is that it isn’t even close to being correct.
While third-part analytics companies numbers always vary wildly from one to the other, it’s the data from Hitwise itself that makes no sense. The company reported that for the week ending March 13th, Facebook accounted for 7.07% of all traffic, while Google was 7.03% of traffic and Yahoo Mail was third with 3.8% of all traffic.
Looks like Facebook really won doesn’t it? Well, Yahoo alone makes this untrue. For some reason known only to Hitwise, they separated out the numbers for Yahoo and Yahoo Mail. Yahoo’s main page had 3.67% of traffic, so when you add them together, which you should, they had 7.47% of all traffic, beating out both Google and Facebook. This makes no sense why the two Yahoo sites weren’t counted as one, but that was the choice of Hitwise.
Now, Google owns YouTube, and YouTube had 2.14% of all traffic, so added together with Google’s 7.03% traffic share, that would make 9.17%, and that isn’t even counting all of the other Google sites such as Picasa, Orkut and so on. We can somewhat understand this separation of stats, but breaking apart Yahoo and Yahoo Mail makes absolutely no sense.
Does this really matter at the end of the day to your average user? Nope. Do we still think companies should report statistics honestly and correctly? Absolutely. This isn’t to say that Hitwise is lying about statistics, it just says it is amazing how you can manipulate them when you get creative. Any time I see data like this, I feel the need to dig deeper because it always feels like a headline grabbing proclamation to me, and that is certainly what this one appears to be.