250 COUNTING VISITORS
September 28, 1999
When assessing the effectiveness of web sites you need to be very careful about
placing too much emphasis on "hit" and "visitor" logs.
Photo Stock Notes recently published a story entitled WHO ARE THE HEAVY
HITTERS? They based their answer on an analysis of the Alexa search engine
and its tracking service at http://www.alexa.com. The following are a few of
the sites they listed and the number of visitors per day Alexa recorded.
| Corel Corporation
| Photos To Go (Index Stock)
| Tony Stone Images
| The Image Bank
| The Stock Market
| Picture Network International
| PublishersDepot (Not mentioned in PSN)
The first and biggest flaw with this information is that this is only a record
of people who have chosen to download the Alexa search engine and to conduct
their searches through it. It completely disregards a visitor to any of these
sites who would approach the site by using a different search engine or by
inputing the site URL directly.
Sites like PhotoDisc, Corbis and The Stock Market spend a great deal of effort
marketing directly to their client base. Most of their customers go to their
sites by entering the correct URL rather than going through a search engine.
None of these direct searches, which come from the people most likely to buy
images, show up in the numbers from the Alexa search engine -- or from any
other search engine for that matter.
These numbers also compare apples and oranges. The PNI site listed here is the
PNI corporate site used to get information about the corporation, not to search
for images. The PNI image site is known to all users as PictureQuest.com.
That site had 1800 visitors per day through Alexa, but again this is only a
small fraction of the total visitors actually using and buying from that
People go to a site like Corel's, not just for pictures, but for all types of
graphic arts services. We have no idea what proportion of those visitors
actually bought photo discs from Corel. However, from other data available in
the industry we can be pretty sure that PhotoDisc is selling a lot more discs
online (in dollar volume) than Corel, even though they are getting 1/7th the
visitors according to Alexa.
Another factor to keep in mind is that many of these photo sites have set up a
number of different routes that will take the user to their picture search
engine. You can get to Tony Stone for example by going to:
http://www.getty-images.com, http://www.tonystone.com or
http://www.tonystoneimages.com. You can get to PictureQuest by using
http://www.publishersdepot.com, http://www.picturequest.com and yes, by even
In the final analysis what really counts is not the number of eyeballs that
pass your site, but actual sales. Such sales data is difficult to get your
hands on, because only the publically held Getty Images is required to report
anything close to the specific information needed to make such a determination.
Nevertheless, by talking to enough photographers about their returns, we are
able to glean some useful data from time to time. We report our findings
regularly. Our lastest statistics on on-line sales can be found in
(Story 246) under the
On-line Marketing subhead about half way through the story.