Counting Visitors

Posted on 9/28/1999 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



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 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

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

PictureQuest site.

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:, or You can get to PictureQuest by using, 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.

Copyright © 1999 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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