Yesterday I looked at an experiment carried out by one of our clients to try to discover why a website where they advertised reported a lot more clickthroughs than they were seeing in Google Analytics. It’s well worth a read if you missed it. Now, I’m sure that you’re on top of this, and that you always look at your own website analytics to see how many visitors other sites sent you …and never, ever rely on what they claim. But are there any clues on the other websites that they may just be counting any old rubbish which “hits” your advert, rather than just real people?
To start your investigation, you need to look at your advert (or link) on the third party site and see where it’s sending people. The easiest way to do this is to hover over the advert (or link), and – depending on which browser you use – you’ll see where people are sent in your browser’s status bar:
Now, if that shows your website, it’s a direct link, and as far as I’m aware, however the third-party site counts the clickthroughs, it ought to show the same as you see in Google Analytics. But few websites do this. Instead, they use a very crude way of measuring clickthroughs, which is to send people to a special page on their own website, only linked to by that advert. This intermediate page then instantly sends the visitor through to your website, unnoticeably. The third-party website can then count visits to this intermediate page as clickthroughs on the advert.
Simple, right? Well, yes …but the chances are, this is exactly the crude system which won’t discriminate between proper human visitors and robots. And if you ever have the situation where a third-party website seems to be giving unlikely clickthrough figures, I predict that if you inspect your ad, you’ll find it’s initially clicking through to a page on their website, not yours.
As I said yesterday, it doesn’t mean they’re deliberately deceiving you. They may not realise how deficient their system is. But it’s another warning that you really shouldn’t be paying any attention to their numbers.