Myspace vs Facebook Traffic Reality Check
Judy Gombita of PR Conversations forwarded me a link to a post by Dave Fleet, looking at Google Trends statistics for Myspace and Facebook. The chart makes it appear that Facebook is getting more traffic than Myspace, as Dave’s title suggests: Did Facebook Traffic Outgrow Myspace Traffic Last Year?
That supposition would be wrong.
Note: I’m not saying Myspace actually gets more traffic. I have no idea, as none of these stats services are really anywhere near accurate. For the scope of this post, what I’m saying is that making that suggestion based on Google Trends data is way off-base. Here’s why:
- Google Trends Analyzes Unique Visitors – So the first problem that jumped out at me about this post is the implication in the title that unique visitors has anything at all to do with actual traffic (which would be more equivalent to your pageviews). Unique visitors can climb drastically while overall traffic goes down (and vice versa). So if a lot of new people are stopping by one site on a one-time basis, unique visitors will increase. But it’s possible that another site’s unique visitors don’t increase, while the traffic from their current userbase is increasing drastically (such as them viewing more pages to check out new tools or features).
- Google Trends Relies on Opt-in Info – Google Trends is still in a development phase. Therefore, you shouldn’t take anything there as the gospel truth (and I’m not saying Dave does – he rightly questions this and similar services in his post). Google admits outright that the results are only “estimates,” and that the accuracy of the data is dependent on whether or not a site opts to share their analytics info with Google. I don’t know if Myspace and Facebook share their info. I do find it highly suspicious that Myspace looks that stable for that long of a period of time though. What I’d like to know is who’s sharing what with Google, so we can at least have an inkling of accuracy. But it ain’t gonna happen.
- Not All Pages Count – Google also makes it clear that pages that aren’t indexed don’t count in the trend stats. So for example, if someone visits my Myspace profile directly, they won’t count, because it’s private and therefore not indexed (that should remain true whether they’re taken to my full profile or just the barebones page telling them it’s private). It would also mean that if you go to something like your private admin area (in either site), and your settings allow you to be automatically be logged in, you very well may not be counted in this data unless you visit a public page. These kinds of sites have a lot of private areas, so Google Trends really can’t compare them accurately.
- Subdomains – Here’s a tough area that Google really doesn’t address well. Many sites use subdomains for major areas of their sites (such as music.Myspace.com). In a lot of ways, subdomains are essentially treated as their own sites (including the ability to track separate stats, have separate indexing rules, etc.). Yet if you search for a subdomain on any site in Google Trends, Google automatically converts is to the primary domain for your search. So does that mean Google’s ignoring traffic / visitors to subdomains? Does is mean all subdomain stats are being lumped into the primary domain search? I’m not seeing that clarified anywhere at the moment. But either way, you’d then have to look at the indexing permissions for each of those subdomains to see if they’re really included, and the analytics for each would also have to be shared with Google on top of the main domain’s.
Dave also mentioned some other stats tracking tools. Looking only at Google Trends, you may assume Facebook gets more “traffic.” Looking at Alexa, Myspace still does. Dave asks which stats, if any, you should trust (also throwing comScore and Compete into the mix). I’ve already talked about problems with Alexa. What do you think about these stats? Forgetting the whole Myspace vs. Facebook thing even, if you were interested in learning about the traffic of a given site, where would you go for your information, and why?