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'Trends for Websites' Makes a Popularity Contest of Site Traffic


Always cookin'

Google has launched Trends for Websites, a Google Trends spin-off that builds comparative charts of website traffic.

The original Google Trends enables users to compare the popularity of certain keywords in Google's search engine. For an example, see Desperate Housewives versus Footballer's Wives.

Google Trends for Websites may be useful to publishers seeking information about a site's popularity in relation to industry rivals. It also provides data on other sites most commonly visited, and related searches — which could enable pay-per-click marketers to harvest new keywords.

Like other site measurement sites, the tool reflects data acquisition biases. Search Engine Watch ran traffic comparisons across Google Trends for Websites, Alexa and Compete; each product yielded a different visual result. But the search blog ultimately concluded that Trends "will likely become the most authoritative source for comparison data since Google has access to far more data than Compete or Alexa."

Venture capitalist Fred Wilson had a different opinion. He observed that existing third-party measurement services, including comScore, Compete, Hitwise and NetRatings, begin with skewed information, typically from their own limited data set. "The trick is to understand how your data set is skewed and apply statistics to take that bias out," which these firms do, thereby improving their reporting figures.

"If Google wants to be a player in this market, they'll have to invest time and energy doing the same," Wilson concluded.

What's more, Trends for Websites does not reflect audience data of Google sites, including Google.com, Orkut or YouTube.

"We have policy of not providing interim financial guidance, and have decided not to release Google numbers in accordance with that policy," a Google rep explained.

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