Hits charade: WattsUpWithThat hypes itself with dubious webstats, while lowballing other blogs

[JR: Thanks to so many Climate Progress “lurkers” for providing comments below!]

One thing is very safe to say about any quantitative analysis you see from Anthony Watts: It is probably BS. See, for instance, Wattergate: Tamino debunks “just plain wrong” Anthony Watts.

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In his latest piece of misinformation, Watts braggs about his WattsUpWithThat webstats and disses his web competition (including Climate Progress) using dubious comparison metrics. One of the two most revealing things about the post, “WUWT Status report — 40 million,” is that Watts is bragging about “another milestone” — 40 million total hits. Yes, hits.

Memo to Watts: “Hits” are what people use when they want to hype or inflate their webstats.

I don’t know anybody who touts hits anymore, other than Watts. They don’t really mean much.

A typical explanation of just what Hits are, “Hits, Page Views, Visitors and Visits Demystified,” concludes “It is evident it does not make a lot of sense to count Hits.” So, of course, it is the perfect metric for the top anti-science website in the country. It’s interesting that not one of his commenters have bothered to tell him this!

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As long as Watts keeps a Hits counter on his sidebar, it’ll be a constant reminder that he embraces his senseless statistics.

Equally interesting, Watts, seems to have a very low hit count for a high-traffic website.

I’ve been told by some web folks that most web stats programs are not quantitatively precise enough to rely on, except perhaps to show change over time, which is why I have stopped reporting absolute webstats here. But since Hits are so senseless, and Watts seems to love them, I will report that, according to both CAP’s webstats tracking program and Google Analytics, I’ve had 20 million hits just this year so far! I had well over 40 million hits in 2009 alone.

Watts has a broader agenda in his hyping post. He wants to show that he gets a lot more traffic than me and RealClimate and other climate websites, so he can claim — “thank you all for making WUWT the most visited climate science blog in the world.”

Let’s set aside his laughable claim that he is a “climate science blog.” He is the exact opposite of a climate science blog — see Diagnosing a victim of anti-science syndrome (ASS) or, frankly, any of the real climate science blogs who routinely debunk him, like, say, Tamino.

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What is truly revealing about his entire “analysis” is that he has cited Alexa for webstats comparison. How unreliable is Alexa? Plug the exact phrase “Alexa is unreliable” [in quotes] into Google. You get 5,000 hits! Frankly, most webstats comparison sites are considered unreliable, but Alexa probably most of all, so it is perfect for Watts. Our IT folks recommend CAP bloggers not even cite Alexa for our internal reports.

Technorati, which is viewed with more credibility, ranks blogs on “Authority,” which “measures a site’s standing & influence in the blogosphere” on “a scale of 0–1000. 1000 is the highest possible authority.” I am currently #1 among Green blogs (again), with a 998. Watts is third with 917. But even Technorati’s system is problemmatic, as they include websites that aren’t environmental in nature — the Foundry, which is Heritage’s general blog, and WattsUp, for that matter — and their science websites authority ranking has different Authority numbers for the same websites. The comparison formula appears to be something like the secret recipe for Coke.

Anyway, Watts plots Alexa’s “Daily Reach” ranking, which is supposedly the percent of global Internet users who visit your website. But who cares if somebody visits and immediately leaves? [If I’m reading Watts’ sitemeter right, his “Average Visit Length” is 19 seconds.]

I write to be read, and so for me — and most bloggers I know — page views are what matters. About.com notes, “Page views are the standard measurement of blog popularity and traffic in the blogosphere because that’s the statistic online advertisers look at.” Ad revenues are typically based on pageviews. The huge website Gawker pays incentives to its writers on the basis of page views.

Since Watts loves Alexa, I plotted the comparison above, which suggests our pageviews tracked online aren’t as disparate as Alexa suggests our traffic is. Why? Well, if you believe Alexa (and I don’t) here’s why:

My readers read more pages. Indeed, Watts’ sitemeter actually says he gets 1.4 pageviews per visit.

But this isn’t the whole story. Indeed, the main reason I’m doing this post is because it’s tiresome to listen to Watts make these apples and oranges comparisons between our two websites.

We have chosen two different readership strategies and that renders any webstats comparison meaningless.

Watts has chosen what I would call a traffic-driven strategy. He has high direct traffic, probably higher than mine. He has been very successful at his strategy. He also lets his commenters repeat and expand upon the disinformation he posts, which runs up the number of comments he gets, and his visits and page views — though lots of those page views are no doubt views of people reading the anti-scientific comments. Indeed, his comments are stuff like “I reckon that if you summed the total hits of Real Climate, Joe Romm, Tamino etc., etc”¦, all together you still wouldn’t get close to the kind of numbers you are achieving here. And that says a heck of a lot to me.” and “I will bet that WUWT has more unique hits a week then Time magazine.” Not! And not even close!

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I have chosen a subscriber-driven strategy. I devote a lot of prime real estate at the top of CP to getting subscriptions. I want people to read the content and I don’t care if they come here to do so (or go to other websites where I repost some content, such as Grist). I have 28,000 subscribers, which is a large number for a website that focuses on a fairly narrow set of issues. My subscribers have been rising steadily week in and week out. It was closer to 2,800 at the start of 2009.

I don’t know how many of my subscribers actually read my posts each day, or how many posts they read. The email subscribers and many if not most of the RSS feed subscribers can read any of the posts they want without ever coming here and registering in my webstats. I will note that if, say, only 1/3 of my subscribers read half of my posts a day without coming to CP, that would mean my actual pageviews were roughly double what the webstats programs show. There is, however, no good way of finding out.

Watts doesn’t seem to try for subscribers, which is understandable, because he wants traffic to drive ad revenues. I work for a nonprofit and any revenues from the one ad I run are really just icing on the cake.

Watts claims:

Traffic has slowed from about half of what it was during the heady days of Climategate and Copenhagen in December, but I note that this is not unique to WUWT, as other climate blogs have also experienced similar drops since then.

Not. My traffic is much higher now than in December. I have had a 20% to 25% increase in both subscribers to my feed and direct traffic (including) pageviews, comparing this month to December.

So he can claim he is “the most visited climate science blog in the world” but it’s just a claim, no different than any of his other dubious ones (see “Watts not to love: New study finds the poor weather stations tend to have a slight COOL bias, not a warm one” and FoxNews, WattsUpWithThat push falsehood-filled Daily Mail article on global cooling that utterly misquotes, misrepresents work of Mojib Latif and NSIDC).

Watts certainly can’t truthfully claim that his original content is the most widely read content in the climate blogosphere, which is what really matters. I won’t make that claim for Climate Progress, though I suspect it’s true, simply because there is no reliable way of knowing for sure.

And, of course, I have the best commenters. But then you knew that, already, didn’t you! This blog is only as successful as it is because of you, and the many other people who come to Climate Progress or subscribe to the content. Thanks!