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It is better
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not know why

John Sumser

is more
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Who's On Top, Pop?

(February 27, 2004) - What's the best way to measure web success?

We continue to favor Alexa, in spite of its minor flaws, as the best, most readily available source for relative ranking statistics. Alexa has some limitations involving the depth of measurement within a domain (most notably, it doesn't measure subdomains like careerjournal.wsj.com and it doesn't measure the full range of 'ASP' services.) That said, no web measurement tool is perfect and we feel comfortable saying that Alexa's measures are as valid as, say, any of the other comparative tools we've seen.

Lots of fuss gets made about the volume of traffic received by website X. It's a sort of macho posturing contest along the lines of mine is bigger than yours. Ranking stories in this newsletter routinely generate high traffic volumes and lots of email. It's as the the nose to nose horserace actually mattered. It doesn't; bragging rights for size are just that.

The following chart is the Alexa ranking of the "top 3" job boards for the past two years. From where we sit, all of them get lots of traffic. For sure, the Yahoo/HotJobs number is understated, owing to the tight integration by HotJobs with its parent company. That said, we are ready to agree that these operations are all "really big" or even, "as big as they can be".

The old saw goes "It ain't the meat, it's the motion." Traffic, per se, is a worthless measure. What matters is the degree to which money can be extracted from the traffic at a profit, from an investor's perspective. From a customer's perspective, it's the adequate and immediate availability of the right job hunter. From a job hunter's perspective, it's the availability of the right job. Traffic has relatively little influence on any of these outcomes. In other words, the important measure is user-centric and qualitative except for the financial question.

In our ideal world, we'd love to see more interesting statistics for the various big players. For example:

  • Jobs per job hunter by zipcode
  • Job Hunters by Metropolitan Statistical Area
  • Revenue per jobhunter
  • Overall Job Ads per visitor
  • Customer-Job Hunter ratios by geography
  • Revenue per customer

The real difference between the various job board operations, at the high or low end of the game, is their relative effectiveness for both ends of their customer base (job hunters and employers). We'd prefer to see regularly published estimates of effectiveness. That would highlight the potent contribution of the players in some regions and professions.

John Sumser

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Materials written by John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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