There have been a few newspaper stories about the BNP’s popularity online suggesting it is surging in ‘popularity’. It is even claimed that it is the most popular political site online. The BNP boast that this is the case based on Amazon’s Alexa rankings. The problem with Alexa is that it is easily gamed, download the free toolbar or extension and you boost your own ranking when you visit your own site. If BNP activists are encouraged to download the toolbar, they will make it appear that they are more popular. Of necessity given the BNP are not given mainstream space they are (disproportionately to their size) very active online with a well developed web presence. It appears to be true that they have the highest traffic of any official website of any UK political party. They are not however quite as popular as they claim.
The online advertising industry demands independent, verifiable metrics. Three firms dominate the online metrics business, ABCe, Comscore and Hitwise. They all use different methodologies and none are perfect. ABCe is more precise but is paid for by the publisher and uses verified data from the publishers own servers. Comscore and Hitwise are by nature inexact but have the advantage of sampling on sound methodologies and are very good at measuring relative market share, even of competitors. If you know your own traffic you can therefore derive the approximate traffic of your rivals relative to your own. Below is the Hitwise ranking data for April 2009 for blogs and political sites viewed in the UK:
click graphic to enlarge
So given that last month Guido knows he had circa 3 million page views, the BNP (with half the relative market share) probably had circa 1.5 million page views. You might note that the Guardian’s Comment is Free, with all the cross marketing, budget and staff only manages to have 31% more readers than Guido. It must drive them crazy at Guardian HQ that a part-time, rarely sober, lone blogger with a lap-top and a site that costs a couple of hundred quid a month to maintain, runs them so close. No wonder they lose so much money…