Arabian Business / Accenture Web Index

One medium that is still being largely ignored on media schedules is online advertising. Agencies say their major clients are prepared to spend online; but only if they are given compelling reasons to do so by Web site owners. What’s missing is reliable demographic data. The Arabian Business / Accenture Web Index plans to publish this 'missing' data.

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By  Rob Corder Published  January 29, 2001

Introduction|~||~||~|Click here to view the Arabian Business/Accenture Web Index for December 2000"

If you are a Middle East Web site owner and are not already part of the Web Index please click here NOW"

Media schedules are being signed-off across the region this month, but one medium that is still being largely ignored is that of online advertising. Agencies contacted by Arabian Business.com say they are holding back budget during the first and second quarters.

Their major clients are prepared to spend online; but only if they are given compelling reasons to do so by Web site owners.

What’s missing, argue agencies, is the type of reliable demographic data that print publishers have been able to provide them for years.

Although auditing companies like ABC and BPA, which have acted as policemen overseeing circulation figures of Middle East print publishers, now offer the same service for web traffic, there has been no take-up from the Middle East.

Online advertisers are not the only people looking for reliable statistics. Venture capitalists and other investors looking to back the strongest online operations are also crying out for trustworthy numbers.

And it doesn’t stop there. The brightest minds are being courted to join Web companies in this region, but these people need to know what type of organisation they are joining. Are the claims of employers saying that they are the leading online provider in the Middle East to be believed?

There is still one further need for accurate data. Companies looking at their own Web strategies need to know what is working for other companies and what is not.

A brief glance through any Web site will give anybody a view of what they like and what they don’t like, but what are the ingredients that separate success from failure online?

Arabian Business has set out to bridge this data divide with research on the region’s leading Web sites. This research will be conducted every month so we will bring you the latest information and analysis of trends that this information highlights.
||**||Methodology|~||~||~|If you are a Middle East Web site owner and are not already part of the Web Index please click here NOW"

Through a combination of online research on , e-mail surveys, phone surveys and face-to-face meetings over the past two months, we have pushed, persuaded and cajoled owners of 200 Web ventures to part with their site’s visitor traffic numbers.

We weren’t 100% successful.

The data you see here comes from 37 companies that were prepared to publish their numbers. In fact, those that have cooperated have done so with enthusiasm since they share our contention that the Internet industry in the Middle East is in dire need of transparency.

At this stage, we pass no judgement on those site owners who declined to cooperate with our research. We leave that judgment to you, but I would urge you not to jump to conclusions.

For many sites there were valid, technical reasons why their data could not be shared. Those sites are working to develop traffic reporting methodologies that will allow them to be part of future Web Index tables.

What is presented here is the first draft of what will build to become the definitive list of Web sites and traffic statistics in the Middle East. Its independence is assured by the involvement of the highly respected Accenture (formerly known as Anderson Consulting), which is verifying the results of our research.

Accenture is currently working on its recommendations for best practice methodology for Web traffic reporting in the Middle East.

Working with them, Arabian Business will push for the adoption of effective and transparent reporting and, through the Web Index, will provide the comparative rankings and analysis that make sense of the numbers for our readers.

The data published here does have imperfections, and these are the areas that we will work on with Accenture through their new global methodology.

Arguably the key challenge in dissecting these results is how to view the difference between data that has been verified by Arabian Business and Accenture, and data that is “publisher’s own data.”

The Web Index aims over time to publish only verified data, but this proved impractical for this first set of results. The results that are verified went through a two-stage process.

Addresses for Web-based traffic log files were provided to Arabian Business, and we extracted data directly from these “live” log files. The log files were then passed on to Accenture, who verified that our interpretation of the data was correct.

You can be certain, therefore, that the verified data for “total number of visitors,” for example, is an accurate and true report of the information to which we had access.

As with those companies that declined to contribute data to this Web Index, we pass no judgment on those companies that declined our offer to verify their data.

Many companies said they would work towards finding a solution that would allow us to verify data, but at this stage they were concerned with security issues associated with us accessing “non-public” areas of their site.

Beyond these challenges, there are technical issues concerning Web traffic reporting that must be discussed. For example, you will notice two columns for “number of unique visitors” and “number of new visitors.” Definitions of these and other terminology are included in this report.

But you will notice that few sites gave figures on these new and unique visitors. This, in most cases, is associated with the use of cookies to track visitors. Cookies are small pieces of computer code that can be downloaded onto the machine of anybody visiting a Web site. This cookie allows Web tracking software to identify whether an individual has visited a site before.

If Web sites do not use cookies, it is impossible to track whether visitors are unique or new. Web sites that do not use cookies also suffer from under-counting of visitors.

This is because of the way Web tracking software works. It looks for unique addresses of machines accessing a Web site. Without cookies, this can mean that several people in one office accessing a Web site through a single server in their office will count as only one visitor (because the Web site sees only the server, not the individuals beyond that server).

Cookies solve that problem because they are downloaded to the individual machines of a visitor, not to an office server.

We are considering, with guidance from Accenture, whether to include a question in our survey about whether Web sites are using cookies or not.

Finally, you will see from our table that we are categorizing Web sites. This was a strong request from Web site owners who did not want to be judged against traffic figures from sites in different sectors.

For example, a business-to-business online marketplace will inevitably get far fewer visitors than a broad reach portal site. That is not to say that the portal is any more successful than the B2B site.

The categories we have created, in our view, strike a balance between recognizing the differences between different types of site, while at the same time not over-burdening the tables with dozens of micro-categories that make comparison almost impossible.

These categories will be constantly reviewed and again we will be taking advice from Accenture on this process. We may also in the future conduct additional surveys that look more closely at the demographics of visitors to a site so that advertisers can plan more focused campaigns for different audiences.

We stress that the Arabian Business/Accenture Web Index is a tool that you will have to use at your own discretion. The numbers we are publishing are being seen for the first time in the Middle East, and for that reason, we believe we are providing an invaluable service from day one.

We do not pretend, however, that there is not room for improvement and we welcome all feedback on ways in which we can make the Index more useful to you.

Click here to view the Arabian Business/Accenture Web Index for December 2000"

Send all feedback to rob.corder@itp.net.
||**||Glossary of Web Terms|~||~||~|Ranking in category by page views: Web sites are ranked according to the total number of page views reported in the sample period.

URL: Internet address of the Web site.

Site description: Web site owners have submitted their own descriptions. These have been edited by Arabian Business due to space constraints.

Site category: Categories have been formed by Arabian Business for the purpose of comparing Web sites in a like-with-like environment.

Total number of visits in period: The cummulative total of visits to a site in the specified period. A person visiting more than once in the sample period will be counted every time that person visits. Visitors to a site for a prolonged period, i.e. opens a Web site and leaves that site open on his machine all day, can count as several visitor sessions in that day. Web tracking software can effectively call a visitor session closed if it remains inactive for a predefined period.

Average duration of visitor session in period: The time taken between entering a site and leaving a site.

No. of new visitors in period: A count of visitors who have not at any time been logged by the Web tracking software.

No. of unique visitors per month: Unique visitors are counted using the visitor's IP address, domain name, or cookie.

No. of page impressions in period: A count of hits to pages defined as documents or forms by the Web tracking software. In most, but not all cases, a cick to a new page within a Web site will count as a single additional page impression. The supporting graphics on pages are not counted.

Sample period: The dates during which the log data was generated.

Verified by: Note of whether the visitor data has been checked by Arabian Business and Accenture or whether the site owner has supplied data without independent verification.

Click here to view the Arabian Business/Accenture Web Index for December 2000"||**||

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