Maximize Your Payouts by Laying a Firm Foundation
People will always pay more if they’re confident in what they’re getting. That’s true whether we’re talking about advertisers or for the eventual acquirer of your site. Not only that, given the choice of two otherwise identical sites, they’ll always choose the one with greater transparency.
Because of that, there are two free services that I strongly recommend signing up for.
I know some people who I highly respect recommend avoiding Google Analytics, but I just haven’t found a free solution that does what Analytics does: provide accurate-enough stats and numbers that are widely accepted. You can have the most accurate stats in the world, but it doesn’t matter if no one believes them. Stats from Analytics aren’t perfect, but enough companies use it now that it’s becoming more and more an accepted standard.
There are a lot of other free services out there that do a pretty good job, but I haven’t found one I like as much as Analytics. I do use StatCounter on all my sites, but that’s only because I want to be able to see real-time stats. If Analytics was real-time, I probably wouldn’t bother. I know a lot of people who use Site Meter, too, but I don’t like the fact that they spy on your users’ behavior.
Now you may be thinking, “If my web host provides stats, do I need anything else?” Absolutely. Stat programs that work by analyzing your log files can be terribly inaccurate. See “Know What You’re Measuring” for more details.
There are some great paid services out there, too, but those can get very expensive very fast. Unless you’re making profits in the mid to high five figures every month, they’re probably not worth it. (And I’m not sure I personally would switch away from Analytics even then.)
The other free service I like a lot is Quantcast. It’s not perfect, but with more and more people requesting demographic data these days — and willing to pay more to sites who provide it — it’s an outstanding start. Particularly since competing services not only aren’t free, but very expensive.
Like with Analytics, you just add a small bit of code to each of your pages and within a month or so Quantcast has begun to compile a pretty impressive set of demographic data about your visitors — without the behavioral targeting that many would object to.
What If I Don’t Want Transparency?
That’s a valid question. There are definitely times when ambiguity works to your advantage. Sometimes you want to appear much larger than you actually are.
Once you’ve reached a level you can be proud of, though, transparency can help you maximize your revenue by not only earning you a better price than you would get otherwise, but also by helping you win deals over your competitors. That’s why I don’t mind sharing the data on most of my sites.