That’s why the latest faux pas from The Nielsen Company may be bigger than it seems. On Thursday, the company sent out a note to all of its clients saying they had been undercounting traffic for the past three months.
The problem was one of long URL’s. One’s with more than 2,000 characters as a matter of fact. They found that their system wasn’t recognizing these URL’s all the time resulting in an estimated 22% decline over the prior year.
Long URL’s have become increasingly popular – just look at a Facebook URL after you’ve been moving around the site awhile. And URL’s from email and RSS feed clickthroughs can be enormous.
Nielsen says the problem will be corrected by December in time for the first reports delivered in January 2011.
A headache for everyone involved, for sure, but I’m not here to point fingers. Nielsen believes this issue happened because the Internet is changing at a pace that’s hard to keep up with. Here’s a quote from the letter:
“The extraordinary changes and complexity of how the Internet is used warrants our increased attention to help the entire industry mature with a trusted source of data.”
What everyone needs to take away here is that it’s easy to get complacent. We have systems that work so we sit back and assume they’re still working a year later. But the reality is, that through no fault of any human being, systems break because the way we move around the Internet has changed.
So take a few minutes tomorrow and look at your analytic software, compare what you’re seeing to other measuring tools to see if you can spot any glitches. Look at the clickthrough and sales reports that come in on your ad placements. Make sure your Adsense accounts are still functioning.
Don’t just assume the numbers are right. Make an appointment every few months to make sure they’re right so you can correct issues before they turn into big problems.