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Who can you trust, part 2

Online Games Bay

While the overwhelming majority of users know that you simply can’t trust the big tech companies, it is worth to remind those, who don’t why is that important to keep on your toes while you deal with them.

Who can you trust, part 2

As I showed in previous part of this article (Who can you trust?) the data you are provided by the big tech companies like Google or Facebook are filtered through their "sophisticated" software, and what you get as a final result of this filtering is usually what you should take with huge pinch of salt. While it is normal that they calm through data and provide you with the best estimate what was the real "human" traffic on your page or profile, the keyword in that sentence is "estimate".

As someone, who is using different Google tools for last 20 years I got used to data not making sense, if you were using their Webmaster Tools and Analytics few years back you would notice that they always were providing you with contradictory data - if one said there were 100 people on your website, the other was showing 70. Even within Webmaster Tools the data were contradicting each other, the search results where showing 50 clicks, the other report was showing only 10 pages that were visited, etc. So what they did to fix that? Of course, they rebranded it to Search Console and cut off part of the reports, so now you cannot really tell if they do contradict each other.

I had another interesting example of their... creative approach to statistics, while I stumbled upon a small channel on youtube, where videos were rarely reaching high numbers. But some of those videos have caught my attention and I ended up watching quite few of them within few hours (they were quite short). And that gave me the idea to check on Social Blade, which is using the data from YouTube, Twitch and other places, exactly how well was this channel doing in recent times. And it was not great, but not bad either, usually the author gets between 7 and 15 thousand views per day, but I also stumbled upon second channel of the same author, where there is only a single introductory video that generates few views per day. For science I gave it a try and viewed it few times within few hours (from different devices and accounts), so I was expecting to make a huge splash in this tiny channel with whopping 12 views in one day!

But according to Social Blade... it never happened. Check for yourself - in a week between 3rd and 9th July 2022 the channel Vara Dark had 20 views in total and not on a single day it reached more than 7. That was a bit weird, until I remembered who owns YouTube... Oh yes, the legendary precision of Google statistics strikes again. As I said before - if it doesn’t work properly on small scale, there is no way it can work properly on huge scale.

So what exactly happened? Well, to those, who do not follow closely changelogs about Google tools (and no one does, unless he or she has to) Google in its wisdom decided some time ago that they are not gonna actually count traffic through tools like Analytics. To lower the workload for those tools instead they are gonna use the approximation and prognosis. What does that mean? It means that if your website or channel gets 30 hits a day Google will assume that it does and will show you around 30 hits in future data, no matter if it is or isn’t true. They do count some of the traffic, but not all of it. Most likely. If any.

They just don’t really care if it is or isn’t true, because they do not have to - most people treat their data as the most believable in the world, so what is the point of actually providing people with real data? Just few months ago I read "article" about best tools to measure traffic on websites and the author was with straight face telling people that Google Analytics is the best tool around and his best argument was "it has been evolving for years now". And that is the problem - people got used to tools like Analytics, because they have been using them for years, and stopped questioning if they actually work. And they actually don’t. At least not as Google will tell you they do.

There are reasonable explanations that I often stumbled upon, like views from same IP within some time range are not counted separately, the views are counted only after some percent of the video was watched, etc. and some of them are or might be true, but as usual Google / YouTube keeps those rules secret, so you could not prove them that they are not playing by their own rules. And even if you could prove, what can you do? Sue them? Move to other platform? Send angry letter that bots will read? Picket outside their offices? I have watched the video I mentioned in full (from beginning until end), on different devices and different accounts, but even if they did not count my views for a good reason (or good according to their own secret rules), what else they do not count? How many of the views they do not count? What other statistics they keep to themselves?

For years now I have been installing my own software on every single one of my websites, it was far from being perfect, but I was able to see every single hit the website gets, later browse through the data and filter out those that were clearly bots. While comparing it with Analytics I always got my number of visits higher that what Google was telling me, never lower. And perhaps they were right, perhaps they have filtered out the bots that I missed, but it would be nice to be given the raw data, not the global number without any explanation. Of course they keep the raw data for themselves while providing the end user with just gist of what actually was happening on their website. Or rather what Google bots think was happening on their website / channel, I mean it’s not like they count the actual visits...

So, Vara Dark, if you read this (which I doubt) I have watched your introductory video 12 times in a single day, even if Google doesn’t believe it happened, I got through quite few of your videos on main channel (channel link), but they might not have been counted either. The videos were pretty good and I think I will visit your channel again, even if YouTube will never tell you about this.


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