SearchTools Blog (searchtools) wrote,
SearchTools Blog

Critique of the Google Custom Search Traffic Report

Edward Tufte would be disappointed in Google. The traffic reports in the Google Custom Search Business Edition are not only insufficient, but somewhat misleading.

Below is a picture from a CSBE search for a B2B site that I helped install in August 2007. The fact that it's a line chart, with no data points given, filled underneath,makes it look active. It seems as though something's happening, the traffic is making progress, or worse, losing ground. The deep dips look scary, as though the site has done something wrong.

The problems come about because it's the wrong graph format for the content. This is very simple data: one point per day. Look at it as a simple bar graph and it suddenly seems more reasonable. The traffic resolves itself into a rhythm: the dips are on weekends -- all the customers are home. I don't know why they got it so wrong, but it's worth getting right.

Edward Tufte wrote some enlightening books on these topics, including The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, which taught those of us paying attention that how data is presented deeply affects how it is received. I highly recommend getting some of Tufte's books, from Amazon, from Powell's or from your library (using WorldCat).

Please comment whether you agree or disagree. I'm haven't seen quite this problem in other search engine traffic reports, but I'm wondering what other interfaces might look like, and what you think is best. Tell me your opinions, please!


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