Melbourne, July 24 : An expert from the Internet Advertising Bureau has warned that website operators are using tricks to boost traffic numbers in the eyes of advertisers.
Patty Keegan says that one such trick to boost click counts is stretching news stories across multiple pages.
"There are things like news sites that rotate new ads in as news is updated," The Australian quoted her as saying.
"Perhaps the most nefarious thing I saw was in another country where two newspapers were competing evenly for the same market. Overnight one of the newspapers suddenly doubled its page impressions, and it turned out they had split their national news page into two pages," she added.
She even said that the IAB was undertaking a concerted review with the aim of developing a new, more accurate audience measurement system.
Meanwhile, several key buyers of online advertising have admitted that they do not believe the numbers most of the websites claim.
"They are just not believable. I have spoken to a number of media buyers out there and they say the same thing," one online ad agency founder said.
Pop-up advertising, which helped increase impression numbers, is another element many websites are countering to offer best practice to advertisers.
"The first trend we're seeing is an increasing use of pay-per-click search marketing by publishers to drive website traffic on news items," says Sandra Hanchard, an analyst with online monitoring company Hitwise.
"This is important because search engines account for more than one in five visits to news and media print websites," Hanchard adds.
She says that news publishers have even started to utilise social networking sites to boost traffic.
"News and media print websites are receiving more traffic from Web 2.0 properties," she says.
"Social networking websites increased their referrals to news and media print websites by 148.6 per cent, comparing May 2007 to May 2008," she adds.
Simon Van Wyck, founder of web advertising company Hothouse, says that many web publishers and portals count visitors to allied sites, but do not necessarily have the right to claim such traffic - like Ninemsn, which claims Hotmail and Yahoo.
"I think you can look at other things, such as claiming traffic that is not theirs," Van Wyck says.
Keegan points out that most of the times the problem occurs when advertisements are refreshed along with the stories, creating the impression of more traffic.