Recently, the perception of ABCE’s role for the web analytics industry appears to have become blurred. Hence I wanted to post some comments here – these were also posted on the Web Analytics Association’s forum last month.

ABC ELECTRONIC is the trading name of Electronic Media Audits Ltd. To briefly summarise from their web site:

ABC ELECTRONIC is the industry owned, not-for-profit organisation that works with and for media owners, advertisers and media buyers to help them gain confidence in the data they use. The UK company performs many services but essentially conducts independent audits of client’s digital data to ensure it complies with agreed industry standards – as defined by JICWEBS (The Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards in the UK and Ireland).

To clarify, an ABCE web audit is NOT an accuracy report – it is a verification report for web site owners. Simplified that means ABCE auditors verify the pageview and visitor numbers reported in a client’s analytics tool as matching (to within error bars) their manual counts of the data. ABCE’s methodology is to seed the data with ‘known’ visitor activity, count/verify these in the raw logs of the analytics provider, multiply up to obtain the total count, then compare with that reported by the vendor. The final report is private and delivered to the client.

That process is entirely different to ascertaining web analytics accuracy – something that is very difficult to determine by the nature of current data collection methods (cookies). For example, if you mis-configured your web analytics tool – say you forgot to track pdf downloads, your CMS system screwed up and started over-writing tags, or a large proportion of your web site is missing tags, an ABCE audit would not identify this – it simply verifies that what is in the raw logfile matches what is reported in your tool.

So an ABCE audit is important for publishers – web sites that sell advertising space need to verify their numbers to have credibility with their advertisers (trust in their rate card), but beyond that an ABCE audit is less significant to web site owners.

However, would having a setup/configuration audit for web analytics tools be of benefit? For example, such an audit could verify if your particular tool is configured correctly and capturing the complete picture. Please leave your thoughts via a comment – I always respond!