01 Mar 2007 Microstock Popularity Contest

In selecting our initial websites we used a very simple method. We looked at this page and chose the top websites. Website popularity can help you guage the likely quantity of buyers using a site, which is a factor in your quantity of revenue. It’s not an exact measure but used in combination with other simple observations it’s enough to use as a guide. So what about this and those other simple measures?

The page we used is the Alexa the Royalty Free sub-category of photography, sorted by popularity. For those who don’t know, Alexa collects traffic infomation about which websites people visit via a browser toolbar. So this ‘popularity contest’ of website traffic was a key indicator to the success of the various websites, with a few reservations detailed below. Click the link to see who’s at the top of the list now. At the time of writing it is: iStockPhoto, Dreamstime, Shutterstock, BigStockPhoto, Photos.com, Inmagine.com, Fotolia.de, 123rf, comstock.com Alexa goes further and allows you to compare the traffic of each website and how they rank against all other websites. How many insights can you get from this chart?

Alexa rank comparison of the top Microstock websites

This chart is the popularity rank of each website against all other websites. It shows iStockPhoto to be in a league of its own. A chart of the same sites measuring Page Views shows an even greater difference between iStockphoto and the other sites. The chart also shows that iStockphoto was around well before any of its nearest competitors. In fact, an Alexa chart of iStockphoto for maximum time back shows it popping up into the top 100,000 websites back in 2001. This method is not flawless. The following list contains some caveats, but if you can think of others please let me know.

  • Alexa is amazing, but like all statistics that use a sample rather than the entire population, you cannot rule out inaccuracies
  • Sites such as Fotolia use multiple domain names (fotolia.de, fotolia.es) which splinters their traffic statistics causing them to appear less popular with this method of comparison
  • Sites such as Shutterstock use sub-domains – submit.shutterstock.com is used for all contributor interaction – causing their public sub-domain (www) to appear less popular than sites who use a single sub-domain

Have a play with the Alexa charting tool and see what insights you can come up with. Let us know in the forums. Another method I often use to measure comparative popularity is Google. A simple comparison of the quantity of results for a word or website address can give interesting numbers. Here the results at the time of writing this article:

Agency Search Results Inbound Links
iStockphoto 13,200,000 305,000
Shutterstock 1,570,000 3,450
Dreamstime 1,160,000 10,200
Fotolia 4,660,000 11,200
BigStockPhoto 2,130,000 29,800
CanStockPhoto 147,000 315
StockXpert 3,290,000 7,570
MicrostockPhoto 588 15
StockPhotoMedia 821 6
USphotostock 66,600 0
Alamy 1,270,000 8,970

Click on the results to repeat the search for yourself. The numbers may have changed since the time of publication. (links open in new window) iStockphoto clearly has a larger portion of Google’s attention in terms of the quantity of search results. Let’s see that in a pie chart:

Microstock Inbound Link Popularity Pie ChartMicrostock Search Term Popularity Pie Chart

Now we can see just how much iStockphoto dominates the market. We also have a breakaway from the Alexa results with Fotolia in a comfortable second place on search results and third on inbound links. StockXpert also shows a greater amount of penetration with Google than with Alexa. This method also has its share of caveats:

  • Online brand popularity isn’t a guarantee of buyer quantity
  • Fotolia operates through multiple domains names, though we’ve only searched on one here
  • Sites don’t always operate entirely through the www sub-domain (e.g. shutterstock use submit.shutterstock.com for all interaction with contributors)

So what methods have you used to guage the popularity of websites?

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