After three months' testing, the Australian service Hitwise has allowed the first public peek at its rankings of New Zealand Websites - and there are some surprises.
The first of a weekly batch of rankings - an overall Top 20 and Top 10s in 23 categories - is now available on AccessNZ. While Nielsen NetRatings and fellow Australian firm Red Sheriff base their research on panels of Internet users, Hitwise compiles its rankings from the proxy logs of ISPs. Like Nielsen's ratings, the Hitwise methodology appears to provide good news for some Web ventures - and not so good for others.
The top two domains overall - msn.co.nz and Xtra - are no surprise, but the University of Auckland coming in with the country's third most popular Web site will raise some eyebrows. The news aggregate site NZCity fares well, ranking fourth overall and beating the New Zealand Herald site in the media category.
Elsewhere, the BNZ has the most popular site of any of the banks, the most popular ISP sites are Xtra and i4free, and FlyingPig comes well down the list of shopping sites, behind Trade & Exchange, TradeMe and the relatively low-profile FashionNZ.
My Vodafone shows up strongly behind the Telecom White Pages site and the main Telecom Web site - but Telecom Yellow Pages is missing in action and not listed in the Top 10.
The country's most popular homepage by a long stretch is "the dreaming reality" at asgard.gen.nz.
AccessNZ is owned by Brave New World, the Internet marketing company launched by the original founders of Webmasters, which is working with Hitwise owners Sinewave Interactive on this side of the Tasman.
The full Hitwise service will be launched in New Zealand next week
David Hiatt, Brave New World's online marketing manager, says the rankings have been diced up according to AccessNZ's established categories, "and that's slightly different to the categories that Hitwise carries, but it gives New Zealanders who are interested an opportunity to see where their Web site ranks.
"Then if they want more information they can tell us their email and domain name and we'll get back to them about where they're ranked, or if they want more information that that they can go through to Hitwise and become a subscriber and get all the comparative information that Hitwise provides."
Hiatt says the identity of the ISPs whose logs are being used to compile the rankings is confidential, "but they're working above 30% of the New Zealand Internet population, which is a pretty good sample. Hitwise assure me that the ISPs they've got cover a fairly decent demographic spread.
"What Hitwise say is that theirs is a product you would use to compare where your Website is ranked, but if you were going to do full-on analysis and research then you'd use it in conjunction with other research tools. We'd never want to say Nielsen or Red Sheriff aren't right, because you need them, but as far as rankings go we're pretty sure we're on the button."