The tracking code is not for traffic

I had noticed mentions of analytic information provided by often enough that I was curious about what it could do for me.

Compete already had some information about, but it was stunningly wrong. For example, it was telling me that the phrase “godaddy referral program” was responsible for 20.35% of the total traffic sent to my site by search engines. Until recently, I did have a page that mentioned godaddy referral programs, but according to Google Analytics, it was barely ever visited (7 page views in the last 30 days – it was the 78th most popular page on my site, which does get a few thousand visitors a month). Even more strange, it told me that I was getting traffic for the search phrase “myspace”. I have never written anything about myspace before.

I figured that once I installed their JavaScript tracking code, the analytics information would be much more accurate. So I installed the code, confirmed it appeared at the bottom of the home page, and attempted to verify my site at //, but was unable to. I had read somewhere that the free account does not support tracking subdomains, and the verification process seemed to get hung up on the use of .htaccess to redirect non-www traffic to I was mystified that Compete apparently could not recognize this was happening via a 301 redirect header and compensate.


It looks like the CompeteXL code has not been correctly placed on the homepage of your site.

This could be because either the code was not copied over correctly, or because it has been placed on the wrong page.

We think your homepage is

I went so far as to email my amazement to their support staff, who promptly and politely wrote me back. (Thumbs up to the guys answering the emails.)

I had made a few other changes to my site at the same time, so I ran a Page Speed check on it. Page Speed told me that I was linking to a resource at that was throwing a 404 error. I was pretty sure I didn’t intentionally link to anything at that domain, so I Googled it. Surprisingly, there’s not much out there on other than this and this. As it turns out, is part of something called the FOX Audience Network, and FAN’s parent company is News Corporation, which also owns

Here’s the WHOIS on

Whois Server:
Referral URL:
Name Server: NS1.MYSPACE.COM
Name Server: NS2.MYSPACE.COM
Status: clientTransferProhibited
Updated Date: 17-oct-2006
Creation Date: 17-oct-2006
Expiration Date: 17-oct-2011

And here’s the WHOIS on

Whois Server:
Referral URL:
Name Server: NS1.MYSPACE.COM
Name Server: NS2.MYSPACE.COM
Status: clientDeleteProhibited
Status: clientTransferProhibited
Status: clientUpdateProhibited
Updated Date: 03-may-2010
Creation Date: 03-jun-2008
Expiration Date: 03-jun-2011

I didn’t like the idea that information about my visitors was being shared with anyone but the site I had signed up for, so I started looking through the Compete FAQs and found this:

Currently, the CompeteXL code tracks ONLY self-reported Audience Profile data through a partnership with the FOX Audience Network.

The CompeteXL code DOES NOT track traffic or user engagement metrics, that information continues to be provided through our multi-sourced panel and requires NO addition of code to your site.

What the hell? Why am I installing a tracking code if it’s not used to track traffic?

Oh, and this was a fun discovery, too:

The FOX Audience Network (FAN) is a unit of News Corporation that supports monetization efforts across the company’s online content portfolio, as well as third-party publisher sites.

FAN leverages proprietary advertising technology to create highly-targeted advertising campaigns for a wide range of marketers, while also delivering cutting-edge tools and services to third-party publisher partners. FAN works directly with hundreds of advertisers to develop customized marketing programs that optimize both branded and performance-based strategies.

I use a very popular HOSTS file to block a huge number of servers that are known to host advertisements, tracking scripts (including Google Analytics), parasites, hijackers and unwanted Adware/Spyware programs. The 404 error in Page Speed was caused by the inclusion of in this custom HOSTS file, which then led me to finding all this out the next day. I’ve removed the tracking code because the information I wanted was on traffic – who’s coming to my site, why, and through what means – and not user demographics.

2 thoughts on “The tracking code is not for traffic

  1. Compete Support

    Hi Ardamis,

    Thanks for the thumbs up:) my boss just sent me a link to your post. I want to elaborate a little about the tag you installed on your site. First, the audience profiles tag is not direct measurement, in that it will not increase your standings on compete. It will however help you answer some questions about what people that visit your site are interested in: This information is collected discretely and privately, has elected to share this information publicly. Audience profiles was build to help you better understand the interests of people who visit your site and in your instance build more relevant content around what they’re interested in.

    Compete is a company that works to helps others better understand user behavoir and their competitive landscape. If you have any follow up questions about our products or services please feel free to shoot us and e-mail at

  2. ardamis Post author

    Thanks for contacting me. My original post, “The tracking code is lame”, was pretty harsh, so I’ve softened it up and clarified my opinions without changing the main messages:

    1. The unique visitors data provided by is not well supported by the data drawn from Google Analytics or other systems for traffic measurement. This view is shared by others.

    2. The CompeteXL code doesn’t help measure traffic, but does help monetize property of News Corp. Users of Google Analytics ought to know that Google benefits monetarily from providing the service, but the trail of money is less obvious with Compete.

    I won’t be installing the tracking code because I’m not really interested in demographic information about my users. I am interested in how they get to my site, but just who they are is their business.

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