Methodology: Best of the Mac Web Survey

Dan Knight

Twice-a-year we ask for your feedback on the most significant independent Mac-related sites on the Web. By independent, we mean they are not run by Apple computer. By Mac-related, we mean sites that have a strong focus on the Mac (sorry, Register fans).

The survey leans toward established sites that are widely known, updated regularly, contain original content, have regular updates, and are freely accessible. Most of the sites have their own domain and focus specifically on the Mac, but not all do.

Every time we run our Best of the Mac Web (BotMW) survey, we get a lot of questions. This article attempts to address those questions.

Why isn't Apple's site included?

This is a survey of independent Mac-related sites. Apple's site is owned and operated by Apple.

Why aren't dealers listed?

Dealer sites rarely contain original content. Their purpose is selling. We don't include sites where the primary focus is them selling you a product.

Why aren't any link sites listed?

There are a lot of sites out there that are little more than one or more pages of links to other sites. These fail the original content test. SiteLink has done a nice job of differentiating itself from the rest of these by offering MacCentral, Version Tracker, and DealMac news feeds and by tracking how often SiteLink visitors follow the links to outside sites, but it still lacks original content.

Why isn't site X listed?

In some cases, it's because we've never heard of the site (there are hundreds out there, but we limit the survey to the best known 100). In other cases, it's because the site hasn't scored well enough in previous surveys to make the Best of the Mac Web survey. At times we've used Google to check how many outside links there are to a site. (Go to Google and type "" to see how many links there are to Apple's site. That's about four times as many as MacCentral, the best-linked independent Mac site.)

Isn't that unfair to new and growing sites?

Maybe, but we attempt to address that by including 100 sites on the survey. Every time we run the survey, 8-12 sites from the last one have stopped updating or gone away, so we have to add that many other sites to the mix to keep the count at 100. New sites can fare very well - MacMinute was new to our second BotMW survey and rated #11.

What about personal bias?

I've tried to avoid that from the beginning by asking other Mac webmasters for their input. I've also received a lot of feedback from readers during previous BotMW surveys which have shaped the current list. It's not a perfect list, but I'm giving it my best shot.

What does it really measure?

Our surveys measure two things: How well known a site is and how well respected it is. By asking you to only vote on sites you are familiar with, the number of votes a site receives approximates a site's popularity. It's not the Nielsen's, but it should be a fair indicator. And going beyond a simple popularity contest, we really want to know what you think of the sites you visit regularly. It's your opinion, not popularity, that determines which sites are the best.

Can someone spike the results?

We've had sites try to do that, but the survey software used by is designed to prevent multiple votes. We do ask sites to link to the survey; we also ask that they not tell their visitors how to vote. We strongly discourage campaigning against other sites and will ban sites that do so from future surveys.

What if a site doesn't link to the survey?

It really shouldn't make much difference whether a site links to the Best of the Mac Web survey or not. With a dozens of sites linking to the survey, we have thousands of votes representing a broad cross section of Mac users. One site might generate more votes and be rated a bit more highly if it actively sends people to take the survey, but some sites have never linked to the survey and continue to score quite well.

Doesn't Low End Mac benefit from BotMW?

We run these surveys as a public service, since there are no independent measures (like Nielsen ratings on television) to tell us which are the most visited and most respected sites on the Internet. We might display another 20,000-40,000 ads during the survey period, but with today's ad rates, that's peanuts. We might also gain some new regular visitors - and that is intentional. One of our goals in running BotMW is to expose you to the breadth and depth of the Mac Web; there's a lot of good content out there.

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