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Cryptocurrency

Analysis of cryptocurrency exchange traffic: Could results hint at faked volume?

Quick Take

  • The most visited crypto exchanges were Binance and Coinbase with more than 57 million visits
  • Exchange volume doesn’t seem to be correlated to traffic
  • The most traffic in November came from the United States with 22.3 million visits
  • The vast majority of traffic is direct (78%) or resulting from an organic search (11%)

The Blockchain Transparency Institute released a research report in August which estimated that over $6 billion dollars in daily trade volume is being faked with over 67% of daily volume being wash traded. This disturbing discovery could mean fraud is rampant in the industry, but The Block looked deeper for a more precise analysis of the situation.

In a wide-ranging study, The Block analyzed the website traffic on the most frequently used cryptocurrency exchanges from data provided by SimilarWeb. SimilarWeb, while far from perfect, is a good indicator of real activity on the exchanges. SimilarWeb uses multiple algorithms and data sources but it’s important to recognize that the data are still estimates. An analysis of SimilarWeb accuracy found that it was the most accurate tool available outside actual analytics access.

SimilarWeb sources the data from:

  1. Global Panel Data from desktop/mobile devices
  2. Global ISP Data from partners 
  3. Public Data Sources
  4. Direct Measurement Data from sites and apps

Website traffic and its relationship to volume

The Block analyzed 18 exchanges and their traffic in November. Out of all the exchanges that were analyzed, Binance had the largest number of estimated visitors in November with more than 32 million. Coinbase was the second most popular exchange with a little over 25 million. All the other exchanges had less than 10 million visitors. Interestingly, four of the top six most visited exchanges are based in the United States: Coinbase, Bittrex, Poloniex, and Kraken.

 

If we look at the reported volume by the analyzed exchanges, they tell a different story. While Binance reported the largest volume in November with more than $22 billion, five other exchanges had volumes in November larger than $10 billion – OKEx, Huobi, ZB.com, DigiFinex and Bitfinex. Five of the seven exchanges with the lowest reported volume were in the United States.

We then divided volume by the number of estimated visitors, and the result is shown in the chart below. The exchanges that have by far the highest volume per one website visit are Digifinex and ZB.com.

The results hint at several possibilities: 

  • Some exchanges are faking volume (likely and could be significant)
  • Some exchanges are focused on larger volume clients (likely and could be significant)
  • SimilarWeb estimates of traffic are wrong (likely but probably not very significant)
  • Some exchanges could be more focused on trading via API, therefore the website traffic doesn’t get counted (likely but probably not very significant)

Geographic diversity of traffic

It is also interesting to analyze where the traffic is coming from geographically. Each of the analyzed exchanges has a different geographical mix, which varies depending on where the exchanges are based and what audience they actively target. SimilarWeb only publishes the top five countries from which the traffic is coming from, so it’s important to realize that the results are skewed towards larger countries.

That being said, the most traffic in November came, by far, from the United States with 22.33 million visits. The countries that follow are: Russia (6.83 million), Turkey (3.49 million), Vietnam (3.26 million), Brazil (2.98 million), China (2.95 million) and Ukraine (2.26 million).

Source of traffic

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of the traffic (77.8%) is direct. The second most popular source is organic searches (11.1%) 

About 4% of traffic in November came from social media, which comes to approximately 3 million clicks. The breakdown of the most popular social media sources can be seen below. More than half of all social media traffic is from YouTube followed by Facebook and Twitter. It’s not surprising that YouTube is leading the way since a lot of people use referral links and it’s easier to sell the exchange through a convincing video than through other means.

The overall analysis shows that traffic and volume are not always correlated. The volume per one visit could potentially be a significant metric in identifying faked volume but could indicate a different target group of customers (retail vs. large clients). The most traffic, by far, is coming from the United States. However, other countries such as Russia, Turkey, Vietnam, Brazil, China and Ukraine all sent more than 2 million visitors in November. Our last finding is that the vast majority of traffic is direct or resulting from organic search. Out of the 3 million visitors that came from social media, more than a half is coming from YouTube.

Ultimately, we have little clarity on this traffic in real terms, but the numbers point to a particularly interesting trend. Notably, the most popular exchanges by visits rarely move the most volume, while seemingly smaller exchanges do more volume than expected. These trends are definitely indicative of some head-scratching – if not outright sketchy – behavior in the world of crypto exchanges.

 

Photo by Jordan Rowland on Unsplash