Web Analytics Differences: Why Do They Report Different Numbers?
I remember, back in the early days of my blogging career, the very first time I ever checked my stats to see my traffic. Imagine how excited I was to see that, after just a couple of months, my blog was getting 10,000 hits a month. Well, that excitement was short lived when I found out what “hits” meant. And then when I found out that different analytics report different numbers, I was really disappointed.
You’re likely to have access to several different analytics reports, including Google Analytics, your hosting company’s analytics, and analytics provided by ad networks and traffic estimation services like Alexa and Quantcast. Don’t be surprised if none of these numbers agree. They all use different tracking methods and have different definitions of terms like “unique visitor” and “page views.”
AW and Webalizer Stats
These programs are usually installed on the cPanel for your web hosting account. I’ve never used Webalizer but I can tell you that AW grossly overestimates your traffic because it counts everything that happens on your site, including each time the search engine crawlers pass through. I’ve heard that Webalizer delivers similar results.
Ad Networks Stats
Ad networks usually underestimate your traffic a bit. Most networks only track actual impressions so if someone visits your blog and they’re using an ad blocker, then they won’t see the ads and they won’t be counted in your traffic numbers. There’s nothing wrong with this and you’re not losing out on any money or anything. It’s just important to remember that these aren’t your actual stats.
Google Analytics Is The Most Accurate
I have Google Analytics installed on another site and that site also provides its own analytics. I’ve been watching both sets of stats for two years now and generally they’re very close. Google might underestimate by just a tiny bit but it’s not enough to worry about. Based on that and their reputation throughout the industry I’d say Google Analytics is the most reliable.
If you’re selling ad space on your blog then the advertisers are going to want accurate traffic and visitor stats. After all, they’re paying good money for as much traffic as possible. This is also true if you’re selling your website. Potential buyers will want accurate statistical information.
Any of these analytics programs can be used to compare month to month stats to see if your site is improving. It’s only when you try to compare them against each other that you’ll run into problems. So any time you’re in a situation where you need accurate, reliable stats, use Google Analytics because it’s the industry standard.