Why Do Web Analytics Give Different Numbers

Here is a fact. If you install 10 different web analytics in your website, you are going to get 10 different numbers!

It is a common question for those who discover world of analytics and go beyond using Google Analytics as only option. We at Hitsteps Analytics receive this question way often, so we have decided to describe it here over our blog. Your question is usually “Shouldn’t they report same number of visitors?”

In theory, yes, they should! but there are many facts to consider. The way each analytics service collect data, how we determine a returning visitor as a visitor versus continue of previous session thus, it don’t end up as new visitor and the way we filter the data. (yes, we do and we do it for good reasons)

Way we collect data is using Javascript and img tags. If user don’t have javascript installed, we can still track user using img tag. (think of old browsers and WAP mobile users) however many other analytics services, doesn’t collect information from img tags and simply ignore those visitors.

If you have used log based analytics such as AWstats, they give you information about every single hits even on each images and background images and it cause numbers to go crazy high but then it is not accurate when we consider proxies and cache servers. Once a page is cached, it will be served via cache and it won’t hit the server and therefor, AWstats and similiar log based analytics, won’t know about it and data is missing from reports.

Javascript based analytics (such as Google Analytics, Clicky and Hitsteps Analytics) overcomes this by having browser itself trigger event that record the transaction. Again, how it is done can influence what is shown in reports. Most of other analytics softwares missing data from visitors without Javascripts. Hitsteps use alternative img based tracking to make browser trigger event and record the transaction.

Then, we come to position of the codes. We believe analytics shouldn’t reduce speed of your website, so we only load code after webpage is fully opened. It will cause those who close website before it load not to be tracked. some other analytics might track those users in expense of slower website load time.

All web analytics use rules to detect if a returning visitor pageview should be considered as a new visit or just continue of last session. They usually have a timeout of 30 minutes or so to consider new pageview as a new visit. However in hitsteps, we continuously ping visitors (that is how we calculate most accurate bounce rate) to see if visitor is still on your website. so we won’t count your visitor as new visit if he kept website open. (you can see list of idle visitors in your hitsteps dashboard)

Next step is the way we detect a visitor. We use a mix of IP address, cookie and even user agent to make detect if next page view is viewed by same user. Visitors IP Address might change dynamically over mobile network or home networks and some analytics might consider them as a new visitor, yet we have multiple layers to detect same visitor even if IP Address is changed, Cookie is cleared or Useragent is changed (by upgrading to newer version of browser)

And lastly, we do filter your visitors. We have an active anti-spammer and ani-bot filter to make sure your calculated hits are real humans who actually come to your website. We do block all those automated bots who follow a list of victim website to go inside, scan for emails, fill up form with spam emails and such.

That is why sometimes you see differences in your hitsteps dashboard and other analytics. Hitsteps Ultimate Analytics offers accurate, botless analytics reports which numbers differ from basic analytics services.

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