10th August 2015

Lies, Damned Lies and Analytics!

Lies, Damned Lies and Analytics!

Have you ever wondered why Google Analytics on your own website may differ from other website statistics systems?

If you are provided with click-through information that doesn’t match your own Google Analytics stats it's important to remember that every recording package will have been built using different techniques. The way they process data will therefore differ and you could end up comparing apples with oranges. No system is 100% accurate but will give an indicator of traffic and should still be tracked and monitored.

We have used Google Analytics and our own click-through recording system as an example below.

Here are a few reasons why stats can differ and a few important things to bear in mind…

  • All stats recording packages need to be taken to some degree with a pinch of salt as none are completely accurately due to how they all differ in the way they have been built. They should only be used to give you an idea of website traffic, etc. The numbers recorded by 2 different stats packages are very unlikely to ever match exactly.
  • Our click-through system works on the fact than when a link is clicked, it registers that as 1 click.  Google Analytics does not always do this. So, if a link on our system was clicked twice by the same person it could potentially count as 2 clicks depending on the time between the first and second click. Google may only class this as 1 click as it knows this is the same person and therefore only counts it once.
  • Bots are sent out by systems like Google to review content on a website. Bots will look at links on a website and sometimes be classed as a visitor to your website. However, you do not want to know if a bot has visited, you only want to know if your visitor is human! Google will detect new bots a lot faster than most stats packages so it will filter them out. Other systems will not detect new bots as quickly and may therefore class the visit as a human. This will mean that the slower stats package will have higher visitor numbers than Google Analytics.
  • There is a legal requirement to notify people of cookies. If your website has a cookies plug-in, depending on the one being used, the plug-in may require the visitor to accept the cookie information before it allows the website to start recording information. If this is the case, Google analytics cannot record data. However, some cookie plug-ins work on the fact that it will allow Google analytics to record information even if cookies haven’t been accepted. It only stops Google Analytics tracking if the user clicks ‘I do not accept’ – this is the preferred plug-in by Shropshire Tourism but if you are using a different type, some information may be missing from your Google Analytics.
  • There is a feature in people’s Internet Browsers called ‘incognito’. This is a type of private browsing and it will stop a lot of tracking. A lot more people use it these days as they’re tired of their information being tracked. For example, if you shop online for trainers, you may then start seeing adverts everywhere for trainers as information was recorded about your shopping history. If a person is in incognito mode, Google Analytics cannot record what they are doing on a website. With our stats recording system, it can still record click-through information as it’s still classed as a physical click on a website link so our stats information would show more visitors than Google Analytics.
  • Google Analytics uses a type of code language called JavaScript to track information. People can switch JavaScript off. Our stats recording system does not use JavaScript so if it’s switched off, Google Analytics will not count that click-through but our system still would.
  • Internet speeds can also play a factor. Google Analytics code is often placed in the footer of the website, so the rest of the page has to load before the Google Analytics code is activated. If the user clicks the link on our website, this is counted as a click-through. But if the user gets to the website and the page does not load fully (so the Google Analytics code is not reached/activated) then Google Analytics will not have been able to record that visit. This is why Google Analytics has recently started recommending that the Google Analytics code be placed in the header of the website. It was previously placed in the footer because it’s best practice to load the website before loading any 3rd party code.
  • 3rd party widgets can also play a factor (much like the above point). With our stats recording system, if the user clicks a link, this is counted as a click-through. But say you have a TripAdvisor widget (for example) on your website and the code for this is above the Google Analytics code. If the widget is not loading due to issues on TripAdvisor's own website, the Google Analytics code will not be activated and therefore will not start recording information. Again, in this instance our stats information would show more clicks than Google Analytics.
  • Remember Google’s Analytics code is also 3rd party code on the website. Just because your website has loaded fine, it doesn’t mean that the Google Analytics code has loaded correctly. If Google is having issues, your website can still load but tracking will be affected. You will not realise that there are issues and it has not loaded. With our stats recording system, if they have come from our website, because it was a physical click on the link, it will get recorded. This is why we do not fully rely on 3rd party code to track information.

So with all the above points in mind, you can get a better idea of things that play a factor in stats recording and how different systems can show/record different data.

If your website is hosted with Shropshire Tourism, we include an SEO service and as part of this, we manage Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools for you. If you have any queries about data your Google Analytics package is showing, please do feel free to get in touch.


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