6th January 2016

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics – a simple guide to website stats

We all know that we need to count website visits to measure our own performance but why are companies providing you with click-through information that doesn't match your own Google Analytics stats? We have prepared a simple (and non-technical explanation) as to why this happens.

Companies may provide you with figures for how many people 'click-through' from their website to yours, to justify costs for advertising on their website. We suggest they should all do this! But you do have to take into account that sometimes the stats they give you will differ from the stats that are recorded by your own Google Analytics.

So, why is this?

Apples and oranges

Every statistics package is different and not all statistics packages count the same thing in the same way – so a straight comparison is not always reliable. As the saying goes its like comparing apples with oranges – they are both fruits but are entirely different!

Arachnophobia!

Spiders and bots are automated codes that search engines use to trawl websites for content and help determine a websites ranking and help deliver the right search results to the user but they can also be counted as real people. Although we, like Google, try and filter out these non-human visits they cannot always be avoided. Also look at your top referring URLs there may well be a large number of search companies appearing to visit your site statistics.

I value my privacy

Many people are now searching using an incognito filter in order to avoid annoying adverts or simply for privacy which means Google Analytics won’t record them. Shropshire Tourism’s website does not rely on personal data so we can count the actual click throughs to each member’s business. So 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 physical click on a website link so our stats information will generally show more visitors than your own Google Analytics.

Cookie Monsters

Legislation regarding the use of Cookies has also had an impact. 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. Shropshire Tourism’s system is not affected by this and can still record traffic and clicks.

Java – its not coffee

Google Analytics uses a type of code language called JavaScript to track information. People can switch JavaScript off as it can improve their own PC viewing experience. 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.

More haste less speed

Internet speed 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 links on our website, this is counted as a click-through. But if they do this before the website and the page is not fully loaded the Google Analytics code is not activated and Google Analytics will not have been able to record that visit but our website will.

What the Widget?

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 if the client has a TripAdvisor widget (for example) on their 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.

3rd Party Code

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 actually loaded correctly so your website can still load but tracking will be affected and you will not necessarily be aware of this issue. 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.

Bookings dot com

As we mentioned in a previous newsletter, visitors are increasingly using destination websites and even your own website to get information and help them make their selection and plan their trips BUT they then go to one of the on line booking agencies - such as; Bookings.com, Trivago, Expedia etc - as they think they will get a better deal on the price – just like all those TV adverts keep telling them. Knowing where your business comes from is key but equally important is knowing how the visitor found your business in the first place is just as critical. Of course offering the very best rates on your own website and on your entry with Shropshire Tourism will save you commission and keep more of your business coming direct to you.

Are we the new Directory Enquiries?

We can’t count telephone calls or visitors who chose to copy your web link and go direct to you. We know from our own tracking that many visitors will use our website as a directory and simply get your telephone number or web address from your entry on our website and go to you directly – we don’t charge them for this service and so are a cheaper option than 118 118 etc. So its even more important that you ask your visitors where did they find your business. Unfortunately the answer they often give is ‘the internet’ or ‘Google’ which doesn’t actually help but we must keep asking!

Well Done You!

If you have manged to get to this you have read all the above points – so well done, hopefully you will have found all the above helpful. If we host your website we include an SEO service and as part of this and manage Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools for you. If you have any queries about the data your Google Analytics package is showing, even if we don’t host your website but want a chat, please do get in touch.

 

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