Why My Analytics Reports Are Different From Google’s

Differences in analytics reporting are a common issue, not just within our client base, but across the net. Most notably, Google Analytics can often report numbers vastly different from tools offered by webhosts.

In many cases, the analytics themselves are implemented completely differently:

  • Google Analytics relies on cookies, which are able to establish more behavioral information than other services which utilize JavaScript, while at the same time delivers very different results than hosted reporting which reads information directly from private server logs.
  • Numbers can vary largely depending on how much automated traffic is received. GA identifies & removes much more “robot” or automated traffic than any other service, not unrelated to the fact that so many of the bots are theirs, and they are better equipped to deal with this type of traffic than anyone else.
  • Many web visitors have JavaScript and/or cookies turned off. The code must load to be counted by non-server-side services, so all of those visitors are simply not counted at all. In addition, if code is placed low on a page, it may not accurately load for “bounce” traffic, or a visitor which clicks on a page but does not necessarily stay long enough. In contrast, this would be a visitor that the server would count as a page load.

To complicate the issue, the cause is not merely technical:

  • There really are no consistent reporting standards: Definitions even of the word “unique” are currently being investigated by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB). As the industry progresses, hopefully this will become less of an issue. For the time, analytics packages will provide definitions for each of their reported metrics. Try comparing definitions word by word and you may be able to pretty quickly discover where the difference exists.

These are only a few of the usual suspects to look at in examining differences. Ultimately, the best use of metrics is to evaluate long term trends, so pick one set of numbers and develop them consistently month after month. That should show your growth, which is the most enticing factor in any sales or advertising effort.