Bloggers love stats, and they also need stats to tell them if what they write is resonating with their audience, and to shore up advertising revenue. And last but not least, it’s motivating for a blogger to see that more people read their posts, because blogging takes time and effort and commitment to keep up, especially when you have a full time job as well.
So I have been constantly irritated by the seemingly large differences in stats that are reported by my two counting tools, Google Analytics and StatCounter. In my case, SC seems to underreport pageviews and overreport the number of unique visitors, as compared with GA.
I looked into this a bit today, and have come up with some explanations that I thought I share with the world, and my fellow stat-obsessed blogggers out there.
The difference between the reported numbers of unique visitors to Furious Purpose for today is about 30%, SC gives me more, while GA reports much less. But curiously, for the same time period GA gives me more pageviews, about 35% more in fact.
There are apparently a few reasons for this to occur, which I will try to sum up now. (Check also this and this source for more details.)
First off, in SC you can and should set a time for when a returning visit gets counted. Mine is set to 30 minutes, which means that if someone looks at a page on my blog, and then comes back 29 minutes later, this doesn’t get counted as a new visit, but if the return occurs after 31 minutes, it does count as a new visit. GA is reported to have this set to 30 minutes as well, but this seems not very likely given the difference in numbers :
If Google Analytics is incrementing the visit counter by one visit after a 30-minute delay in browser activity from the same computer and StatCounter is incrementing the visitor counter by one visitor after a 30-minute delay in browser activity, then the number of visits and visitors being reported by GA and StatCounter, respectively, should be similar.
As the difference in the average number of daily visits (visitors) is so huge, it appears that both reporting services are committing reporting errors, but in opposite directions. It is highly unlikely that Google Analytics is incrementing the visit counter by one visit after a 30-minute delay between visits from the same user: The actual time delay is probably much greater than 30 minutes such that the same user who returns after a one- to two-hour delay (perhaps even longer) is being ignored as a new visit
Another thing that you have to do in SC is to set a cookie for your browser, so it doesn’t count your own visits to your site.
So there are a few reasons for those discrepancies. My impression is that GA overall is more reliable and consistent in telling me what’s going on over time, even if it seems to underestimate the number of unique visitors. Or maybe I’m just saying that because I like my higher pageviews there…
The one thing I haven’t been able to figure out is why GA reports so many more pageviews. The ratio of pageviews per visitor is around 3.5 at GA (10000 visitors, say, with 35000 pageviews), and only about 1.4 at SC. Does anyone know why that is ?