Stats are like comparing apples to dump trucks to unicorns

Every once in a while somebody will contact my company and ask us to basically take over all aspects of their web presence. Design and build them a website, get them up and running on social media, provide SEO services and help market their site. I always explain that we focus our energy on the site development side and leave the marketing to others. Last week when this request came up again, I gave my standard response, but was met with something I hadn't encountered before. Rather than just letting me pass them the contact information for some teams who could provide those other services, the lady asked me “Why not?” It actually caught me off guard. She explained that she was really looking for one team to take over everything so that she'd have a single point of contact. Our call ended shortly after.

So of course, it's been on my mind a bit this week. Why don't we offer those services? We could easily partner up with a group and put together a package that would have kept that lady interested in our company. Maybe I'm leaving money on the table. Maybe I should rethink it.

And then, I get the reminder.

Why I Hate Stats

OK, I don't hate stats. But traffic stats for websites suck suckity suck suck.

Today I was looking at some traffic stats for a site I manage. Let's take a look:

Google Analytics

screenshot22

 

So, if Google analytics is to be believed, 84 visitors saw the site. The bulk of them new visitors and a few returning. OK, that seems reasonable. Let's move on.

WordPress.com Stats

screenshot24

These are actually my go-to stats for most sites I manage. But when I look at them compared to the numbers from Google, well, these are ‘views', not visits. So, I'd have to compare the 181 that WordPress says to the 123 views that Google said. But there's about a 30% difference in those two numbers. And, if we look at the 1.4 pages per visit, we could work that out to be roughly 129 visits, which is again much different than the 181 views from WordPress's version.

CloudFlare

screenshot23

 

OK, the only thing I can say here is HOLY SHIT SNACKS.

Same site. Same day. Traffic levels off the freakin' charts (comparatively speaking, of course). I'm not going to bother trying to do any math to sort out the percentage differences here. They may as well be infinity.

So, yeah. I'll stick to building sites, thanks. I'll let somebody else sort out this crap.

</rant>

Posted in

5 Comments

  1. Chuck Reynolds on June 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Hey John.
    I know you know this… but there are a bunch of variables at play here and most of them can be (and are) the primary discrepancy in numbers between the very different type of analytics you’re comparing.

    Things to consider… cloudflare is probably measuring everything coming in via DNS, which may or may not be accurately depicted as actual people versus bots/scanners/whatever (ie sampling dns traffic versus cookies and sessions) I really don’t what WP stats run off of but it’s probably something basic. Something like AWStats would be more accurate pulling from actual server logs but then again… not one of them has the historical intelligence and learning of what GA has. GA knows better what makes up a real visit and what’s really unique and how to label and display those accurately as such. Lot more very technical things to get into in this but no reason… in general you can see what I’m saying.

    Next is setup… is there a plugin pushing GA code out or? logged in visitors? what is the setup here and are WP stats and GA polling the exact same sessions all the time? probably not.

    Anyways.. it’s good not to take on everything.. far too many people/agencies do and they don’t do a good job at everything… I stick to what we’re good at and then work with others that are good at what they do… Like design… NOT my thing lol. But we either have the client work directly with them or sometimes we PM the entire thing but we hire out for stuff we don’t do.

    Stay cool John – probably was a bad deal… she’s looking for a unicorn… and probably for $100 too. 🙂

    • John on June 23, 2013 at 1:10 pm

      Hey Chuck!

      I’m right there with you. CloudFlare is counting robots/crawlers/visitors and anything/everything that makes a call, where the other two obviously filter most of that crap out.

      My preferred method is always to point clients to 3rd party vendors who specialize in the areas we don’t handle. It just makes sense.

      And damn the unicorns!

  2. Phil Simon on June 24, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Great post, John.

    “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.” – Mark Twain

    Love the end tag of /rant.

    • Dan Herr on June 26, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      I definitely started laughing out loud in my office when I read .

  3. Dan Herr on June 26, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Or not. Let’s just do /rant then before I open another rant.

Leave a Comment