Get Real About Your Traffic

By Daniel Scocco

You would be surprised with the amount of bloggers and webmasters out there who believe that their sites get way more traffic than what they really do. And I am not pointing fingers here, as I have been there myself.

The reason for this is probably connected with the popularity of cPanel hosting, as the two web analytics programs that come with cPanel, AWStats and Webalizer, grossly overestimate traffic levels. Beginners often use one of these to get the stats for their sites, and they end up believing in a fairy tale of visitors and page views.

Around two years ago I was doing the same mistake. By that time this blog was probably getting some 100,000 page views monthly, but Webalizer was reporting 350,000 page views or so…. Needless to say that I wanted to believe in the latter number, but after a while a realized that it couldn’t be right.

Take a look at the traffic levels that Webalizer reported for this blog in August:

real-traffic

If you sum that up you will get 1,081,959 page views. I wish that was true! The real number is closer to a third of that.

So why is it important to get real about traffic levels? For several reasons. First of all it is the only way to know the popularity of your site and to compare it with the competition. Secondly, it is essential to know the real numbers when you are trying to monetize the site. Imagine selling banner ads on your site and claiming that you get 300,000 monthly page views when in reality you get 50,000…. Advertisers would get pissed and you would also hurt your credibility.

At this point you might be asking: “OK, you convinced me, but how do I get the real traffic numbers for my site?”

In my opinion that are just two ways to get the real traffic levels on your website. The first one is by using Google Analytics, which is the analytics software that most accurately interprets traffic data (it is free also). The second way would be to run third party ads on your site, like Google AdSense or ads from a CPM network. When there is money involved you can bet that people will track the numbers as accurately as possible.



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40 Responses to “Get Real About Your Traffic”

  • Jan

    A large number of our customers have the same experience as many of the people above: They would put Google Adsense ads on their websites, and the number of views according to Google is only about 25% of the figure reported by the web server.

    Since Google has a vested interest in this, I would certainly not switch to GA, simply to force the stats to match. The server stats does include visitors by search engine bots, but that is easy to identify if you look at the host names, and can NOT account for this huge discrepancy.

  • Kim

    I have been using GA since I set up my site and have been aware of the under-reporting – it can’t even agree my adsense numbers! What annoys me about GA is that it is really difficult to exclude my own traffic. My traffic is low enough that I can seriously affect the stats if I spend a lot of time on my site. There are some work-arounds available on the web. None of them are foolproof. The biggest irony is that the fix advocated on the GA help site doesn’t really work on blogger (another google product!).
    I’m considering trying out the Yahoo Analytics product to see the difference.

  • Tiffany

    I left a comment here a few days ago, sharing that GA was giving me twice the #’s that WPstats does. After asking around, someone suggested that maybe the GA code was installed twice. I couldn’t find that myself, it was only installed in the header. But my blog designer dug around for a while and found that it really was installed twice in the same place. She fixed it and now GA is running very close to WPstats – a bit higher, but nothing out of line.

    Just thought I’d leave an update, in case anyone else is dealing with this.

  • Kurt Avish

    I never trusted or use Awstat. Since the beginning of my blogging adventure I have been using Statcounter and Google analytic. They are the best.

    I see that Statcounter often shows a bit more than GA however. Well this is maybe because Statcounter count a unique visitor on 30 minutes interval and I think GA is longer.

    My actual count with Statcounter is about 80000 per month while with GA it shows about 65000 to 70000 per month.

  • Stephanie

    I need to switch to Google Analytics. I have heard it’s better (and more accurate) than StatCounter, Site Meter, etc. You should do a “comparison” sometime. I’d love to read your take on the pros and cons of the various options available.

  • Jim Hardin

    I use Google Analytics myself to review traffic levels. My traffic is no where near 100,000, but I am slowly building traffic each day. I just started my blog a couple of months ago. I like to see Loyal visitors and its really good to see new visitors each day. There is quite a bit of information on Google Analytics and I have to be honest I am still trying to understand it all. I still think its amazing that I see visitors from around the world.

    Great Post Thanks!

  • Blake @ Props Blog

    I’ve had GA up for about 5 days now. IT does seem to give me slightly lower numbers than WPstats, but not nearly as bad as I was expecting after reading this article.

    GA is amazing for tracking traffic though. I really am enjoying being able to see all the details of where people link in from, which pages they go to, and all the other amazing tracking features GA offers. I don’t know if the other services offer the same details, but GA has me sold.

  • Jeremiah Hoyet

    I was once in that same boat, believing the AWStats reports over GA :p

    I’m so glad that I grew a head on my shoulders and faced the sad truth of my web site traffic.

    @Ken – I feel you on the slow performance of the GA Javascript. On my own blog I’ve seen the page still accessing GA well after the entire site has loaded a few times.

  • Dave Doolin

    This is becoming seriously interesting. Goes to show that there is probably room for yet another stats application!

    WordPress stats seems to overreport with respect to GA, for me, by about 30%. I’m cool with that. I’m mostly interested in orders of magnitude rather than factors of. Once I reach @tiffany’s numbers I’ll probably change my tune.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Tiffany, I have seen a couple of ad networks who also report below GA numbers. Not sure what causes the discrepancy.

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