Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Strange Statistics

Proper blog post coming later. But in the mean time ... there's something curious happening with my audience stats.

A few days ago I noticed that Google have so helpfully included a basic stats package as standard with every Blogger blog. This is part of a package of measures at making the creaky old blogspot interface more user friendly. As any convert to Wordpress will tell you, theirs is the bees knees and much more intuitive than the clunky thing suffered by the likes of me, Jim, Lenny, etc.

The stats package is basic. And I mean, really basic. You can browse top referrers, country of origin, audience figures over variable time frames, top searches, most popular posts and so on. However, and somewhat strangely, it only records visits. Not uniques. Not returning visitors. Just page views.

Back when a supple-faced youth founded this blog in December 2006 I took out a free (i.e. basic) account with Statcounter, and I've been using it ever since. So I thought it would be interesting to compare the Statcounter figures with the sorts of numbers being yielded by Google's package.

This is where things get a bit confusing. According to the built-in statometer this blog was visited 1,053 times yesterday. But Statcounter has a different story. It says I had 745 page views. The day before Google has me on 1,051 visits, and Statcounter 774.

Why the discrepancy? Just what is going on? Does Statcounter run a particularly stingy and stringent counting operation? Are Google inflating visits SWP-stylee so bloggers feel less bad about their lack of reach?

Any explanations none-too-heavy on techie talk are welcome.


D said...

Maybe Google is counting its own bots. Or other people's. Maybe google indexes all your pages while the Statcounter script is missing or not functional on some. Maybe you have some redirects and that counts twice in Google, but once in Statcounter. Maybe some pages contain multiple components which trigger several requests of a type Google counts.

thenovocastrian said...

I've had similar issues with my blog in the past. Statcounter only counts the actual page you added the code to, but Google counts all pages and totals them. Google is more accurate.

Dave A said...

Statcounter does count bots, including Googlebot, so that isn't the reason.

The more paranoid among us block the web pages we view from passing information back to generate statistics, whether that is through Google Analytics or Statcounter. Perhaps some of your hits are from people who are blocking the one but not the other.

Or maybe you are right, and Google inflate the figures, though I suspect that customers of their Ad-Words service, which charges based on the same counts, would check the figures carefully.

ps if anyone wants to browse in this paranoid mode, the easiest way is to use the Firefox browser with the AdBlocker Plus add-on.

andy newman said...

This is not my speciality, but I think there is a fundamentally different way of measuring.

The google package that comes with blogger is provided by your host, and can accurately report how many page down;oad requests they have received.

Stats counter works by including some code that cuases a small image to be downloaded from their server each time a page request is made to your site. For a number of reasons they will record less than 100%.

Google is therefore probably more accurate than statecounter.

Before I moved to a dedicated virtual server, 1and1 gave very accurate figures for the number of page downloads from their hosting server, and they were considerably higher than the numbers from other stats packages.

So the packages are useful as relative indicators of your readership over time, or comparing to other web-sites using the same stats counter.

But they are al broadly inaccurate, and tend to understimate.

Having said that, I think that the number of "uniques" they record are inflated for a number of reasons, sometimes grossly inflated.

Sean said...

The best thing to do is to install Google Analytics (not the built in google stats) which you can get at http://www.google.com/analytics. It's free and considered highly accurate - also gives you loads of cool data on how people are finding your blog, how they navigate around it, etc.

Also if you're getting that kind of traffic I'd consider putting some adverts up. Probably pay for a few pints a day.

Highlander said...

Please don't stick the adverts up. Is your soul really only worth a few pints?

Phil said...

I've thought about it, but not going there unless I get really desperate!