Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

I’m measuring my web traffic using 2 different services – and getting dramatically different reports. Google Analytics vs WebTrends: which should I believe?

The variance in the reporting is substantial, and each gives quite a different slant on reporting how well my web site is performing:

  • Google Analytics reported twice the number searchers clicking through for the keyphraseinternet marketing training”
  • WebTrends reported 12% more unique visitors
  • Google Analytics says my visitors are primarily from UK, Ireland and Sweden
  • WebTrends says my visitors are from UK, USA and unspecified European places

I would always advise clients not to naval-gaze on their web statistics, but instead to use them as trend indicators. And as marketing guru Jim Sterne is fond of saying, if your yardstick measures 39 inches instead of 36 inches, it’s still great to have a measurement tool. (nb – long live imperial measures)

But why are contradictory trends reported even at a macro level by these two systems?

The answer, of course, is that each system is using different ways of handling cookies (deleting and non-acceptance), different ways of defining the word “daily”, and indeed the use of different technologies like JavaScript. It’s really for me to get a better handle on both packages and get a deeper understanding of what the statistics are saying to me.

If you want to learn more Stone Temple Consulting’s 2007 Web Analytics ShootOut gives a very useful overview.

I also think it is time for a reality check, and a reminder that it still isn’t possible to measure the effectiveness of other marketing campaigns like direct mail, radio ads or any of those quaint ways of marketing (!)

I will stick with running both web analytics packages, and together they will serve to validate each other’s results and help me to test the quality of the data.

Why am I using both Google Analytics and WebTrends? To help advise clients:

  1. Google Analytics is free, whereas Webtrends is a service you rent, costing typically £20 per month plus setup fees
  2. Your data is confidential with WebTrends, whereas I’m sure Google are peeking at my data

0 responses to “Google Analytics vs WebTrends”

  1. Jessica says:

    I’m curious about the difference you mention in how ‘daily’ is defined by GA vs WebTrends

    Can you elaborate? My understanding is that your web server’s clock determines the time and thus day for WebTrends, and that the time zone you set in the GA configuration for your account determines time for GA. So I’m not sure I see the big difference…

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