Article posted by UltimateWB

It can be very useful to check your website traffic statistics as you are working on growing your website popularity and reach. You want to increase your website visitors and want to know which pages are getting the most attention, how your website visitors are finding your website – which search terms they are using and which website urls are referring them to your website, from which pages they enter into your website and from which pages they leave on your website, how much they stay on your website and how interactive they are on your website (pages/visit), and which countries your visitors are coming from, during what time of day. You can get this info from both Google Analytics and your website server’s traffic statistics program, AWStats. So which is better, which is more accurate, which is more useful – i.e. which one should you use?!

If you are using both Google Analytics and AWStats, you will probably notice right away that the traffic statistics do not match! AWStats generally will show a lot more traffic, and the reason for this is the different ways the two measure traffic. …Not because Google sucks!

Google Analytics requires you to copy/paste the JavaScript code they provide to you on each of your webpages. Google Analytics gathers visitor information from this generated code that is loaded onto each page of your website, using a combination of JavaScript and Cookies to notify Google each time one of your webpages is visited. So, if a website visitor happens to have disabled Cookies and/or JavaScript in their internet browser, the code that Google Analytics uses may not get run and those visits are not counted. Also, Google Analytics opt-out users are not counted either.

AWStats, on the other hand, is a program that is hosted on our servers – it is not sharing info with Google, which you may prefer if you like that privacy aspect of it. The web server generates and stores a log for each visit to your website. Then AWStats processes and analyzes the log files to create its pretty reports and graphs. This is why AWStats is often referred to as a log file analyzer.

Difference in what is counted? Because of the differing methods of traffic tracking, AWStats can detect search engine bots that access and crawl your website to learn more about your website content, link structure, etc., whereas  Google Analytics does not register this type of traffic since most crawlers and spiders don’t run JavaScript code.  AWStats does distinguish between the visits from humans and non-humans, categorizing traffic as “Viewed traffic” and “Not viewed traffic”, where “Not viewed traffic includes traffic generated by robots, worms, or replies with special HTTP status codes”.  But, while AWStats does try to identify and exclude these non-human visits, it can’t do so with 100% accuracy. AWStats has a list of known robot/spider ips, and most of them do identify themselves as robots/spiders, but not all do.

Also, AWStats counts visitors that have accessed image files or document files on your server directly, that would not have the Google Analytics code loaded, and so would not be counted by Google Analytics.  If your server is using a lot of bandwidth with not a lot of website visitors, analyzing your AWStats data can be useful in determining whether it is due to “hot linking” of your images or other document files, whereby other websites are directly linking to your website images/document files.  Just look under files viewed.

Accuracy on counting visitors/unique visitors? AWStats counts visitors based on their IP address. So, it is not following a user who visits from multiple locations, or who has a dynamic IP address (i.e. AOL users) – essentially, it double counts as a user’s ip address changes/moves around and counts multiple users from the same IP address as being the same visitor. Google Analytics uses browser-specific cookies to track visitors multiple times in multiple locations, but it can’t track one person across their multiple browsers. Also if the user repeatedly clears his cookies in the middle of a visit, that will also count as multiple visits. So, both can have the tendency to inflate and deflate the traffic numbers.

Then there is also the differing ways Awstats and Google Analytics counts a session in regards to visits. Google Analytics by default counts a session as a 30 minute interval. So if the user goes on a 30-minute lunch break in between visits on your website for example, that will count as 2 visits. AWStats counts a session as 1 hour. If a user is on your website for 55 minutes and then takes a break for 6 minutes, not interacting with your website, and then comes back to your website and clicks something, that will count as 2 visits. Visits are also counted as 2 vs 1 when the cutoff time period of the day is reached – midnight, but the midnight cut off period of your server and Google Analytics can be different.

What to do? Generally, no traffic statistics program is ever 100% accurate. You might think to average out the Google Analytics and AWStats numbers for a guesstimate of your traffic numbers. This isn’t based on any pure scientific study though…hence the guesstimate! Treat the numbers you get as approximations and focus instead on the trends you get from each program, individually. You should find the same upward or downward trend across the traffic programs you use. You can use this information to determine whether the marketing campaign you are using is working, or the focus of your website content is gaining users as you intended.

Is it good to use both Google Analytics and Awstats, does one offer something the other does not? It is very useful to have AWStats on your server to check out the web traffic statistics data that can only be reported by your server, and not tools like Google Analytics. And, it can be very useful to use the Google Analytics new Real-Time reporting feature, where you can check out the user activity on your website in real-time. You can find out how many users are on your website at that moment (it calculates it based on activity within the 5-minute interval), where they are located geographically, how they found/clicked on your website (search or referral link), and what webpage they are viewing right now. This is a great marketing tool as you can get real-time feedback on how and whether a promotion or ad campaign, blog or social networking posts and tweets are driving traffic to your website.

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