For those who care about the issue of Google Analytics metrics vs. Urchin (5) metrics–which is either “quite a few people” (if you believe Urchin) or “pretty much nobody” (if you believe Google Analytics), here’s an update:
- Seth Finkelstein thought it might have to do with HTML errors, and noted that the W3C Validator found a bunch of those on the Walt at Random home page.
So I thought I’d see how tough it was to correct those errors–and whether it made a difference. (I also thought I’d see whether the errors were mine or were in the templates & addons I used.)
There were a bunch of errors, but that includes cascading errors (where one apparent error is really the result of another error–boy, do I remember those from programming, especially in PL/I!). It turns out that about 80% of the “errors” were mine, mostly because I’m used to HTML parsing being fairly forgiving–namely:
- Using all-caps operators where HTML requires all-lower-case.
- Using <br> as a standalone, rather than <br />–but that was both in my own code and in a portion of the template.
I managed to fix them all, although in one case that made the right sidebar a bit less attractive (Validator just wouldn’t accept one particular nested-list). Took me 2, maybe 2.5 hours. Except for the added infelicity in the right margin, it made no difference to the average viewer, I believe, since the visible results were the same. But, presumably, it would make Google Analytic results a little more plausible. Maybe?
Depends on your definition of “a little.”
The changes have been in place since February 23. I’ve had a chance to look at two full days running on a clean, zero-errors home page vs. the same days on Urchin.
There may have been a little increase in pageviews and visits logged by Google Analytics–but not much of one. Here’s what I see for comparisons on the 22, 23 and 24:
- Sessions: February 22: Google Analytics 58, Urchin 1,492.
February 23: Google Analytics 79, Urchin 1,439
February 24: Google Analytics 81, Urchin 1,398.
- Pageviews: February 22: Google Analytics 77, Urchin 4,455
February 23: Google Analytics 115, Urchin 3,213
February 24: Google Analytics 132, Urchin 3,093.
And, mysteriously, the second-highest post in a full page reports on Google Analytics is a post from the very first year of the blog (on mondegreens), with 34 views…where that post is not even in the top 50 on Urchin.
I do note that none of the GA reported pages is a /feed/index page, where quite a few of the higher ones in Urchin are (these presumably being RSS views of pages?). That could account for some of it–since the GA code is, as recommended, right before </body> in the page, it’s part of the footer, which doesn’t get fed to RSS. Since I regard readers-via-RSS as fully equivalent to readers-“in person,” I’m not thrilled about losing those counts.
But if I filter the Urchin pages report to eliminate everything with “feed” anywhere in it, that eliminates less than one-third of the views, still leaving them way more than 10x as high as GA shows.
For me, for now, for my own sites, the solution is simple: I’ll take the Google Analytics tracking code out of the template and rely on Urchin for my statistics, since it’s actually (presumably) looking at logs. The GA code is extra overhead for the internet; why waste it?
For my work? They’re looking into it. (There, I think the “plausible to reported” multiple is nowhere near as high…)