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Google Analytics vs. AWstats: Thats a big difference
Thursday - Dec 12th 2013 - by - (0 comments)

In the past few months I have started to disable Google Analytics statistics on websites managed by myself. I first started with my tech-blog (www.claudiokuenzler.com) and after a couple of days I saw an enormous change in visitor stats -> they almost doubled on AWstats.

As an experiment, I created double statistics for another website; Google Analytics continues to run but AWstats also creates its statistics from the web server's access log. What will be the turnout? Now, three months later it's time to catch up.

October 2013
Google Analytics and AWstats both offer a quick overview as a summary of the whole month. A quick glance at them reveal a very big difference.

Google Analytics overview

AWstats Overview

The difference is massive, especially for the visit statistics. To my big surprise, the collected data for page view/page impressions are not that far off:


Google Analytics
AWstats
Difference
Visits
327
434 +32.72%
Unique Visitors
254 331 +30.31%
PageViews/Impressions 1992 2245 +12.70%

November 2013
The very same for November with an even bigger difference:


Google Analytics
AWstats
Difference
Visits
187
328 +75.40%
Unique Visitors
145 254 +75.17%
PageViews/Impressions 1132 1495 +32.07%

 

There could be several reasons for that massive difference. Note that these are only assumptions.

JavaScript blocking browsers
Browsers have the possibility to block all JavaScript scripts. In the era of modern web sites this can cause a website to look catastrophic, agreed. However this is a security measure to not execute code in the browser. The Google Analytics code is embedded in the website as a JavaScript code snipped. If JavaScript is disabled in the browser, the code will not be launched and therefore Google Analytics is missing out on that visitor.

I don't want Google tracking me!
There are browser add-ons available (e.g. NO Google Analytics for Firefox), which actively prevent GoogleAnalytics code to be executed in the browser. It's quite possible that some (advanced) Internet users make use of such an add-on. Therefore these visitors do not appear in the stats of Google Analytics.

Analytics able to see human visitors?
When I compared both statistics outputs, I got aware that there was a mismatch of the used browsers of the website visitors.
Google: Safari 29.95%, Firefox 28.34%, Internet Explorer 24.60%, Chrome 12.30%
AWstats: Safari 35.4%, Internet Explorer 29.4%, Firefox 19.2%, Chrome 8.6%
Many hacking bots claim to be an Internet Explorer browser by faking the User-Agent header. As long as there is no "bot" or "spider" or similar word appearing in the User-Agent header, AWstats counts these visits as real visitors. Maybe Google has found a way to identify these fake visits (by maintaining a database containing known IP addresses of such bots?). If Google really knows how to separate the fake from real visitors somehow, this would make sense for lower visitor numbers.

So what will I use in the future?
Although Google Analytics might have some very advanced algorithms which could separate fake from real visitors, not all website visitors wish to be analyzed and tracked through the Internet. As Google is operating worldwide and has Analytics on hundreds of thousands of websites, a very complete profile of a website visitor can be created. Which websites was the user visiting today? What did he buy? Was he watching porn? It's an automatic spy following you every step through the day. The meaning of data privacy came into more and more minds this year after information about the NSA spying scandal was released. It's therefore likely that more and more (advanced, still) Internet users will adapt the security and install non-tracking tools which will mess up the centralized website statistics at Google Analytics. AWstats will still continue to run because it's an application running locally on the web server, analyzing the local logs. That's why I use only AWstats in the future.

 

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