One of our clients recently reached out to me after a site launch:
I was just looking at the backend of the website, at the stats. When I cross referenced with google analytics they were very different. Why would this be?
It's something that I have always dealt with, being familiar with a lot of the underlying technology. I drafted a response and thought I would share it in the form of an article so that everyone can benefit.
We generally look at different stats from different sources:
- server stats
- Google Analytics
- Facebook Pixel
- AddThis toolbar
Historically, each of these tools have always given us different stats. Unfortunately, due to the whole GDPR and Cambridge Analytica / Facebook scandal the gap between the tools has become even greater in recent months.
Basically, the way each of these tools collects information is different. The server is track every single request and probably gives the most technically accurate picture.
Google Analytics works accurately when users are logged into their Google Account or are using Chrome. Otherwise, Google has to guess a lot of the stats. It gets worse if people are using plugins like AdBlocker since it now blocks the Google Analytics Snippet that does the actual tracking.
Facebook Pixel works only on people who leave their browsers logged into their Facebook account. Because of the recent scandals, Firefox actually started isolating the Facebook Cookie in order to protect users' privacy. As a result, Pixel has been getting more and more inaccurate, as of late. This is in direct relation to the recent massive stock price drop for Facebook ($100 million USD). Because of these inaccuracies, Facebook suffered a rough last quarter which hurt their bottom line because advertisers (like us) aren't able to count on them the way were able to before.
AddThis is just another layer that we add on some of our sites as a share widget. It gives us some interesting insight into how our sites are performing in terms of social media shares. Not the best tool but another way to gather some stats.
I hope this helps shed some light on why you see different numbers. There are obviously other metrics that we look at as well but this is just a quick throwaway to (hopefully) explain some of the behind-the-scenes nuances in how we measure traffic.
As always, leave a comment below if you have any questions and I'll be happy to answer.