Google Analytics and Web Server Log Files
People frequently use Google Analytics in tandem with another tool (like Angelfish Software) to audit data or verify accuracy. But when you compare data between Google Analytics and another web analytics program, the numbers will always be different.
This article will explain the reasons for data differences between Google Analytics and server-based web log analysis tools.
Why Doesn't Google Analytics Data Match My Web Log Reports?
At a high level, the simplest explanation is that Google Analytics uses client-side code to gather information, whereas most log file analysis tools only process server-side information. This is an important distinction and is a key reason for differences in data, but there's more to the story. Typically, the difference is mainly caused by the visitor tracking method used.
A web log analysis tool uses multiple ways to track website visitors. And depending on the tracking method used, the data will show everything - including regular visitors, visitors that block Google Analytics tracking code, and traffic from non-visitors like robots & spiders. You can make the argument that a web log analysis tool provides a more accurate picture of what's actually happening on your website.
So what does this mean?
Each tool provides a different look at your website and exposes different usage patterns. But therein lies the opportunity - instead of only using one solution, why not use both?
Most people don't know this, but you can make a backup of your Google Analytics data and process the data with web analytics software. If your company doesn't already do this, start today!
Google Analytics + Web Log Analysis
Google Analytics provides a lot of useful data, and web log analysis tools like Angelfish Software provide features that you can't see in Google Analytics, like:
- Full Visitor Details: Usernames, IP Addresses, etc.
- Bandwidth & Stolen Bandwidth
- Site Errors
- Data Security
Plus, Google Analytics is able to simultaneously send tracking data to the GA data collectors and to your web server's log file with the setLocalRemoteServerMode(); function. This means you can keep an on-site copy of Google Analytics data and combine it with the "extra" reports you get from a web log analysis tool.
If use Universal Analytics, you can also keep a local copy of GA tracking data. More info here:
Sample Tracking Code Snippet