Compare Google Analytics to Web Server Log Files

Companies 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.

For example, Google Analytics uses one tracking method to track website visitors, which requires JavaScript and cookies. Each visitor is uniquely identified and a tracking request is sent back to Google Analytics’ data collectors for every action performed on the site, unless the JavaScript or tracking request is blocked by a browser or firewall or proxy filter.

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 provide data that you can’t see in Google Analytics, like:

  • Clickpaths
  • Full Visitor Details: Usernames, IP Addresses, etc.
  • Bandwidth & Stolen Bandwidth
  • Site Errors
  • Direct File Downloads (i.e. not tracked by JavaScript)
  • Data Security

Plus, you can configure Google Analytics tracking code to simultaneously send tracking data to the GA data collectors and to your web server’s log file. 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.

Google Analytics for Intranets

Does your company use Google Analytics to track Intranet websites? If so, there’s a slight problem:

Google Analytics isn’t designed for Intranets