Home On dodgy web and blog stats

On dodgy web and blog stats

I’ve long been suspicious of some of the stats that certain companies and bloggers push. We all know by now that industry stats tool alexa.com must be taken with a grain of salt, but until today I hadn’t realised the extent of how a site’s own measured traffic can be exaggerated.

You see recently I’ve been using Urchin (owned by Google) web stats as part of my MediaTemple web hosting arrangement, along with statcounter.com which I’ve used for years. I’ve been noticing that Urchin page view stats are MUCH higher than statcounter.com – in fact 5 times higher! This difference has been bugging me and I wanted to find out why. Today I came across this interesting thread which explains all:

“At the raw, basic level, Urchin counts pretty much the same numbers as any web server log analysis program will do (much prettier). Every page read by a browser is counted as a page view; different IP addresses signify the individual visitors. That’s not very accurate because robots and crawlers ‘read’ pages, too, and show up in the count (visitors and pages) by different web server log analysis programs, including Urchin. Robots and crawlers don’t read Javascript.”

(emphasis mine)

Products like statcounter.com, by comparison, only count page views from browsers with JavaScript enabled – which gets rid of the robots and crawler hits.

So in a nutshell, Urchin stats can be highly misleading. Although it must be pointed out there is an advanced version of Urchin that uses something called UTM, which is Urchin’s version of a Javascript enabled count. From the above thread Urchin with UTM means:

“…visitors are cookied, tagged, etc. Then, both log data and JS data are combined in Urchin’s reports. Without UTM, Urchin is just counting server log stats.”

I wanted to bring this up because I’ve always used statcounter.com when I tell people my page views – when I’m looking for advertising, or trying to get into a network, etc. But I have a feeling other people may use Urchin or similar log stats when they’re promoting themselves. Which would mean my stats don’t compare well to theirs.

I’ve certainly heard some bloggers quote extraordinary stats in my time – and have been skeptical without quite knowing why. Well now I know and I think others should too: sometimes people promote their sites with stats that are grossly exaggerated. If you want REAL stats, you need to get their statcounter.com stats or the advanced Urchin with UTM ones. There, now I have that off my chest 😉

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