A week ago I wrote that I was in the process of writing an article about how to make sense of Google Analytics. Since then a number of people have asked me when I planned to publish it. Well, soon...
But in my studies of the inner workings of Google Analytics, I have run into a number of strange things - especially in terms of calculating loyalty, visitors and page visits. The numbers reported by Google Analytics does not add up to the number of requests in the server logs (and no, I am not confusing page views with page visits).
To find out what is going on, I have created a test site in which I am going to perform a carefully selected number of tasks, from 5 different sources (at different locations).
My test setup is as follows:
As you can see I got 4 computers, from 2 different IP addresses, running in 3 different browsers + 2 bots. One of these bots are activated from an external source (a server located in the US), another from work. Both of these should not be included in the stats (they represent automated request, not real people - hence has no statistical relevance).
The test will reveal how many times a single person is counted as a visitor. The correct number is 1 (I am only one person), but since it is likely not to be able to identify that I am one person using 4 computers it should as a maximum report 4 people (absolute unique visits) during the 5 day test period.
The other things we will be able to see is how good Google Analytics is at calculating visitor loyalty, not to mention record browser and OS usages (I do not expect any problems here).
During the test an independent statistic system will record exactly what is going on the test site. And, the test site has never been used with Google Analytics before.
I will run these tests next week - then give me another week or two to write the final report.
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