Comparing Analytics: Which Program Do You Trust?

If you’re someone who checks your stats at least twice a day, then you have probably noticed that none of the analytical programs match up. AWStats is usually inflated and WordPress goes through phases where it’s higher or lower than Google Analytics. Personally, I’ve had a lot of issues with Google Analytics, which has traditionally been the industry standard. Despite friends telling me how great it is, I’ve had problems with it consistently working. Below is a mini-breakdown of each of the popular programs, as well as their pros and cons (based on my own experiences).

AWStats

This program is typically offered through your host and tracks every single ping to your host files. This includes the normal hits, such as search engine results and direct website hits, but it also means that it tracks your own activity within the dashboard. You do have the option to ignore your own IP address but it’s not a super-simple thing to do.

  • Pros:
    • Logs all pings
    • Differentiates between robots/autocrawlers and actual hits
    • Allows you to ignore your own IP Address
  • Cons:
    • Not user friendly
    • Does not give details about why or how you show up in search engines

Final thought: Great for keeping up with trends on your site, but not great for detailed breakdowns.

WordPress Stats

This is a built-in program that comes with WordPress’ Jetpack. It has a great visual representation and allows for easy one-click access in the admin toolbar at the top of your site (when logged in). It also lets you know the top keyword searches, pages, referral links, and more. It also allows you to see summaries, but they are predetermined (as in, you can’t select a date range).

  • Pros:
    • Built-in – No work necessary!
    • Easy to navigate with multiple options
    • Summaries available
    • Great mobile app
    • Automatically excludes your own views
  • Cons:
    • Summaries are pre-set (all-time, month, week, day)

Final thought: It’s the best option for WordPress users.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is usually the go-to analytics apps, and until recently advertisers relied on it for what to charge. It’s great for letting you see stats for any date range, as well as tracking social channels and, or course, Google searches. Unfortunately, it runs on Javascript, which Internet users are increasingly blocking and/or disabling. Users can disable tracking by either blocking Javascript or installing one of Google’s browser add-ons, which makes it increasingly unreliable. My personal experience with Google Analytics has been overwhelmingly disappointing. I have had days where I have more comments than views, which is obviously indicative of poor tracking. I also noticed that Google was consistently lower than WPStats, but when I excluded my own IP address, it jumped to being consistently higher then WP (one would think that eliminating my own visits would cause the number to go down).

  • Pros:
    • Often seen as the industry standard
    • Reports availably by any date range
    • Easy to disable tracking from your own IP address (such as Google’s browser add-ons and manual configuration)
  • Cons:
    • Easily disabled
    • Unreliable

Final thought: While it used to be the best option, it’s becoming increasingly unreliable.

Regardless of which program you use, keep in mind that the most important things to keep track of are trends. Are your views trending upward? Are people commenting more and more? If the answer is yes, then you’re probably in good shape. If you’re like me, however, you’re interested in actual numbers, and hopefully the above list will help you decide which program works best for you.

Now tell me, which analytics program do you use?

Allison Hiltz
Allison is a voracious reader, Law & Order aficionado, serial napper, shark conservationist, and crazy coffee drinker. She is currently pursuing her graduate degree in Public Policy and lives in Denver, CO with her husband and two rescue dogs. She can be contacted at allison(at)thebookwheelblog(dot)com.
Allison Hiltz
  • http://doingdeweydecimal.com/ Katie @ Doing Dewey

    I’m not sure if my host offers a stats tracking tool… I should look into it! I don’t monitor my stats too closely, but it’s nice to believe they’re accurate when I do look at them!

  • http://www.sarahsbookshelves.com/ Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves)

    I’ve used WP Slimstat and GA…I stopped using GA because it was too confusing and the interface was not user friendly, but I’m also not really tech savvy. I’ve loved Slimstat except I’ve had some data loss problems when upgrading to new versions lately. I’ve also had some issues where Slimstat seems to have changed their tracking filters and my numbers have changed dramatically.

    • The Book Wheel

      What an inconvenience! This is the Internet, people! It should be easy!

  • Stacy (The Novel Life)

    I also stick to WP – although some of the stats are cool with google analytics I’m always afraid I’m going to push the wrong button and all my GA will disappear. It’s not very user friendly for my non-techie brain ;-)

  • http://www.LoveAtFirstBook.com/ Love at First Book

    I stick with WP because the others are just so confusing!

  • Shannon @ River City Reading

    Since I’m a Blogger user, I don’t have the option of using WP’s tracking program, but I’m a pretty big fan of Analytics for a few specific reasons. I love the ability to set up goals (I have ones that track a certain time spent on the site, visiting a certain number of pages, etc) and the options to follow the flow of users on your site, which I don’t think are possible with other programs.

    • The Book Wheel

      Good point. I LOVE what GA offers but I can’t ever seem to get any consistency with them. For the week after I removed my own IP address from tracking, my GA stats went from being 50-75 below WP to 50-75 above WP. There’s no rhyme or reason!