Like SEO, web analytics is not as clearcut as many would like. Unfortunately, there is no standard that all web analytic companies follow. And here’s the even worse news: without a “standard” there can never be reconciliation of web analytic data.
Because every program defines a visitor, a bounce, and a click, differently. So when it comes to web analytics this holds true: “The trend is king when analyzing web analytics data.”
There are general guidelines that may help make sure you’re comparing data from two different site tracking information. Here are some important questions to ask.
- Are both analytics tracking codes implemented correctly on every page of the sites?
- Are the reporting date ranges the same?
- Is the same page of the website being reported?
- Is the bounce rate an isolated metric? Are there also massive differences in the number of visitors to the site, or other statistics?
And the final kicker…
How does the web analytics program define a bounce?
What is the difference in the definition of a bounce for each program? One program might define a bounce as someone leaving after 5 seconds, another 10 seconds, etc. This could result in a big difference. And there are many other variables that can create large discrepancies, in fact, some programs allow the web developer to define their own parameters of a “bounce.” Because of these reasons and the fact that this information is usually propriety, it is not possible to reconcile data from different analytic programs.
If we look at the trend then the differences don’t have to be a problem, but can be complementary. However, those that like to deal with absolutes, this is a hard pill to swallow. It certainly doesn’t make our clients happy and some threaten to cancel unless we can reconcile web stats. It’s not something we’re going to take on but we can guide our clients through to try to make sense of the information.
The bottom line?
SEO and PPC is an art form that are always chasing a moving target.
This post was written by Clint Eagar who previously worked for web analytics company Omniture. I asked him to write it after some complaints about numbers on our tracking not matching the client’s tracking system.