CanadianISP Logo
Find an ISP
Find an ISP 
Compare between over 230 ISPs (Internet Service Providers) serving Canada!
Search and compare for FREE!

Web Statistics: Google Analytics vs Server Side Log analysis

November 23rd, 2018

Before I begin, I should point out that this is NOT an article bashing Analytics. If you're looking for something like that: Look elsewhere.

I have had many people, over the years, either complain that their traffic they see to their site from mine is too low, according to Google Analytics (GA), or they ask about large discrepancies between what GA is reporting and their own server-side log analyzers.

The reasons for this are several;

GA can miss a significant amount of your traffic, again for several reasons:

  1. The user may have JavaScript turned off
  2. The user may be using an ad-blocker
  3. The user may be using a privacy tool that disallows GA
  4. The user may be using a privacy tool that disallows third party connections that do not match the domain being visited
  5. The GA code may be placed incorrectly
  6. The user may move on to a different page before the GA code executes
  7. The user may be loading your site from cache, instead of the servers

The above reasons, while all 100% valid, do not, by themselves, suggest that you should not use GA: GA offers many, many tools, insights and analyses that many server-side traffic logs do not.

However: A server side log tracks visits when and where they occur. A user can not disable server-side tracking, no matter what they do, for the simple reason that in order to see the page, it must be loaded from the server, which is then tracked. (They can, of course, hide their IP, which is entirely their right to do)

For myself: I use both: I use server-side tools to tell me the actual traffic levels and referrals that come to my site and I use GA to show things like trends and similar campaigns. GA also offers many very useful suggestions for performance and traffic improvement - something even the most seasoned web developer finds useful, even as reminders.

I will not go into which server-side log analysis programs there are or how to install them - That is simply too broad a topic: But you can - and should - ask your web host for a server-side log analytics program that is updated in real-time, at best, or, at the very least - every 24 hours. (The performance impact from log analytics can be quite high, so a 24 hour rotation is not unreasonable)

If you have only ever been using GA for your web statistics: You WILL be surprised - and pleasantly so - to see the difference in numbers from what your server is recording from ALL visits!

Using GA alone may miss anywhere from 5 - 25% of your traffic. For some, this is not critical at all - GA will tell them their trends, what is popular and what is not - For others, accurate traffic reporting is a must, which is why having that server-side analytic tool is so important.

Marc Bissonnette, Arnprior, Ontario, Canada

Copyright © 2020 / Marc Bissonnette, Ontario - All rights reserved -

Advertising | About Us | Contact Us | Privacy Policy

© 2020 CanadianISP/InternAlsysis. All rights reserved.
Retrieve password