Traffic Discrepancies Between IHR Click-thru Reports and Your Statistics from Your Website Stats or from Google Analytics

Sometimes a client finds that their hosted web site server statistics or their Google Analytics reports show less traffic from IHR.com than does the IHR.com Click-thru Statistics report. IHR continually tests the accuracy of our click-thru traffic report. We find that if, for example, we click on a test link 10 times, it does in fact get recorded as exactly 10 click-thru's, not more clicks and not less clicks.

Why Do Discrepancies Occur?

We've found that discrepancies can be due to the following factors:

1. If a user clicks on an IHR.com promotional link two times, IHR stats record this as two click-thrus, whereas the target website hosting stats or Google Anaytics typically record this as one referral from IHR.com:

Here's why:

  • The IHR stats will count this as two click-thrus because it is two click-thrus. This is how all Pay Per Click search engines work.

    NOTE:  Search marketing firms 360i and SearchIgnite reviewed more than 3.9 million users and 5.1 million clicks during the first quarter of 2006. They found that "Searchers who ultimately made a purchase clicked an average of 15% more ads than those who didn't complete a transaction. Really determined searchers - those that clicked a search marketer's ads ten times - were three times as likely to convert as those who clicked an ad only once."  Conclusion: A user that clicks on a promotional listing more than once is more likely to purchase a service or product.
     
  • In contrast, the target web server or Google Anaysics typically records this as one page view, typically because:
     
    •  The user's web browsers cached (i.e. stored) the web page on the their computer after the first click-thru. Then, when the user views the target page again, their browser displays the page from the user's computer. The browser doesn't go back to the server to get the page, so the server doesn't know the user has viewed the page two times, so the server doesn't record the second page view.
       
    • Also, the user's ISP may cache the page to reduce their Internet traffic. By doing this, they do not have send another request to the target server.


2. The users web browser did not report the "Referrer" (i.e. an IHR.com page) to the target server or Google Anyalytics:

Sometimes web browsers do not report the "Referrer" (i.e. an IHR.com page) to the target server (i.e. the IHR clients website server). Consequently, the target server or Google Anyalytics will not record the Referrer (i.e., IHR.com) in their reports.

Some human-used web browser's, such as Jakarta Commons-HttpClient/3.0-rc3, intentionally remove the Referrer field in order to protect users' security.
 

3. A proxy or cache server asked for the web page - Sometimes a proxy or cache server will send request the web page for a user. In this case, the Referring Page will not get recorded as from IHR.com, but rather it will be recorded as from the proxy server or cache.

Additional Considerations for Websites Using Google Analytics

If you're using Google Analytics (GA) for your web hosting stats, there are additional reasons for why you may see a discrepancy between your hosting stats and the IHR reported click-thru stats....

  1. As discussed above, if a user click-thrus two times from IHR.com, IHR stats count that as two click-thrus, however, GA counts that as one page view (impression).
     
  2. If any of the target pages, where IHR sends traffic, are missing GA coding, then GA won't count those visits.
     
  3. Google Analytics requires a user to be running JavaScript, and and numerous studies have shown that about 2% of North American users have disabled JavaScript. This results in GA not counting those visits.
     
  4. Google Analytics requires a user to have cookies turned on. If the user has turned off cookies, then Google Analytics does not count that traffic.
     
  5. Corporate and personal firewalls can prevent Google page tagging from sending data to its servers, resulting in uncounted visits.
     
  6. If a visitor quickly navigates away from the target page, before the GA page tag collects its data, this visit won't be counted.

Overall, due to Google's page tracking technology, GA tends to undercount page views. IHR wishes there were a simpler way to compare apples to apples. On the IHR side, though, we do work hard to ensure that we've removed robot click-thrus, as well as outlier human click-thrus.

Additional Information About These Discrepancies

  1. Your Google Analytics Data Will Never Match Your Facebook Data - "Google Analytics uses cookies to track users on a website....If cookies aren’t enabled, you won’t be able to track those users through GA."
     
  2. Why Is Google Analytics Inaccurate? - contains lots of helpful information
     
  3. 20+ Reasons Your Google Analytics Pageviews Are Wrong - contains lots of helpful information
     
  4. Issues with clicks and clickthrough rate - "Customers are "comparison shopping" by clicking between several ads. Because browsers typically cache search results pages, Google doesn't record multiple impressions, so the clicks can exceed the impressions....."
     
  5. A Comprehensive Strategy for Using Web Site Statistics - page 3 - explains the difficulties in getting accurate web hosting statistics. In particular, see the section on Caching.
     
     

APPENDIX - IHR RESEARCH

Which of the Above Factors Create the Most Discrepancies?

IHR has developed research methods to detect when, and how often, the following factors occur:

  1. The target web page was cached in the user's browser or the user's ISP, so the hit never got recorded on the IHR client's server: IHR reviewed the occurrences of this because our server can see that the same IP address clicked, for example, two times on a link. An ISP assigns an IP address to a user. IHR can review our records to see if or when the same IP address clicks two or more times
     
  2. The Referrer field is empty, so the the IHR client's server never knows that the hit came from IHR.com: Although the target server doesn't know that the hit came from IHR.com, IHR is able to see the click-thrus in our detailed click-thru reports. So we can see how often this happens.

In 2005, IHR did some extensive research to assess the most common factor that leads to discrepancies. We found that the missing Referrer field was the most common factor, as shown in the following table.

Client Total click-thrus during period Number of duplicate click-thrus from same IP address * Number of click-thrus where the Referrer field is blank
#1 47 4 21
#2 239 13 28
#3 187 7 16
#4 182 14 19


* NOTE - In many cases, when there are duplicate entries for an IP address it is very hard to know if it represents the same user with the same IP address or different users with the same IP address. The latter situation is caused by some ISPs who dynamically assign IP addresses, so that e.g. 10 people might use one IP address over the course of a month.

If you notice any discrepancies that you wish to discuss with IHR, feel free to contact IHR.
 

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