Over the years, I have developed my suspicions about how accurate SiteMeter was. However, it was at least a common benchmark, since SiteMeter was also metering most other prominent websites. At least it gave you some idea of your relevant web traffic. Back in 2006, Google became a serious player in the site analytics business. In 2007 I began also monitoring my site with Google Analytics.
Over the last few months, it became clear to me that SiteMeter was missing many page requests. While it came close to matching the number of visits to my site, it was way off in the number of page views. For example, here are some statistics over the last six days for my site:
Date Google Analytics SiteMeter Visits Page Views Visits Page Views 3/22/10 174 286 147 212 3/23/10 167 418 152 201 3/24/10 150 319 165 190 3/25/10 127 296 143 176 3/26/10 143 369 146 189 3/27/10 87 289 91 144 Total 848 1977 844 1112
What explains the difference? One small factor is that Google Analytics tracks days in Pacific time, while SiteMeter tracks in Eastern time. However, Google Analytics is reporting more than forty percent more page views that SiteMeter, 865 more page views over the same six-day period!
I really don’t think Google Analytics is creating artificial page views. As best I can figure, SiteMeter is either not getting notified of these additional page views or, more likely, one or more page views per visit are getting lost on the Internet and not actually arriving at SiteMeter. Why would this be? This is speculation, of course, but Google has much deeper pockets than SiteMeter. I suspect they have more servers listening on the edge of the cloud than SiteMeter. If correct, this means that for Google Analytics to collect a “ping” there are fewer routers to hop through on its journey, so they are more likely to be recorded. Part of the problem may be SiteMeter’s more precarious revenue stream. I don’t pay SiteMeter for monitoring my site, which means the only money they make from me are from serving me ads when I (or others) visit SiteMeter to see my statistics.
There are other issues with SiteMeter that show that they are getting sloppy. SiteMeter is also including the Google Search engine as a visitor, which artificially inflates my page view. If you are being metered by SiteMeter, you may be affected as well. Look at Recent Visitors by Details. If for example you see “googlebot.com” as the domain and a large number of page views, it’s pretty obvious that these are not human beings reading your site and the Google search engine is indexing your site instead. This problem has persisted for months and I have brought it to SiteMeter’s attention. They clearly don’t consider fixing it a priority, which implies they are not very concerned about the accuracy of their statistics.
I can understand that keeping track of the myriad search engines out there is a large challenge. I am sure Google has the same issue, but I am also confident that Google has the resources to make sure my statistics are clean. It sure appears that SiteMeter does not, or gives much lower priority to us non-paying customers.
SiteMeter is still useful to me as a quick way to check usage on my site. It gives me an idea of whether a certain post has gained in popularity and who has visited the site recently. However, it is clear that it is, at best, a rough record of actual usage of your site and is probably underreporting your site’s actual numbers of page views. You would be wise not to read too much into its statistics. If you have not added Google Analytics tracking code, you might want to do so.