Apples to Apples in Web Analytics

We know you can’t compare two different sources of web analytics and expect them to match up. But what if you’re seeing something different in your Google Analytics from what you see in your reports?

You may be comparing apples and oranges.

Google Analytics contains enormous amounts of information. The most effective use of that data involves approaching it with a specific question. But you can often find relevant data in more than one place or in more than one way. When this happens, you might end up with different answers.

This happened yesterday with a client. In preparation for an investor presentation, we’re looking at the kinds of visitors the site has had, and what kind of information they’ve been seeking. One way to find that data is to look at the Network report. By choosing the Network report, we can see that President Obama’s office has visited this website 27 times, as shown in the screenshot below:

eop1

Another way to approach this data is to go to the Pages report, where we can see that the president has visited 77 times, as shown in the screenshot below: eop4

Huh?

At first, it seems as though both numbers can’t be right and there must be an error. However, if we look more closely we can see that we’re looking at two different kinds of information.

Under the Network report (Audience>Technology>Network) we can choose a secondary dimension that shows the landing page, the destination page, the second page…. lots of different options.

eop2

This lets us get some very deep information about specific networks visiting us. With this data we might, for example, find that large corporate visitors examine a different set of products from the visitors who come through public networks like Verizon, or that visitors from educational institutions are more likely to read reviews before buying.

In the Pages report, we’re seeing all the pages visited. This report can show us our most popular pages overall, and we can also specify other dimensions and metrics so that we can see how specific segments of our audience interact with our content. To do this, we click on “Advanced” by the search bar and set up some rules, as shown in the screenshot below.

We’ve chosen Network as the secondary dimension and specified that we only want to see visits from eop.gov, which we know is the domain of the president’s office.

eop3

The Network report is showing us the occasions on which someone from the president’s office has visited us. We see that the article “Columbia Law School Expert Analyzes Puerto Rico Plebiscite Vote” was the starting page for a visit on two occasions.

The Pages report is showing us the number of times each page was visited — and “Columbia Law School Expert Analyzes Puerto Rico Plebiscite Vote” has been visited 12 times: the two occasions on which it was the first page the White House visited, and ten more times when it might have been the second or third or fourth page visited.

The president’s office has visited 27 times, and has looked at 77 pages; both reports are right, but they don’t match.

When you see an apparent discrepancy in reports, first check the raw data and make sure you’re looking at the same thing each time.

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