Doubles! Reasons for Discrepancies between Webtrends and Google Analytics Visit Counts

Three reasons why Google Analytics sees more visits than Webtrends does


Google Analytics usually shows more visits than Webtrends does, for the same site, same time.

There are three reasons:

  1. If a visit starts before midnight and finishes after midnight, Google Analytics counts two visits.  Webtrends counts one visit.
  2. If a page view happens in the middle of a visit that has a different campaign (organic search, paid search, or any hit with utm_campaign= in it), Google Analytics counts two visits. In other words, if a visitor who has your site open in one tab, then uses a campaign or search link on another tab to come to the site separately, Google Analytics considers that second action the start of another visit.    The same thing happens if the visitor backs out of the site then returns via another search or campaign.  In all the above, Webtrends counts one visit.  (Note: these assume the visitor is moving around with no gaps of 30 minutes or more.)
  3. If you have WT or GA tags on two or more domains, Google Analytics will start a new visit when you cross domains.  The exception is when the sites are linked and the links have been specially coded to transfer a Google Analytics visitor ID.   Webtrends counts one visit.  The exceptions for Webtrends are Safari (and soon Firefox, and maybe eventually other browsers), or any situation where third party cookies are not accepted.

If you know of any extra wrinkles to this or other reasons for the higher visit count in Google Analytics, let us know!

Miscellaneous Candy Jar post #2

Here are ten bite-size analytics questions that we culled from various WebTrends reports for the Outsider site, derived from on-site search terms, off-site search terms, the occasional email, and general browsing patterns.

It’s time for another candy jar post!

You know the gag where the kid gets his hand stuck in the candy jar because he won’t let go of a fistful of goodies? That’s us, for the August candy jar topics. We are now limiting candy jar posts to about 10 items, but candy jar posts will be more frequent.

Here are ten of the bite-size analytics topics that we culled from various WebTrends reports for the Outsider site, derived from on-site search terms, off-site search terms, the occasional email or comment, and general browsing patterns.

  1. Capturing time in seconds. WebTrends has two visit-length related measures in custom report:  Visit Length (min), and Viewing Time (sec). Of the two, I always use the one for seconds. Visit Length (min) is rounded off to the nearest minute and it is so imprecise it is useless. If you want a Visit Length number, take the sum of Seconds and divide by the number of visits.  Note: “viewing time” is in the context of to pages. If you set this measure up as an average, you might expect “average seconds per visit” but you are getting “average seconds per page.” 
  2. Differences between visits, views, hits, and visitors in the context of a Pages report.

    Visits: counted as 1 if the page was seen anywhere during a visit, and number of views during the visit don’t count. It’s the number of visits that had at least one view of the page. If ten visits saw the page 1 time each, that page would show 10 in the Visits column. If ten visits saw the page 100 times each, that page would still show 10 in the Visits column.

    Views: counted as 1 every time the page was viewed or requested, and number of views during the visit DO count. It’s the number of total requests during the time period of the report. This one should match exactly the number of log file lines for that page URL. Using the example above: If ten visits saw the page 1 time each, that page would show 10 in the Views column. If ten visits saw the page 100 times each, that page would show 100 in the Views column.

    Hits: Think of this as more or less identical to Views, and the numbers should match in the Pages report. The thing that makes “hits” different is that any file can be a hit — a picture, a header, a button, a footer, text that is an image file, a css style sheet, a script file. In the Pages report, you’ll just see listings for files that are, in fact, pages. If you analyze server logs, you will see Hits make a big difference in two reports in particular: the Accessed File Types and the Bandwidth reports.

    Visitors: counted as 1 if the page is seen anywhere during the report’s time frame (month etc) AND is associated with the same visitor each time. If a visitor came ten times during the month and saw that page 100 times in each of those ten visits, it would still show up as ONE visitor for that page and that time period.
  3. Visitors, continued: So, a visitor is a person? Uh, no. “Visitor” is used mainly because it’s simpler to say than “Unique Cookie Value and/or IP-User Agent Combination.” You’ll see “Visitors” and “Unique Visitors” in all kinds of analytics products, but the best they can do (usually) is count those uniquecookievaluesandorIPuseragentcombinations.

  4. PDF download numbers in my Downloads report are extremely overcounted, looks like.  Then you must be analyzing server log files.   A single PDF file typically gets broken up (by the browser’s Download Manager function) into pieces, and each piece gets logged as a View because each piece is a separate request. Therefore, Visits becomes the important measure for PDF downloads and Views, a much larger number, should be ignored.   (You can make the downloads report more accurate with this key bit of info: only the first installment of a PDF file download has a 200 status code. The subsequent file chunks have 206 status codes, so filtering out the 206’s will give an accurate Views number.)           

  5. What does “exclude activity without dimension data” mean? When putting together a report, WebTrends looks for your dimension in each hit (or visit) and then, finding the dimension, notes the value and tabulates it. For example, the dimension can be “color” with values “red,” “blue,” and “yellow”. If a hit (or visit) does not have that dimension at all, WebTrends buckets it as a hit (or visit) “without dimension data” for that particular dimension and it appears in the report as “None.” Much of the time, you don’t care about these — you just want to know about the dimension values that did happen. So, when setting up a custom report you usually want to check the “exclude activity without dimension data” box.           

  6. What does “None” mean in my reports? This is related to the previous topic. You might see “None” in the dimension column in a report. It is the count of instances where the dimension just wasn’t there. If your dimension is the parameter “color” then the None row will display the number of hits (visits, whatever) where the color parameter was NOT there at all.           

  7. What’s the deal with changing CEOs so often over there? No kidding! There have been four CEOs in the last year! The first departure reflected a fundamental change in direction (a good change IMHO), the second departure was planned (an explicitly interim person who departed on-schedule), the third departure was an embarrassing flakey event of some unknown kind about which we know very little, and the fourth person is still there, an industry and WebTrends veteran who seems to have the confidence of the insiders and of a bunch of outsiders too. Some would say that WebTrends has used up their CEO changes for the next decade.           

  8. Does the new GeoTrends (delivered with 8.5) do a better job? Not that I can tell! Supposedly it is better at Asian IP’s but that’s just hearsay. For North American IPs, as far as I can tell, it has been unchanged for a loooong time. Embarrassing, again.            

  9. What does GeoTrends do? It resolves an IP address into two things: an organization name (in the Organizations report) and a geographic location. It’s a dataset that WebTrends gets from a third party, Akamai. Akami bases its business on being able to identify geography ultra-fast.           

  10. How do I get WT to work with Google (on-site) search that uses the Google Search Appliance? The Google Search Appliance’s output is xml and the xml definitions and fields are readily available for using in tracking. You’ll have to code your search results page so that the desired fields are in the URL as parameters (for either SDC or server log analytics) OR are in WebTrends tags for collection by SDC. The DTD (xml definitions) are on your Google Search Appliance site, here: [search appliance hostname]\google.dtd. Explanations of each of the fields are here on I suggest collecting, at minimum, Q (query), M (number of results), SN (starting number for results on the page), and EN (ending number for results on the page).  Put Q into WT.oss and put M into WT.oss_r.  See our on-site search topics for more.