Why do different web site tracking programs give wildly different results? Our web host for my main blog, Politics in the Zeros, provides Webalizer and Awstats to track web hits, yet for several years now, Webalizer has shown about twice as many hits as Awstats, which seems baffling, as both reside on the server. Clearly, they are measuring differently. So which is more accurate? And is there any way to get their results closer?
Yes. After some experimentation, I’ve made a few changes that brought the results closer.
First off, I looked at the referring sites section in Awstats. Sometimes you’ll see a site listed that has no pages but hundreds, maybe thousands of hits. These generally are a site that is linking directly to an image on your site, thus stealing your bandwidth without crediting you. If they are major pigs about this (such as a certain radio station in NYC and a right wing site), then I use the block IP utility and they never see the site again. This cuts visits and hits down, but they were garbage hits anyway.
Spam comments were getting absurd, sometimes 1500 a day. I installed stronger anti-spam software plus turned off trackbacks and pingbacks, as they are highly abused by splogs. This also cut down on the number of garbage hits and visits.
Before these tweaks, Webalizer showed 5,000-6,000 visits a day with Awstats at 1,800-2,000. Now it’s 4,100 vs. 2,300, still a wide range, but definitely lessening.
BTW, online tracking software like Google Analytics and the internal WordPress tracking underreport by an enormous factor. Google generally shows Polizeros at 400 visits a day and WordPress at 900. These programs will show better detail on what posts are being linked to, but obviously miss a way too many visits.