Testing report discrepancies with Google Analytics (Advanced Segments)

So I ran into a brain-racking situation with my employer the other day.  A certain 3rd party advertiser is linking to one of our websites from several places on their all-flash website (and not for free mind you).  In an effort to gauge the utility of these links, I’ve been perusing through both Google Analytics (to measure the number of visits from the advertiser’s website) and the admin the advertiser provides us (which tells us the number of times people have clicked on our links).

Much to my dismay, there was a serious discrepancy between these two metrics.  Unlike the type of minor discrepancy that can be explained away by ‘differences in cookie tracking’ or ‘unique vs. total visitors,’ these metrics represent an exponential difference (the advertiser’s web analytics interface claims there are thousands of click-throughs while Google Analytics claims there are a couple hundred visits).

Using Advanced Segments to test Browser Visits

Using Google Analytics’ Advanced Segments, I filtered for visits from this advertiser’s website (Read my Advanced Segments tutorial if you don’t know how to create them).

Then I checked to see what browsers visitors from these sites are coming from.  As you can see, most of them come from Safari (67.95%), and after that, Firefox (28.80%).  And none of them come from IE.

According to W3 Counter Stats, for total web browsing April 2009, IE accounted for 57.42%, Firefox accounted for 31.22%, and Safari accounted for 1.69%.

Browser comparison - Internet Explorer vs FireFox vs Safari - W3 Counter

Sure enough, after cross-testing on different computers using IE, this site ranges from not loading at all, to loading extremely slowly and not allowing clicks to take you to other websites without scary warnings.

The Browser Bandit exposed by Google Analytics

So it’s safe to say that users are clicking our links as many times as our 3rd party advertiser claims, but   those on Internet Explorer  (and probably most of the Firefox users) are not actually making their way to our website—hence, the discrepancy in our metrics.

As difficult as it may seem to believe, there are plenty of companies out there posting content that’s incompatible with modern web standards.   Internet Explorer, whether you dislike it, hate it, despise it,  loathe it, are frustrated by it, wish it never existed, or wish it would disintegrate into oblivion (those are all the options right?), still accounts for more than half of internet usage.  You can’t simply ignore it.

Sources for further reading:

  1. Better Data Filtering with Advanced Segments
  2. Installing Google Analytics
  3. W3 Counter Stats

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