Client Side Vs Server Side Analytics: What’s the Gap in Data?

Client Side Vs Server Side Analytics: What’s the Gap in Data?

What’s the difference between server logs such as AWStats and JavaScript-based web analytics such as Google Analytics? Are client side or server side analytics more accurate? And which should I use on my website? Let’s take a look. TL;DR: Here’s a summary How big of a data gap is there between server log analysis and web analytics? Comparison from my own website My website stats for June The total number of unique visitors The total number of page views Top referrers Top pages Top countries Top operating systems Top browsers What are client and server-side analytics and how do they work? The JavaScript question Bot filtering in server-side analytics Advantages of server-side analytics Problems with server logs Are server logs more privacy-friendly than client-side analytics? How is Plausible Analytics different from the average client side analytics? Are server-side analytics a realistic alternative to client-side analytics for the average website? Conclusion TL;DR: Here’s a summary The main benefits of server-side analytics are that they have no impact on your page speed and the fact that adblockers cannot block server logs. But are these advantages worth the side effects? With server log analysis, it is harder to filter out robots, crawlers, spiders and other non-visitors. And there is a lot of automated bot traffic on the internet. Let’s take a deeper look at the server logs vs JavaScript-based web analytics. How big of a data gap is there between server log analysis and web analytics? To learn more about the differences in the data between these approaches, I’ve compared the data between Plausible Analytics as client-side analytics and AWStats as server-side analytics on my own website in June 2020. Comparison from my own website With access to your server logs, you can feed the logs into server log analysis tools such as AWStats, Analog, GoAccess and Webalizer to get a dashboard with charts and graphs. This is exactly what I’ve done. There are many other server-side analytics providers depending on where you host your site. Netlify and Cloudflare are some of the examples. I’m lucky to have access to the cPanel through my web hosting provider and cPanel has integration with AWStats. I installed the Plausible Analytics script on my site too (I’ve opened up my Plausible Analytics dashboard to the public and you can view it here), so I can now compare the complete stats for June 2020 between these two services. I compared all the data points that were measured by both tools. This means that I excluded things such as the bounce rate and the visitor devices as those are not measured by AWStats. I also excluded things such as bandwidth consumed as that’s not measured by web analytics. I pretty much ignored my site in June to see what would happen. I didn’t publish any new content and I didn’t share any of my posts anywhere at all. Here are the stats.  » Read More

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