"Analytics is the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data."
Web analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of a websites online data with the purpose of understanding and optimising the websites usage. Analytics is not just a tool for measuring web traffic but can be used as a tool for business and market research assessing the effectiveness of a website or highlighting areas that may require improvement.
Historically web analytics has referred primarily to on-site visitor measurement, however in recent years this has changed as many analytics packages now track and measure offline interaction too.
Which Analytics Platform to Use?
At this time Google Analytics is used by about half of all websites, making it the most widely used on-site web analytics service. As with all analytic services, there are limitations to Google Analytics. When choosing an analytics package to track your website usage you should define what you would like to track beforehand, ensuring that the analytics package you use will be tracking these metrics.
While some analytics programs run asynchronously (meaning they shouldn't affect your page load speeds) other programs might load as part of your webpage and may have a noticeable effect on performance of pages being tracked.
Which Analytics Platform is the Most Accurate?
Why do Different Analytic Packages Report Different Numbers?
As mentioned earlier, no analytics service is 100% accurate and may be using different means to collect data. It is useful to bear in mind that because they are using different means to gather data, they may in fact be tracking different metrics altogether. While it is common place to use several different analytics packages to track website usage, it is usually a better idea to report using a single set of results. This will ensure that even if the data isn't 100% accurate that your tracking and analysis remain consistent over time.
While no analytics package is 100% accurate the information gathered is invaluable in judging a websites performance. It is vital however that the metrics being tracked are clearly defined. This will ensure that you're gathering as much relevant information about your website and visitors enabling you to offer visitors the best possible experience when visiting your website.