What’s the difference between Google Analytics and SmarterStats?

SmarterStats vs Google Analytics

A question we get asked often is in regards to the differences between 3dcart’s Smarter Stats offering and Google Analytics. At first glance, it may appear to some as though the same information is being displayed on both services. However, in reality they both have their own distinct differences.

In order to explain these differences, it would help to understand how they each work.

How does 3dcart’s SmarterStats Program work?

First, let’s talk a little bit about how SmarterStats provides its information.

Every file request your website receives is recorded in your web server’s logs. Whether the request is for an image, web page, style sheet, video file, etc; each request will have a corresponding log recorded for it.  3dcart’s SmarterStats offering can read these server logs and present them in an easy to view format using charts, graphs, and tables.

From the server log data, SmarterStats can show you information on how many hits (File Requests) and impressions (Page Views) your website receives. More importantly, SmarterStats can show you how much true bandwidth has been used on your site in a given time frame. We refer to this as true bandwidth because the server logs are recording both human traffic as well as bot traffic that is connecting to your site.

For these reasons, Smarter Stats is best suited for researching your site’s bandwidth usage, top file requests, and overall data transfer traffic. It is not well suited for recording your site’s human visitor counts, however. After all, since your website is visited by both human traffic, search engines crawlers and various bots, it is important to not view your visitor count in SmarterStats as your true traffic of possible shoppers.

For marketing purposes, the only visitors your advertisers care about are the human ones. So it’s important to only measure your human visitors when compiling data on your site’s traffic. While you do have some ability of seeing organic traffic with SmarterStats, an analytics program like Google Analytics will make this process easier.

How does Google Analytics work?

Now, let’s talk a bit about Google Analytics.

To set up your site to use Google Analytics, you are required to add a small piece of JavaScript coding to *every page of your website that you’d like to have analyzed.

With the JavaScript tracking code installed, human visitors (well, their browsers, anyway) landing on your website will automatically execute the JavaScript code.  This tracking JavaScript code captures and sends information about the user visiting your site back to Google. Because of this JavaScript coding, Google Analytics is a better way to record human visitor traffic.

You see, search engine crawlers and bots don’t execute JavaScript. Often, they are just analyzing and indexing the HTML code and images of the site.  Generally speaking, the only visits to your website capable of running the JavaScript code are browser requests from real users. Granted, Google Analytics can’t track users who decide to disable JavaScript, (some ad blockers and privacy plugins may also disable Google’s JavaScript). However in all honesty, this number is going to be a small percentage of your total visits. Google Analytics, is much better suited for recording human visitor traffic.

So which one do I use?

It really depends on the type of information you’re looking for. As mentioned:

  • Google Analytics is the better of the two if you want to see how much organic and human traffic you have coming to your store so that you can create your ads based on that.  With it, you can also view:
    • Geographic user information
    • Browser and Operating Systems used for visits
    • New vs Returning Visitor data
    • User sessions and durations
  • SmarterStats is the better option of the two programs if you want to see the true bandwidth/data transfer that is used on your site. With it, you can also view:
    • Spider and Bot Activity
    • File Request Activity
    • Visiting IP Addresses
    • Visiting ISPs

Due to the fact that SmarterStats is a log of all your web server activity, it also becomes a better tool to use when you need to block certain activity from accessing your site. (See next section)

How to reduce the number of Rogue and Foreign Bots to your site

Most bots and crawlers are designed to index sites for the various search engines active on the Internet. These are favorable to your site since they are used by their respective search engines to help people find your site better. They follow your store’s robots.txt files and report their results to said engines.

Unfortunately, some bots and spiders don’t adhere to robots.txt file (either through poor/bad scripting or even malicious intent). These are called “rogue bots” and they can sometimes cause high bandwidth usage and load on your site unnecessarily. 3dcart has numerous firewalls that already cancels out traffic that is known to be malicious traffic, but frankly there are new bots that pop up all the time. So there’s always a slight possibility that a rogue bot may cause you headaches.

Then, of course, there are foreign bots that could potentially index your site unnecessarily as well. If you normally don’t do business in foreign markets, then there’s no need for indexing to occur for those countries. Due to the fact that we service merchants from around the world, we are not able to block out particular countries from accessing our networks.   Therefore, we recommend that you use the SmarterStats program to determine what bot traffic you want to allow to come to your store.

You can obtain the IPs of the bots that you do not want to allow access to your site via your SmarterStats program and block them from your site. Spider/Bot IP addresses can be viewed in the Spiders & Bots ->Recent Spider Details section of SmarterStats.

Once you have the IPs you can block them from accessing your store using instructions in this article.