Analytics data collection methods

Posted: April 14, 2011 in Analytics, Google

In the world of analytics there exists A variety of ways to collect data from the web and Page tags and Logfiles happen to be two of the most widely used methods to capture data.

Page tags collect data via the visitors web browser. This data will be captured by JavaScript code you place on each of your pages commonly known as tags or beacons and this technique is known as client-side-data collection.

Logfiles refer to data collected by your web server independently of a visitors browser.All requests made by your web server including pages, images and PDF’s are captured in this technique known as server-side data collection.

Both these methods have their own way of capturing data and both are sufficient depending on what kind of data you want to analyze.

This implies that they both have pros and cons and they are listed below

Page Tags – Pro’s

  • Breaks through proxy and caching servers giving you more accurate session tracking
  • You can track client-side events like JavaScript,Web 2.0 and flash
  • Capture client-side Ecommerce data
  • The data collected and processed is almost real time
  • Your program updates can be done by your ISP
  • Data storage and archiving can be done by your ISP

Page tags – Cons

  • Setup errors lead to data loss meaning data lost cannot be tracked back to reanalyze
  • Firewalls can restrict tags
  • You cannot track bandwidth or completed downloads this is because tags are set when the page/file is requested and not when the download is complete
  • You cannot track search engine spiders because robots ignore page tags

Logfile Pro’s

  • Historical data cab be reprocessed
  • No firewall issues
  • Bandwidth and completed downloads can be tracked
  • Search engine spiders and robots are tracked by default
  • Mobile visitors are tracked by default

Logfile Cons

  • Proxy and caching are inaccurate because of cached pages
  • No event tracking (eg : JavaScript,Flash,Web 2.0)
  • Program updates must be done by your own team
  • Data storage and archiving must be done by your own team
  • Robots multiply visit count causing inaccurate visitors information

The funny thing here is that the advantage of one is the disadvantage of the other, contradicting so to speak meaning you either take one or the other. These two may be the most widely used methods for data collection but they are certainly not the only methods available. There are however other methods apart from these two collecting data on the web, Network data collection devices which gather traffic data from routers, web server application programming interface (API) are not mentioned here. Data collection enables you to gather more information from data which makes it easier for you to come with solution to unanswered question. A  lot of people may think data collection gives you the answer which would be nice believe me but unfortunately that is not the case.

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