Shareaholic's Social Analytics is a great tool for you to keep track of traffic and sharing activity for your site's published content. We collect data independent of other services merely through the inclusion of our scripts on your site, and if you have our apps installed, you already have our scripts installed. The stats we provide are invaluable when utilized to tailor your marketing strategy and plan your content.
Shareaholic's Social Analytics vs. Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a very popular service that many publishers in our community use in conjunction with Social Analytics. Because our services are separate, the stats will differ as our methods for collecting and reporting data are structurally different.
One of these differences is the reporting window, which can lead to an obvious discrepancy, especially on sites that receive heavy traffic. This is because Google Analytics refreshes their data every 5 minutes, while Shareaholic currently refreshes data every 15 minutes.
Google also uses sampling when generating reports, which means they are only collecting data on some of your visitors and/or using only a portion of the data collected. In contrast, Shareaholic does not use sampling. We report at the individual level, gathering data based on unique page views and shares.
All analytics packages exclude bot traffic from their reports, but because these services, including Google Analytics, do not make their bot lists publicly available, it becomes impossible to accurately determine total traffic as bots can account for 20% to 80% of traffic. This is a significant reason why numbers rarely match from one analytics package to another.
Additionally, because data is incrementing upon page view, if the page is loading scripts in both the head and the footer, where each analytics package is calling their scripts in a different location of the page, you greatly increase the chances of traffic being logged for only the analytics package whose scripts are called in the head of your site. Web pages load from top to bottom, and if the page hasn't fully loaded before your visitor moves on to another page, the script in the footer may not be given the opportunity to execute in order to log the page view.
Another factor concerns cookies. When our scripts execute, they try to place cookies. Many people use default browser settings where cookies are accepted from trusted sites. When prompted, they may accept Google cookies, but not Shareaholic cookies, or vice versa. If the cookie is placed for one and not the other, the data will not update in both packages. Unfortunately, this cannot be controlled by the publisher or the analytics service.
Now, in our opinion, especially given the number of variables that can impact traffic data, tracking page views isn't as important as understanding sharing activity and knowing where your traffic originated. When a visitor shares your content, it's safe to assume you've engaged them enough that they want to stash away your link to revisit later or pass along the link to others. Your content has interested them, and sharing this interest with their social networks brings more visitors to your site, which encourages more sharing and more page views from social traffic. Sharing stats can be extremely useful for shaping future blog content as a share is more contagious than just privately loading a page in your web browser.
When visiting your Social Analytics dashboard, you might first notice that the report is contained all within one page, making it easy to read and to quickly locate the information you need. We carefully selected which stats were most important and useful to our publishers to provide excellent visibility without all the clutter that tends to leave people drowning in too much information that is unlikely to be utilized. For this reason, we feel that it is the perfect tool to use alongside our publisher apps or even independently.
At the end of the day, Shareaholic's Social Analytics and Google Analytics are two distinct systems that offer a unique perspective on the performance of your content. Whether used as a primary, supplementary, or complimentary data report, Shareaholic's Social Analytics provides a fantastic overview of how your content is being received and shared with the world.