Is SiteMeter Wrong?

Measuring visitors

Wednesday, January 5, 2005 by Frogboy | Discussion: Websites

In the good old days we used Hitbox to measure's traffic. And it was good. But then one day they stopped providing it for free and in fact made it bloody difficult to even pay for the service.  Which is ironic because we would be willing to pay for a reliable, accurate and reasonably detailed site traffic monitoring service (withing reason).

But everyone we try out seems insist on us contacting some sales guy. Um no, I want to enter in a company credit card number, enter the monthly service plan choice and have some HTML provided to put it on the site. But oh well. So we found Site Meter.

Site Meter gives us results that we like but we're not sure how accurate they are. Hitbox used to report that we got around 70,000 unique visitors per day and that came out to being around 1 point something million per month when they discontinued the service over a year ago. Siter Meter, by contrast, claims we get around 500,000 visitors per day.  But that's not "unique" visitors. 

And that's okay. All we're interested in knowing is whether overall traffic is good or bad on a given day relative to other days.  Which is where Sitemeter has been giving us problems this week.  Our peek hours are between 9am and 4pm EST.  But in the past 3 days, according to SiteMeter, traffic just collapses between those hours and then picks up later in the day (if you're looking at the graph, the part of the day we haven't been to is 0, just know that hours 9 through 16 should be the peek hours). 

It's as if the system freaks out at having that many hits and shuts down or something.  Which is annoying.  We noticed that the page hits it records stays the same and what it instead says is that the average visit time on WC is 20 minutes which is absurd. It's more like 5 minutes for the average user (yes, plenty of people spend hours on the site but that's not the norm when you're talking about tens of thousands of people on in a given hour).  So during our peek hours, our hourly visitor level according to SiteMeter drops from 25,000 visitors at 8am to under 9,000 by 2pm).  That makes no sense at all.

Our first concern was that maybe WinCustomize basically crashes for most people when the site gets really busy.  That it gets overloaded and nobody is actually able to do anything and so the hit counter isn't being accessed.  But on our IRC channel ( #stardock) I asked there and no one had any problems at all. So that's not it.

Late this afternoon we took the Sitemeter counter off one of the servers to see what affect that would have.  None. Which makes us more suspicious that perhaps WC's traffic reaches a level that Sitemeter can't handle it.  I'm not aware of any sites as popular as WC that uses Site Meter. The only site I know of that's quite popular that uses it is Instapundit which isn't anywhere near the same level (very popular for a blog site of course). 

My personal theory is that maybe Site Meter gets overflow errors if the page view count exceeds 32,535.  I say that because even as traffic plummets during the day (according to the graph) the page view counter seems to max out at around 32,500. And when the peek time passes, the page views stays still very high but miraculously, the visitors per hour jumps back up (18,000 last hour and that's with the site meter button only on one server).

Anywya, I wonder if anyone else has run into this sort of thing?

Reply #1 Wednesday, January 5, 2005 9:28 PM
I use GoDaddy's Taffic Monitor. I don't know if you can use that using a different server.
Reply #2 Wednesday, January 5, 2005 11:19 PM
I use 2 different counters on my website and had them both on my site for over 5 years now. Link Link

Posted via WinCustomize Browser/Stardock Central
Reply #3 Wednesday, January 5, 2005 11:24 PM

We need a bit more than a web counter. We have that built into the page.  What we need are traffic monitors.

Reply #4 Thursday, January 6, 2005 12:08 AM
How about these?

ExtremeTracking Link

NedStat Link

Posted via WinCustomize Browser/Stardock Central
Reply #5 Thursday, January 6, 2005 7:42 AM
How about the ad right next to the "Add Comments" part, the BoldTrack, and Not sure about it, but try it. Link if it isn't there when you look for it.
If you don't like it, blame IE. Then give credit to FireFox.

Reply #6 Thursday, January 6, 2005 7:48 AM
peek or peak?

peek = look at something quickly in a furtive, trilby and overcoat, victorias secrets kind of manner

peak = top of a mountain, or the highest something has reached, or the level of my physical fitness about ten years ago.

(what? what? just trying to be pedantic...)
Reply #7 Thursday, January 6, 2005 2:11 PM

It's doing it again today:

As soon as page views exceed 32,000 in an hour the thing seems to go nuts.

Reply #8 Thursday, January 6, 2005 6:29 PM
How's the ExtremeTracking working out for you?

Posted via WinCustomize Browser/Stardock Central
Reply #9 Friday, January 7, 2005 7:41 AM
Don't know if it's relevant but I ran into several timeouts during the "peek" 9 to 4 EST this week. Thursday was the worst. I only mention it because I usually don't have those on either the new site or the old site.
Reply #10 Saturday, January 8, 2005 1:16 AM
Its too bad that the server WinCusto sits on can't provide these services. Since its going on there anyway, why not.

GoDaddy' Site Trakker does what you want Frogboy (it even give me common IP addresses), but it doesn't work on other servers. It has to be hosted on GoDaddy... so it not what you want... I guess

Keep the search alive!
Reply #11 Saturday, January 8, 2005 2:04 AM
I would think that the server would be able to count IP connections but...

On your point about the site crashing, I have noticed quite a few bugs since the redesign. I haven't kept a record of all the things but some are time out requests after supposedly being fixed (last night to be exact), slow connect times when trying to access 'my skins' page or other pages where the browser just sits there loading, uploading errors still...this is just a short list of things.
Reply #12 Saturday, January 8, 2005 1:59 PM
Why do you want to use a third party service? Why not install a tracking software on the server and get your own reliable stats? I've used Live Stats before, and it's quite powerful: OK, it's not cheap (around $1000) but like you often say yourself: you often get what you pay for.
Reply #13 Friday, January 21, 2005 5:46 AM
Hmm, why use such a service? I quite like software which imports the server access logs, and spits out a nice set of HTML pages about hits, page sizes, and so on... eg Webalizer.

(This is a linux program for apache though.. ,)
Reply #14 Friday, January 21, 2005 8:58 AM
Yeah, what those two ^^^ said. I fail to see the point in using third party services when you have your own servers and could just resort to analysing your logs. Unless, perhaps, you want to avoid the hassle of setting things up right.
Reply #15 Friday, January 21, 2005 4:03 PM
Because the logs WC keeps are gigantic. We used to use things like Webtrends but anythign that monitors the web logs is a no-go because of the sheer size.  When you get a few million page views per day, logs get into the gigabytes per day size if you watn to have any useful info in them.

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