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I was charged with getting the number of times a specific PDF has been clicked on our site for the past two years. GA registered something like 30 downloads, which at first I found impossible to believe but it is an obscure academic report so I said OK. Person connected to the report couldn't believe it, she said that she has seen sites where this PDF had 8,000 or so downloads over same period. Well Webtrends for our site showed that over 16,000 downloads to that one URL during that same period and 8,000 unique visits.

Now I know that server log statistics are practically useless and that when a user clicks on a PDF, the log file can register a bunch of requests to the server but still, this discrepancy is astounding. Even after I filtered out 206 HTTP status codes and as many bots as I could, I still had about 8,000 downloads with about 6,000 visits.

We do use tracking codes, but I am using unique page views for this in GA. Tracking codes actually bring up even fewer downloads. Am I right in concluding that a tracking code won't track a PDF linked directly from a search engine, either Google or any other - because obviously our tracking code isn't on any of their pages. Much of our content comes from Google searches. I cannot find keywords or phrases that would reasonably correspond to this PDF in analytics for search terms either.

So now I have no idea what to tell this woman. I tend to trust GA WRT pdf downloads. I also find it hard to believe there were only 30 downloads in two years - even an obscure academic PDF. I need to figure this out. Any suggestions?

Any advice is much, much, appreciated.

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What version of WebTrends are you using? What method are you using to track downloads of the PDF in GA and WebTrends? Is it a js virtual page view that's fired when a visitor clicks the download link? –  Ciaran Aug 4 '11 at 4:40
    
We don't use virtual page views because I've been told that would increase page view count. We use tracking codes, but tracking codes won't count people who click on the link from a Google search or any link not on our site. So I am using page views and unique page views. As for WebTrends, we are using 8.5 and using Downloaded files. –  FatGUyFromQueens Aug 4 '11 at 14:14

1 Answer 1

Am I right in concluding that a tracking code won't track a PDF linked directly from a search engine, either Google or any other - because obviously our tracking code isn't on any of their pages.

Yes.

OK, I guess you want a bit more detail. I presume by tracking code you mean the example given in this help article

<a href="http://www.example.com/files/map.pdf" onClick="javascript: pageTracker._trackPageview('/downloads/map'); ">

That's going to only track if people click on the link on your page. However all is not lost. Even if the stats from the logs are only half right it tells you that people are finding your PDF from search engines and not visiting your site, which may be a useful fact.

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Thanks paulmorris, but GA would be able to tell that as well by going to page views and unique page views, and those measure in the double digits for two years worth. Right now my hypothesis is that the person from the partner organization is getting stats from her site via log files and the person giving it to her is just giving her raw stats, not discounting 206 status codes and spiders and internal people. But also I think my GA setup might be off, because 30 downloads seems unreasonable as well, so off the check that. –  FatGUyFromQueens Aug 4 '11 at 14:17
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I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "GA would be able to tell that as well by going to page views and unique page views". If someone views a page with a PDF on it then that's tracked as a page view. If someone downloads a PDF then Google can't track that as PDFs don't run javascript. –  paulmorriss Aug 4 '11 at 14:27
    
Yes of course you are right, now I feel foolish! –  FatGUyFromQueens Aug 4 '11 at 15:34

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