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I have Google Analytics (GA) tracking set up for a number of websites, many I help friends with, did as consulting in the past, etc, and the one for the company I am working with now.

In this case, GA is reporting only about 5% of users using IE for my current site, where others are seeing around 40%.

The site works OK in IE, but it hasn't been our focus, since it's new and we're trying to do HTML 5 except where it really breaks things badly.

I could understand why a visitor might leave the site -- some fancier navigation and forms are kind of lame with IE8 or less (fine with IE9). But I am looking at pure visits.

I looked only at new visits -- people who have never seen the site before, and still a very small percentage of IE. I segmented out for just desktop users. I removed one large source of ad traffic. But all the numbers show the same thing -- low (5%) and falling IE usage over time. The site is public and useful for normal people, not geeks. We get a significant volume -- more than several thousand visits a day. And we have confirmed generally that GA is tracking usage approximately correctly by comparing to other tracking tools.

I am mystified. Any theories welcomed!

Tom

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Nov 3 '11 at 15:13

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Have you tried dropping in another analytics package to see if the proportions roughly match? Just some freebie like SiteMeter or whatever. You're basically saying "this data might be bad" but there's nothing to actually base that on or compare it to, so the best you're going to get is speculation. The percentages for your other sites are interesting, but not inherently related. –  Su' Nov 3 '11 at 15:27
    
You said it's a general purpose public website. I'm assuming your distribution of visitors by country is fairly similar to the other sites you track? (Not likely, but just to throw out a suggestion as some countries have different popular browsers than others) Also, are you looking only at organic search visits and not direct or referrals? –  joshuahedlund Nov 3 '11 at 19:07
    
In addition to what @joshua said, are your visitors typically younger than average? I've noticed that on sites with audiences of teens/students IE usage is lower (though still around 20-25%). –  DisgruntledGoat Nov 4 '11 at 1:57
    
@joshua and disgruntled -- thanks. The one large source of ad traffic I mentioned was StumbleUpon, who provided one possible cause of IE issues (see below). –  Tom Harrison Jr Nov 4 '11 at 16:37
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4 Answers 4

Honestly, there are a few general possibilities here:

  1. IE does not work on your site. It works so badly, that they fail to even load Google Analytics on your site properly -- or, possibly, it loads very slowly, and you get a lot of early aborts. You should probably test this.

  2. People who use IE are, in fact, not visiting your site. IE is seeing decreasing usage even among non-geek crowds, so this is a possibility. It's quite possible that even if your site is useful for non-geeks, it's still preferred by those who have friends who make them change browsers. You may have found a fascinating correlation between subject area and browser usage, in other words.

  3. People who use IE are not seeing your site. Whatever drives traffic to your site isn't seeing a lot of IE users.

Without knowing what your site is, it's difficult to give a more specific answer.

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Thanks, AHelps. I have considered the possibility that something about IE and Google Analytics are flaky (it cannot just be "doesn't work", as we are seeing some traffic from IE). As to your second and third possibilities, I just cannot see any reason why fewer people would use IE (the site is very oriented towards non-technical users.) I would be thrilled if we have found a way to attract non-IE users, but I fear this is not likely :-) Thanks. –  Tom Harrison Jr Nov 3 '11 at 14:21
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I believe the primary cause was an issue with our ads from StumbleUpon. While this doesn't explain everything (since we had low percentage usage before), it seems a likely cause, since a lot of our traffic is from them.

One of our fine engineers found this link, which claims that IE traffic from StumbleUpon is very, very low. http://insights.chitika.com/2011/stumbleupon-com-where-internet-explorer-goes-to-die/

And one of the excellent folks at StumbleUpon shared this document which explains why. http://www.stumbleupon.com/pd-help/track-discrepancies/ Due to StumbleUpon's implementation, third party cookies are passed around, and IE's default setting for 3rd party cookies blocks this. We can fix that by implementing special privacy policy server settings.

Hopefully this helps others avoid excessive head-scratching.

As always, IE is just a great joy, and opportunity to learn new and wonderful things. ;-)

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Have you tried your sites loading in IE 6 ? Most IE users (especially in China) are using IE 6 / IE6-core browsers. I think IE6 has no support on HTML5, therefore they left the site immediately ( or even the browser crashed :P ).

p.s. why do you care about IE user visits?

UPDATE : Like your attitude to treat customers well. If you doubt the results of GA, try installing another analytic framework to verify.

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GA breaks down visits by browser version; of those using IE, GA says 8% use versions other than IE8 and IE9. The site works great in IE9, passably in IE8. And why do I care about IE user visits? Because recent reports suggest about half of all visits are from IE. We're a business and like to treat customers well :-) –  Tom Harrison Jr Nov 3 '11 at 14:31
    
@TomHarrison: edited the answer based on your comments . –  Raptor Nov 3 '11 at 15:05
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Use IETester to view your website in different versions of Internet Explorer. Verify that they all load properly. If they don't, maybe that's what's hurting stats from some of those versions. If they do, and you really want to dig into this, visit some unique pages for each one (maybe with a made up parameter or something) and check back later in GA to see which of those pages recorded hits.

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Thanks for the lead on IETester. We did have minor problems with some IE versions (which are all fixed). I think I have found the answer, maybe (below). –  Tom Harrison Jr Nov 4 '11 at 16:34
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