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We are advertising through a display ad network, and found that the traffic they claimed to be sending to our website wasn't showing up through Google Analytics.

As an experiment, we set up a test website and advertised it. During the test they have (so far) claimed to send 51 clicks, and the apache logs back this up.

However, Google Analytics only registers 21 hits on the page.

Is this kind of discrepancy normal? What might explain it?

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1 Answer 1

Web crawlers that only fetch the page but not supporting files such as images and Javascript won't appear in Google Analytics.

Users with Javascript turned off won't appear in Google Analytics.

Browser extensions like ad-block can be configured to block Google Analytics scripts. However if these visitors are visiting by clicking on advertising, this option doesn't seem too plausible.

Plugins like "Request Policy" and "ScriptSafe" prevent websites from using 3rd party scripts unless they are whitelisted. These types of plugins would also be likely to block analytics. Again, users clicking on advertising probably don't have these plugins.

I would start to question how reputable this advertising network is. It sounds like they may have bots clicking on their ads. As a next step, I would look at the "visitors" on your test site and see if the logs show them fetching images, css, and javascript from the test site itself. If they didn't that is a telltale sign of a bot.

If you did find that the phantom visitors did fetch images and such, you could run another test. You could have your test site run some javascript of your own and fetch the contents via AJAX. That type of javascript interaction is harder to fake with a bot than downloading images and css.

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