Between analytics systems, it is expected there will be some discrepancy in the traffic data collected by each unique platform. When the discrepancy falls outside of expected ranges, say above 15% variance between each tool, this can cause confusion for users who receive traffic reports from different platforms; for example, Chartbeat and Google Analytics or Adobe. This article is intended to help teams experiencing traffic data discrepancies between Chartbeat and other measurement platforms to effectively troubleshoot these discrepancies, understand the underlying causes, and potentially reconcile the differences.
Understand how Chartbeat measures compared to your other Analytics tool
Let's begin with what constitutes a pageview and a unique (or "unique visitor") in Chartbeat...
Pageview: An instance of a page being loaded (or reloaded) in a browser or application with Chartbeat tracking implemented. Note that a single user can record multiple pageviews in the same browsing session; if a user navigates to a different page and then returns to the original page, a second pageview is recorded as well.
Unique: Unique users is a metric defined as the total number of users that have visited a page, group of pages, or site. Technically, it's the count of all unique cookie ids over a certain period of time.
There are technical limitations and dependencies for each of these metrics, see the end of this article.
Step-by-Step Troubleshooting Guide
The team(s) responsible for implementing the various analytics tools at your organization are best suited to determine the cause for a particular discrepancy between your measurement systems, so we ask that you begin by following the below steps with those individuals at your org closest to your Chartbeat and Google/Adobe tracking code.
STEP 1: Ensure you are pulling the correct data from Chartbeat
At this point, you've already accessed a pageviews or uniques report in Chartbeat and identified a significant inconsistency with a corresponding report from your other analytics platform. When pulling corresponding reports from separate platforms, it's important to carefully consider all of the factors which impact the returned data. For example, getting the query start & end date right and ensuring that each tool is pulling data for the same time zone is an essential first step.
STEP 2: Review our 'common causes for discrepancies between analytics systems' list below with the team(s) responsible for implementing both measurement platforms
CAUSE: Chartbeat and Adobe/Google Analytics are implemented across unique platforms. SOLUTION: Check to ensure that both systems are measuring the same platforms. If not, adjust your tracking strategy or change the data pull to ensure alignment across systems.
- Chartbeat has distinct integrations available for standard websites (including webview-based apps), single page web apps, AMP pages, Facebook's Instant Articles, native app tracking for Android and iOS apps, and other sources of reader engagement which may not be tracked by other analytics systems (GA, Adobe).
- It’s a relatively common source of pageview discrepancies if the report you’re pulling in Chartbeat does not match the other system you are using because there’s a difference in the specific inventory being measured. This is one of the first items to check whenever you see a discrepancy.
CAUSE: Google/Adobe is implemented by your analytics team to track custom visitor click events like embedded photo gallery click-through. SOLUTION: Understand the differences between event-based pageview tracking and Chartbeat tracking.
- By default, our system records a pageview the first time our tracking script is called on a page, once per unique page session. If your site makes use of dynamic page load with single page app architecture or infinite scroll, it's best practice to use our virtualPage implementation to ensure that we capture unique pageviews each time a visitor loads a new article page on your site without full DOM refresh. Each time the vitualPage function is called, we count another pageview. If virtualPage is not implemented on your site, we will not track pageviews for dynamically loaded article content.
- GA and Adobe are event based trackers which allow you to register pageviews on custom visitor events like clicking through embedded photo galleries. This type of action will not be counted toward pageviews in Chartbeat by default.
CAUSE: Chartbeat and Google/Adobe tracking scripts do not load at the same time upon a visitor's initial page load for your site. SOLUTION: Work with the team responsible for implementing your analytics tools to understand and reconcile differences between the integrations of each system (Chartbeat vs Google Analytics or Adobe tracking tags).
- Best practice is to ensure that your tracking scripts load simultaneously. For web tracking, your website may utilize our old code which loads our tracking script (chartbeat.js or chartbeat_video.js) on window.onload. Our new recommended web tracking code loads the tracking script asynchronously in the header, which is in line with Google Analytics' default web tracking implementation instructions.
- We recommend adjusting your GA/Adobe/Chartbeat tag implementations to ensure these tracking scripts load at the same time. For pages where our tracking script still loads on window.onload, this can cause our system to miss pageviews that are very brief, ending prior to page load completion and thereby evading our tracking. Ensuring that our script loads in parity with your Adobe/GA tracking script will prevent this resulting discrepancy.
STEP 3: Adjust your comparison reports and/or Chartbeat code implementation based on your findings from STEP 2 to reconcile the differences between your analytics platforms
If your team finds that...
(A) ...Chartbeat and Adobe/GA are implemented across unique platforms, consider adjusting your implementations to track the same platforms.
(B) ...Adobe/GA are implemented to register additional pageviews outside of standard page load, adjust the report in your other analytics program to correspond with Chartbeat pageviews.
(C) ...Chartbeat and Adobe/GA scripts do not load at the same time, consider adjusting your implementations to ensure parity between your tracking script timing in relation to page load on your site.
Pageviews and Uniques metric specifications
As our system relies on device/browser specific cookies to identify unique visitors, we are unable to track a consistent unique visitor across:
- multiple browsers
- unique distribution channels (AMP, Facebook IA, native app, standard web)
- unique subdomains on your website
This means that a single individual who views your content across multiple browsers, distribution channels, or subdomains of your website will be registered as multiple uniques in Chartbeat.
Pageviews will only be tracked in Chartbeat upon initial load of our tracking script (chartbeat.js or chartbeat_video.js) for a visitor on a given page, OR when our virtualPage function is called to register a dynamic page load event in your single page app.
Both metrics are inherently reliant on the quality of your Chartbeat tracking code implementation to capture data for your complete audience.