When signing up, you may have noticed that our WordPress Optimized Hosting plans have an "Estimated Monthly Visits." Now you may ask yourself, how do we calculate these monthly visits? The short technical answer is we count the number of unique IPs that we find in the web server's logs every 24 hour period, then add those up to a monthly total. However, that may not seem right to you because you'll probably see fewer visits on Google Analytics and more visits on Cloudflare Analytics. With these multiple sources of information, it can get confusing as to what's right and wrong regarding your traffic numbers.
What Is a Visit?
When someone or something opens your website from any device (laptop, phone, tablet, server, desktop, etc.) anywhere in the world, that counts as a visit. From the web server's perspective, this visit used the same amount of resources, whether a human or bot.
Why Does My Plan Use Visits as a Limitation?
Your website is running on a server. The server has both hardware and software-based limitations. You can only have so many visitors access a website at a given time before the server reaches these limits and starts to slow down.
Understanding BigScoots Reporting
Inside your WPO dashboard, you've probably seen something that looks similar to this:
These are your visit metrics, as determined by the web server logs. Every day, we total the unique sessions that hit your server and consume resources. We count unique sessions per day, and then the days are totaled for the month to determine your monthly visits. These numbers are straightforward; if a bot or human reached your server in a 24 hour period, then it counts as a visit. If they revisit your website after another 24 hours, then it counts again as another visit.
The numbers you see in the WPO dashboard are what our staff will use when gauging your traffic numbers, server performance, and determining the proper plan for your website(s). They will be different from what you are used to seeing with Google or Cloudflare, and I explain why below.
Understanding Google Analytics
The most preferred analytical tool around, Google Analytics, is utilized by most website owners to understand their website traffic and other data. In almost all instances, Google Analytics will display significantly fewer visitors on your website than anything we here at BigScoots will show you. Why is this the case? Google is more interested in visitors from a marketing perspective, and robots, spammers, and malicious parties are not attractive. The correct terminology that Google prefers to use is "Known bot-traffic exclusion."
Cloudflare states that over 40% of all internet traffic consists of bots. So as you can imagine, if Google is not counting a potential 40% of visits, you will see differences.
Understanding Cloudflare Web Analytics
Cloudflare's analytics system counts any DNS record proxied by Cloudflare (orange clouded). They don't care if the visitor is a bot or human.
One of the significant reasons Cloudflare can sometimes appear to be 2x or 3x greater in number is to count the visit whether or not the content was fully loaded. To quote Cloudflare directly: "when another site or service like a bot, plugin, or API is consuming partial content from your site (but not loading a full page), this counts as a unique visitor in Cloudflare" (Source). This approach to counting the partial requests can bump up your traffic numbers, especially if you use the WordPress API, XML-RPC, RSS, etc.
Much like BigScoots, Cloudflare is concerned about resource usage and bandwidth. They need to take into account all of these metrics to improve the performance of your website and the rest of their network. Cloudflare will give you a good overview of all the traffic hitting your website, but it's best not to rely on it for marketing purposes.
Another item thrown into the mix of all this is Advertisement Blockers. Whether browser or DNS-based, they'll still do things like block the Google Analytics JS script. If a good portion of your visitors is using an Ad Blocker, you'll see decreased traffic with services such as Google Analytics. But you will still see the visits in Cloudflare and BigScoot's reporting.
We've discussed a visit, why it matters and gone over the intricacies between Cloudflare, BigScoots, and Google. Generally, it's a good idea to review all of these analytics and statistics because they all display valuable data in their own right. There is no one source of truth, or one size fits all solution. Please understand that we need some metrics to hold you accountable, and the traffic that reaches your server at BigScoots, as seen in the WPO Dashboard, will determine your monthly plan.