vendredi 15 mars 2013

Insights of Active visitors on site given by Google Analytics in Real-Time

Google Analytics provides now the "active visitors on site" in realtime. For example, as shows Fig. 1, some think that there are currently 13 people who read your pages.

Fig. 2:  Number of active visitors on site
Fig. 1: Number of active visitors on site
by Google Analytics.

In reality, this is not the case. GA does not take measure in real-time. As shown in the following figure, if one identifies visitors as the fluid restraint in the cylinder, the number of visitors is the difference between the entry and exit since the beginning of your server on.

Fig.3: visitors flow

In the fact GA counts only the entry, but not exit, since it does not analyze the onquit event  of a page of the visitor who landed on your site and then leave it in 2 seconds. But for Google Analytics, the visitor remains among your "active visitors" for another 5.5 minutes, but he/she is no longer on your site.This over-estimates the attendance of your site.

At the other hand, GA assumes no reader remains more than 5.5 minutes to read one page, he is no longer active visitor even if he is digesting your content for other minutes. The visitor reassures his presence via a user trigger. That is to day, he manifests his presence by changing the page they visit in the same domain, or by reloading the page, or by sending a query via a form on the same page, his quality of active visitor will be renewed at that time. To put it simply, customers enter the hypermarket Walmart to stay for only 5.5 minutes, they all come out at the end of this period, very rough assumption. This underestimates traffic to your site.

In addition, before Google Analytics makes the consideration of real-time, the site has already proposed  this kind of visitor statistics in "real time", cf. Fig. 2.

The author has taken the 2 screenshots at the same time, GA and should give the same number of visitors. But GA gives only 13 visitors, at the meantime, tells me 26 visitors in real time. We find that gives more visitors than Google Analytics. Why the difference?

To highlight this mystery, the author has measured the definition of "real time" of the two services, both of them keep their secrets, without revealing their definition of "real time". This experiment requires a physical stopwatch as shown at the left hand.

So I visit some page that interests nobody in the World, for example

I immediately start my stopwatch. I assure that nobody visits this page right now. Watch the page of my Google Analytics account, the URL of the page /geo/spain/ figures in the list "Top Active Pages:" about 20 seconds after my click on the link. There is only one active visitor on this page, which is obviously myself:

Expected time of disappearance of the URL from the list of active visitors of this page, the timer is stopped. We read about 5'50 ". Should be repeated several times the same manipulation to get a more reliable result.

Active Visitors on site by Google Analytics: 5.5 Min

Indeed, the "Visitors active on the site" of Google Analytics is actually the accumulated number of visitors who accessed at least once your site for a period of time of 5.5 minutes, ie, 5 minutes and 30 seconds without taking into account those who have already left your site during this period.

Active Visitors on site by 9 Min

You do the same experience with You can easily conclude that the real-time of has a duration of 9 minutes, which is longer, therefore gives a more optimistic number of visitors for webmasters, the factor is 1.64 (= 9 minutes/5.5 minutes).

Other Differences between and Google Analytics

The different beginning time of counting is also a cause of the difference between the two statistics. Moreover, as can be embedded in different domains with the same account code, so cumulates visitors of different sites, Google Analytics seems discriminate domains one from another, this may also cause discrepancy in number of active visitors in realtime.


The "active visitors" on the site is actually the accumulation of visitors accessing your site during a predefined time period. Google Analytics requires 5.5 minutes, while defines 9 minutes.

If we apply the strict notion of immediacy for "real time", there will always be 0 zero active visitors on any website that, as the duration of real time is 0 seconds, not rejoicing , right? The number of active visitors are directly proportional to the length of time measurement voluntarily chosen by the authors of the statistics here Googlers or .

Numerically gives a number of active visitors on site greater than that given by Google Analytics. We can give an estimate approximately as follows:

[Nomber of Active Visitors on site by] /  [Nomber of Active Visitors on site by Google Analytics] = 1.64

As bonus of this article, to know the number of visitors per day, one can roughly estimate by:

[Number of visitors per day] = [value of Right Now measured by GA] * 261.8

As in one day we have 24*60 minutes, divided by 5.5, it gives the factor 261.8. For the site in question with a 13 active visitors as "Right now",  we would expect 261.8*13 = 3403 visitors this day.

What do you see?

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