Google Analytics VS Awstats or Webalizer

Who will be the winner?

First things first

Analytics is the study and analysis of data that has been collected. In the case of web analytics that is easily achieved because of the extensive amount of data that is written to log files or sent to a third party server (in the case of Google Analytics) each time the server takes any relevant actions.

Technological Approaches

There are two main technological approaches to collecting web analytics data. The first method is log file analysis used by AwStats or Webalizer. These programs read the log files written by the web servers to analyse patterns of behaviour found in the log files and produce reports and graphs to assist you. The second method, uses JavaScript on each page to notify a third-party server (in the case of Google Analytics) when a page has been rendered by a web browser. The major differences between the two solutions is due to two main factors.

Log File Analysis

If a returning visitor has file caching enabled on their web browser and usually that is the case, the request for the file they have already viewed may not be sent by the browser to the web server, instead they will view a local copy, therefor AwStats or Webalizer will not detect multiple visits by some users. Also lets say there are four computers all on an internal network if they all visit your site they will all be seen as visits from the same ip address and therefore the same user by AwStats or Webalizer.

Javascript on Each Page
Relies on the clients (visitors) browser voluntarily providing the analytical information requested. However some browsers disable some data collection for a variety of reasons including security. Also some browsers have Javascript disabled all together. However each computer that has Javascript enabled is seen as a unique visitor despite the fact that there could be multiple users on one computer. This method also relies on each and every page that you want to collect analytical information for having the javascript code with the Google Analytics key embedded in it in the correct place on your page.

Both will also vary because the point of data collection is different for Google Analytics the data is collected on the visitor’s browser.

We know how many of those there are out there with their countless configuration, version, platform and addon possibilities. For the others the data is collected in one single place, your web server. In fact, all three may even collect daily data in different time zones so ‘days’ begin and end at different times. If you host your site in a different time zone to the one you live in. Your Google Account will most likely be in your local time zone, and your server based reports will be based on the server’s time zone. These differences are partly responsible for the variations in the Analytics produced by the technologies.


The main advantages of log file analysis is that the data is already logged by your web server and not sent to a third party. Every transaction is recorded by the web server regardless of the visitors browser except where the cache is used. Also this data is directly on your server in a standard format so you don’t rely on a third party server to collect anything. Another advantage is that log files provide information about visits from search engines spiders and bots as well as failed requests which is very important if you want to optimize your website and fix thing like broken links or other errors that occur. Have a look at an example of the reports produced by Awstats and Webalizer.

The main advantages of page tagging is that the javascript is called every time the page is loaded if the javascript code with the Google Analytics key is embedded on the page and javascript is running on the browser. Fortunately there are plugins to help you with that process.

So that you can track precisely your visitors behaviours even if they are loading the web pages locally from their cache. Javascript can also report on events which do not involve a request to the web server for example flash action script. Page tagging is satisfactory if you run ebusiness web sites, or if you need to track your visitors behaviour.

What is the best option?

That depends on what you are looking to get from your Analytics. If you are a looking for more detailed information about the server, the network, and bandwidth usage, then you should look at AWStats or Webalizer.

However, if you are more focussed on the business side of your website, number of visitors, visitor behaviour and how to grow your website traffic, Google Analytics gives you much better information regarding the demographics, behaviour and traffic sources of your visitors.

However make no mistake neither of them is perfect, they are both flawed because they do not provide a complete solution. Having said that there is no reason why you cant have your cake and eat it too by use them all.

Compare the data collected in each of the technologies, look at where they produce simular data and where they don’t. Also figure out why they are different what the variations are ant you will have another set os data.


In my experience most information on the web today about Analytics comes down strongly on one side or the other AwStats, Webalizer or Google Analytics. I on the other hand strongly advocate both. Get to know each of them and understand their differences. By using all of them and comparing the difference in their results you will, over time see a whole new set of information that would otherwise be lost to you.