Google, why do you make my brain hurt?
April 25, 2012 6:20 PM   Subscribe

How does real time google analytics measure the "active visitors on site"? Please help me, because apparently I fail at math.

I love google analytics, and the real-time data thing they have going on now. However, it doesn't give me any historical data on it's main real-time calculation -- "active visitors on site". I'm trying to figure out how to calculate it using the data is does give me.

However, I can't figure out how they come up with their numbers. For example, during a previous time period google was telling me I had around 2500 active users on my site. Yay me.

But matter how I look at it, I can't make the other stats re-create this number for me. For example. For that same time period, over that hour I had about 25,000 visits, 50,000 page views, and an average time on site of just over 1 minute.

So by my calculation, that means I have around (25000/60 = 416) visitors per minute, and since they all stick around for about a minute, this means on average I should have about 416 people online at any one time then? 416 is a lot different that 2500!

I don't need things to match up exactly as I realize the fact that the smallest chunk of time google analytics will give me is numbers over an hour, but I really would like to get into the right ballbark. 400 is not the same ballpark as 2500.

Am I doing something wrong, or is this yet another super secret google formula they are using? Is there some basic understanding of how these numbers work that I'm missing? I really hope I'm the one thats screwing up here, because then maye I can fix it and figure out how many people were online at any one time yesterday!
posted by cgg to Technology (2 answers total)
They don't all stick around for a minute, most of them stick around for 3 seconds, don't like whatever they see (they got there from an only partially relevant search result on google or something) and leave, while a few people stay around for minutes or hours. You average a whole bunch of "5 second" visits with a. Few "15 minute" visits, and you get an average visit of one minute.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:35 PM on April 25, 2012

The post on the Google Analytics blog entitled What’s happening on your site right now? implies that you should be able to get historical statistics via one of the built-in reports. However, it's possible that the number shown on the dashboard is Just Plain Wrong™.

Either way there's a helluva lot of good info on that blog.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:41 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

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