An in-depth look at the most common causes of click and stats discrepancies
Last updated January 10th, 2017
We've gone to great lengths to ensure that ClickMagick is as accurate as is technically possible, and based on our 15+ years of experience online, and experience with other tracking systems, we believe nothing is more accurate than ClickMagick ...
But there are so many "moving parts" and so many things that can go wrong when it comes to tracking clicks that the stats from two different systems are rarely going to match up exactly.
Even if two users with the same tracking platform send clicks to each other, as you're about to see, there are a few common reasons why the stats may not match up exactly on both sides.
Small discrepancies of just a few clicks here and there should be considered normal, while larger discrepancies almost always point to an obvious problem somewhere.
Here are the main causes of stats discrepancies, along with a video overview as well ...
Reason #1: You're looking at different time periods, often due to time zone differences.
To accurately compare two different sets of stats, you first have to make sure that you're looking at the exact same time period on both sides. Comparing apples to apples as they say.
This issue shows up all the time with "solo ad" buyers and sellers. One person might be in Australia and the other in the US, and they're trying to figure out why their stats for "today" don't match up - not realizing that their respective "todays" are more than 12 hours apart.
To help make things easier for both ClickMagick users and all of the people our users work with, ClickMagick allows you to display any Public Stats page in any time zone, which allows everyone to "get on the same page" and compare stats if necessary.
Reason #2: Clicks from other unexpected (and often unknown) sources.
We see it all the time ...
"I just set up a brand new tracking link and sent 1,000 clicks to it, but my stats show 1,108 clicks. I haven't used this tracking link anywhere else, so how is this possible!?"
It's actually possible, and likely, for lots of reasons including:
If nothing else, please understand that the second you paste a link anywhere on the web it starts getting picked up by "bots" and other automated systems.
Even just a single link monitoring system that's monitoring your link could be sending one request per hour which will generate 24 extra "clicks" per day to your tracking link.
Reason #3: Filtered Clicks are not included in your Total Clicks and Unique Clicks.
By default, ClickMagick detects clicks from search engine spiders, anti-virus programs, ad networks, and other automated processes that send clicks to your links but aren't real clicks from real users.
To keep your conversion rates and other stats as accurate as possible, these automated "clicks" are not added to your TC (Total Clicks) and UC (Unique Clicks) columns if you have filtering turned on.
Instead, these clicks are added to the FC (Filtered Clicks) column of the link or rotator, and you can always view these by clicking on the number in the FC column.
Keep in mind that while the click counts are filtered from the TC and UC counts, the clicks themselves are not filtered in any way and are processed like any other click sent to your link or rotator URLs.
(If you're selling solo ads and don't want these automated clicks being sent to your subscribers, you'll want to "block" these clicks in your rotator's Advanced Settings.)
Because filtered clicks are not added to the TC column, this means that the TC column does NOT show the total number of clicks that the link or rotator received - it shows the total number of "real" clicks received while the FC column shows the number of "filtered" or "fake" clicks received.
So, if you're receiving clicks and the number they say they sent you doesn't match the number in your TC column, it's likely that some of their clicks were detected as automated clicks, filtered from your main stats, and added to your FC column instead.
If you're sending clicks, remember that not only are you sending the clicks totaled in the TC column, you are also sending the clicks in the FC column.
Unfortunately, many other tracking systems don't do a great job of detecting automated clicks and count them as real clicks, which can lead to some serious discrepancies.
This also leads to the next reason ...
Reason #4: Different click filtering or blocking settings.
ClickMagick detects 6 different types of potentially "bad clicks" that you can filter in the Advanced Settings of your links and rotators, and this can be a big cause of discrepancies between two ClickMagick users if these settings are different.
For example, imagine that you're sending traffic to someone and on their end they're filtering "Abusers" in their Advanced Settings, but you're not ...
When an "Abuser" click hits your account it'll be treated normally and included in your unique click count. But on their end the click will be detected as an "Abuser" and added to their FC stat instead.
This will cause a "discrepancy" between the number of unique clicks sent and received.
To track down discrepancies between two ClickMagick users, you need to know the filter settings for both users. If you're a solo ad seller, ask your buyer for the Public Stats page of their tracking link. This page will show you all of their filtered and blocked clicks so you can see exactly what's going on.
Of course, other tracking systems offer varying types of click filtering and blocking as well, which is almost always going to cause some type of "discrepancy" due to the different methods of filtering.
Reason #5: Someone has reset a tracking link or rotator.
When people reset tracking links and rotators - which is generally not recommended - you can run into all sorts of problems and discrepancies when it comes to unique clicks vs. non-unique clicks.
Just because one tracking link or tracking system considers a click unique, that doesn't mean it's always going to be unique on the other end as that user could have already visited the other link.
This is actually a big problem in the "solo ad" world because essentially what you have is a bunch of people passing around a lot of the same clicks from the same users.
If you're involved in this, you should actually expect this type of discrepancy unless you ensure that you only send traffic to brand new tracking links that have never received traffic before.
An example should help here ...
Say you buy a lot of "solo ads", and you sometimes buy clicks from the same vendor over and over.
Imagine a vendor sends you 500 clicks, then you reset the link stats so you can track the next buy separately, and then they send you another 500 clicks ...
What's going to happen is that most likely you're going to get some repeat clicks from the first batch of 500, and the system is going to recognize these as repeat clicks.
If there are say 20 repeat clicks, the seller is going to claim they sent you 500 additional clicks but ClickMagick is going to report only 480 new and unique clicks.
This "discrepancy" can lead to a lot of confusion ...
... and since the original batch of clicks are deleted when you reset the link you won't be able to easily see which users/IPs are repeat clicks, or have a way to easily prove to the seller that you received 20 repeat clicks.
Reason #6: Different methods of determining if a click is "unique" or not.
On a related note, discrepancies can occur when some systems use inaccurate or inferior methods of determining if a click is unique or not - which unfortunately many "low end" trackers do.
Here's part of a click log we researched from another tracker that only looks at IP addresses ...
In this case it counted 4 clicks from the same user in under 2 minutes as all being "unique" - simply because they are behind a proxy and their IP address changed inbetween requests.
Most mobile carriers provide Internet access via proxies, and so do lots of other ISPs like Google Fiber, etc. so this is automatically a huge problem for any tracking system or "script" that only tracks people based on the IP address of their requests.
On the other hand, ClickMagick and other "premium" trackers use a combination of both IP and cookie tracking, along with other proprietary methods to ensure accurate tracking.
Reason #7: Scammers doing shady stuff.
Let's face it, there are a lot of scammers out there. And when it comes to generating traffic, especially in the "solo ad" world, some people will stop at nothing to generate more "clicks" to sell.
One example that can cause serious stats discrepancies between solo ad buyers and sellers, is when sellers generate additional worthless clicks - usually via hidden "iframes" - just to make more money.
Basically, based on what we've seen, an unscrupulous traffic seller will set up a page with multiple hidden "iframes" that all point to the same traffic rotator.
When an end-user lands on the page, multiple "clicks" will be generated all at the same time from the user's browser to the same rotator - and no rotator provider we've tested tracks these types of simultaneous clicks properly 100% of the time.
Instead, when this happens you'll often see abnormal raw vs. unique click handling and processing.
Most rotator providers probably aren't even aware of this issue, but here at ClickMagick we don't support this type of thing so we've made a conscious decision to NOT "upgrade" our rotator systems to handle this - since that would only make it easier for the scammers to do what they do.
Reason #8: Bots, bots and more bots!
This can be a huge problem and cause all sorts of discrepancies between different tracking systems with certain types of traffic - especially "solo ad" clicks.
"Bots" can be both innocent (like a link monitoring or email security bot) or malicious (like a bot created to generate fake clicks), but either way they can wreak havoc on stats.
The big problem is that many bots don't follow redirects, or they don't always follow ALL redirects (or meta refreshes) all the time ...
... and this is a disaster if you're buying and/or selling clicks, like "solo ads" for example.
Generally what happens is a bot will hit the tracking link of the sender, but then it doesn't follow the redirect to the buyer's tracking link and the buyer never gets the click.
This causes the bot click to be recorded in the seller's stats, but it doesn't show up in the buyer's stats - which leaves both sides scratching their heads and blaming the other.
Reason #9: Technical problems with a website or tracking "script".
Many people, especially in the "Internet marketing" and "solo ad" worlds, use tracking scripts hosted on extremely slow, low-end shared hosting accounts.
This is a big problem because users will often click away to somewhere else if the final destination URL doesn't respond fast enough due to a slow or overloaded shared server ...
... and these types of setups can't handle the high volumes of traffic that lots of users generate.
Reason #10: The Safari browser - especially on mobile.
We've noticed that the Safari web browser, especially older versions and/or on mobile devices, doesn't always follow large numbers of redirects properly for some reason ...
So if you have a link that redirects 15 times - which is more common than you'd imagine - it may not always be tracked properly in all browsers, regardless of the tracking system.
With the default settings, Safari also rejects 3rd-party cookies which can cause tracking issues in certain cases and/or for tracking systems that rely exclusively on 3rd-party cookies for tracking.
Reason #11: The Opera Mini Mobile Browser.
The Opera Mini mobile browser has a feature called "Opera Turbo" that, in their own words, interferes with the user's connections. Here's how they explain it:
"When you enable Opera Turbo, the pages you request are passed through one of Opera's data-saving servers. The server removes any extraneous page elements, shaves off image pixels you won't miss, diagnoses ... and compresses downloads. This smart, cloud-based technology does all this before sending the page to your device."
In short, this "feature" seriously messes with requests and can cause all sorts of things to break including unique vs. non-unique tracking, conversion and pixel tracking, and who knows what else.
Reason #12: Random Internet, browser and computer problems.
You might have the best computer and a blazing fast Internet connection, but most people don't.
Clicks get "lost" for all sorts of other reasons like users in rural areas with bad Internet connections that randomly stop working, people using old computers that like to crash a lot, random browser glitches and crashes, and a whole lot more.
For example, if someone has a really slow Internet connection they might click a tracking link but then quickly click another link when the first link doesn't respond fast enough for their liking.
This can often lead to a situation where the first click is logged by the initial tracking link, but it's not redirected to wherever that link points to because the end-user clicked another link before the initial tracking link had a chance to redirect.
You won't always know when these types of things happen, but it happens more than you'd think.
... so if you understand everything on this page you'll be better informed than most of the people you interact with, and you'll be well-prepared to deal with any stats discrepancies that come your way.
I hope this has been at least a little helpful, and I strongly recommend that you bookmark this page so you can refer back to it later and also so you can pass it on to others who might learn from it.
And if you have any comments or helpful information related to this topic that we can add to this page, please don't hesitate to email me directly. I'm patrick at clickmagick dot com.
Patrick Kelly & the ClickMagick Crew
"Set to be the standard for tracking links in this industry."
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