Wilson Liu

Unique Visitor Statistics on Akamai

Blog Post created by Wilson Liu Employee on Feb 6, 2015


Background


Some customers want to frequently check their Unique Visitor trends and statistics on their Akamaized websites, so as to monitor the effectiveness of market campaigns and technologies adopted.  The Luna Control Portal has a very handy report on this, pretty sufficient for most use cases.  However there are cases where customers have different understandings and/or practices regarding the statistics, especially when they want to combine Akamai report with their own statistics about un-akamaized websites.  This post introduces one of the variations of such requirements and how we can achieve a convenient and easy view on top of our Lunar Control Portal.



Akamai Default Report


By default, unique visitors are defined as the number of unique combinations of client IP addresses plus User Agent (or player ID for streaming). There is no concept of a timeout. Note that IP addresses are tracked per hour, so two hits from the same IP at 1:59:59 and at 2:00:01 would result in separate IP addresses in separate hours.

Important Notes:

  • The number of visitors displayed does not accurately represent the number of actual people visiting your site. Many people can appear as a single IP address by sharing proxies, caches, NAT firewalls or even simply sharing the same computer at home. One person can also appear as many IP addresses by using dynamic IP addressing (most dialup and PPPoE users), being load balanced across proxies and caches or simply using multiple computers (e.g., at home and at work). Other reason for overcounting include: robots; rogue client software that keeps changing its ID string; users that delete cookies, upgrade software or user multiple client software agents. Other reasons for undercounting are clients that don't (or have been set not to) accept cookies or operate through anonymizers. If authenticated logins are used, determining the number of real people from server-side logs may be best derived from a cookie that is only set after an authenticated login, which only holds a value which uniquely corresponds to the user (e.g., a user name or account number.)
  • User agent strings must be logged in order for the visitors page to work correctly. This feature can be turned on using the Reporting Options in Configuration Manager or Property Manager on Luna Control Center, if you have access, or your Akamai representative can turn it on for you.  User agent data is only collected from the time this feature is turned on.
  • Player information in the Streaming Visitors reports is automatically included in streaming log files.

 

A more comprehensive and official explanation of Akamai Unique Visitor Report can be found here.

 


Cookie Based Statistics


Customers sometimes prefer cookie based unique visitor report, reason being:

  1. When customer has multiple sub-sites (with different hostnames) and multiple cpcodes.  Although our portal has unique visitor reports for each of them, there is no simple way of aggregating all those cpcodes because they are all overlapping with each other;
  2. In some part of the world, NAT is widely used so IP addresses are frequently shared among a large group of users so IP based statistics is considered not granular and accurate even with the help of User Agent headers;

 

Customers can certainly go with Google Analytics and other 3rd party tools.  Or they can download Akamai LDS logs and dump into a log analysis tool.   The approach mentioned here is just one of the possible ways but we found rather handy to be integrated with traditional Lunar reports and work with other Lunar analysis tools to form a comprehensive report pack.

 

Basically we just asked customer to include a 1x1 invisible image file (namely footer.jpg) in all webpages they want to include in the UV report.  Then we created an Akamai configuration for this particular beaker file and issue/refresh a cookie every 5 minutes with the delivery timestamp.  All new visitors without such cookies (or having an expired cookie) are then considered Unique Visitors during any predefined timeframe (hourly, daily and monthly, etc).  We can create separate cpcodes to report hourly, daily and monthly unique visitors, before referring to the traffic (hits) report of the corresponding cpcodes.

 

Below is a sample report.

 

a.jpg

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