Only SM's IT guys could answer this.
I used to be a software engineer, but I'm now way out of date. Back in the early days of the commercial internet your PC firewall could alert you to any suspicious activity - and you found out pretty quick that if you turned on that option, it was quite a show. Port scanning was going on all the time. ISPs were probing their users to make sure they weren't trying to run web sites. Microsoft was sticking its nose into everyone's business, via Windows telemetry. It was initially sort of amazing to see all this mysterious activity going on.
I'm sure there's 10 times as much "noise" on the internet today. Who knows what it all is? Maybe the NSA does, but I sure don't.
It would be nice to have some discussion of this. My SmugMug numbers have been climbing for the last few months, and are now anywhere between 500-2000 photo views a day. There are certain photos that seem to be getting hundreds of views, and I am wondering if those have been embedded in a popular site somewhere. The other views are more widely distributed. I guess bots are a possibility, but I'm not sure why the numbers would fluctuate, or some photos would consistently get more hits than others.
As in your case (and, as reported in your Sept 2018 SmugMug post ) I can’t reconcile the very small number of my website Google Analytics “pageviews” with the much larger number of SmugMug Stats “image views” [ i.e. when a gallery thumbnail is selected to obtain the larger Lightbox Image view]. This reporting discrepancy has gotten worse (larger) each month for the last year or so.
I have been exchanging emails with Ryan who is SmugMug Support Hero since Oct 6 2020 about this issue. These emails have been titled “Disturbing Discrepancies between SmugMug Stats and Google Analytics”. I mention this to encourage you to email [email protected] using the same topic title as mine and also include Ryan’s name in the text to be sure he gets it.
In Ryan’s Oct 15 email to me he wrote
“…I ran some tests on my one of my test sites and ran into similar differences in view numbers. What I've been seeing is above what I may be able to assist with, so I'm getting this over to one of our other teams to have them further look into this”
I have previously asked SmugMug support about bots causing false positives (Oct 6 2020 email) [Ref to this issue in GA forum: https://support.google.com/analytics/thread/72309919?hl=en]] and also asked about potential problems caused by users rejecting tracking cookies. I have sent Ryan results from running Google Tag Manager on my website, which seemed to me (I’m no expert) to indicate possible problems with SmugMug’s implementation of GA code. Ryan has told me he passed this information on to the SmugMug QA people. I have not received feedback on this concern, or any feedback to my last email 3 weeks ago.
I have discussed the reporting discrepancies in the GA support forum https://support.google.com/analytics/thread/74466116?hl=en
My concern with the reporting discrepancy is months old; is SmugMug Stats reporting to be believed, or is Google Analytics correct, or is the truth somewhere in-between. Based on your Sept 2018 post, you’ve been seeing problems for over two years! I am hoping you, and other SmugMug users who are seeing similar discrepancies contact Ryan so that this issue gets more attention by SmugMug engineers.
If there are other SmugMug users who are using (or thinking of trying) Google Analytics I think it would be helpful if you would respond to this post, and also contact Ryan at [email protected] If there is a response, I will bring it to Ryan’s attention.
I can supply more information and observed peculiarities in reporting. If interested, ask.
Hopefully this long post generates some attention and results in productive responses.
I'll keep an eye on things and if I notice anything, I will write. I think based on my experience with a work-related site that I run that this is a common issue. On that site, I have GA, but I also have a Wordpress plugin that is collecting page views and so forth at the server side, and the discrepancy between GA and the server-side numbers is just as large. That plugin gives a little bit more insight into where the 'extra' traffic is coming from, including IP addresses, and to me it looks like some mixture of bots and real traffic. Also, looking at the counts for specific photos, I suspect that some of them have been embedded in high-traffic sites. In several galleries that have a lot of traffic, a single photo accounts for almost all the views.
On this issue, one thing I may suggest in the feature request is a single listing of the top 20 or 30 most loaded photos site-wide. That would help pick out single photos that are suddenly spiking, most likely because they've been embedded.
I still see hundreds of obviously bogus 'views' every day, compared to the handful I see on GA every now and then. Even if this were fixed - would these statistics have any value, since we already have GA?
Probably not. For me the most useful thing about the counts of views is that sudden spikes in the numbers of views of specific photos has usually been a tip-off that the photo has been embedded somewhere. I don't mind my photos being embedded elsewhere but I like knowing where they are. Also, while the photo views are almost certainly inflated, I think the GA and Statcounter views are probably undercounts.