As a trusted agency, tbk often has clients reach out to us for assistance in improving their marketing and measuring the impact of our work toward their ROI. In this series, our digital marketing experts share their knowledge to answer your frequently asked questions.
Why doesn’t Google Analytics match the data that appears in other platforms such as Facebook, Google Ads, LinkedIn, WooCommerce, and Shopify?
We’re happy to clarify why there’s sometimes a discrepancy between conversion data in Google Analytics compared to performance data found in other reports.
While Google Analytics is a helpful measurement tool, as a general rule, it’s best practice to pull data collected within specific platforms of interest rather than Google Analytics. Conversions within individual platforms are considered to be a more accurate source of truth than Google Analytics for several reasons.
Let’s dive into the details to better understand!
Society as a whole has become increasingly protective of Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Because of this, many people choose to place limits on how Google gathers and uses their personal data.
When internet users adjust their privacy settings (e.g., turn off Google’s ability to track which websites they’ve visited, search history, and time stamps), Google Analytics simply can’t track what it was designed to track. Digital advertising is therefore less personalized and targeted. But privacy protection is a matter of personal freedom, and we’re glad these safeguards exist. It is, however, a major reason why in-platform reporting is more accurate.
Each online platform may have conversions set up based on events that are different from those in Google Analytics. For example, a client may track ticket purchases in Google Ads, but in Google Analytics they’re tracking transactions, including the value and currency.
While it’s true that platforms can track conversions through Google Analytics, there’s room for error. If Google Analytics does not fire on the website, then that conversion data is lost. We prefer not to take this risk. Conversions are best tracked using pixels on the website, which push data directly back to the ad platform itself.
Because of privacy settings and intermittent website loading errors, Google Analytics regrettably does not reliably load every single time a user is on the website. Conversions can only be tracked if privacy settings have allowed Google Analytics to fire on the website and record the session until the conversion occurs.
The ad platform, however, records the moment the user clicks on the ad, and then gets a signal back from the pixel on the website when the conversion is made. The pixel loads on the website even if privacy settings are enabled because there are no privacy concerns when the session is not being tracked.
Sometimes discrepancies can occur between Google Analytics and other online reporting platforms because the platform has had invalid clicks removed. Invalid clicks are those that the platform considers unintentional or malicious.
Here’s an example: if someone clicks on an ad three times in a short period of time, Google Ads may consider two of those clicks unintentional and remove them from their data. Google Analytics, however, would still record those clicks and any resulting conversions, skewing the data.
Google Analytics does not record phone calls made from ads. Why? Because the person has not clicked through to the website, and that’s what Google Analytics is measuring.
On the other hand, Google Ads does support calls made from ads. If a conversion value is associated with the click or the individual comes back and makes a purchase on the website later, it will be attributed to that phone call.
Google Ads uses “last Google Ads click attribution” model by default. This means that if an ad was clicked on that led to the conversion, Google Ads gets 100% of the credit, even if other traffic sources played a part in getting someone to the website before or after this this. Google Analytics uses “last-click attribution”, which means 100% of the credit is given to the last source a user entered the website from.
Google Ads and Google Analytics offer the option to change the attribution source to different models, such as last interaction, first interaction linear, or time decay models. If your attribution models are different in each platform, this can further contribute to data discrepancies.
There is also a conversion window to consider. A conversion window is the amount of time the ad platform will wait for a conversion signal. There are three types of conversion windows in Google Ads, all with different timings:
Attribution settings in Facebook are much shorter.
If the conversion window is still open when the conversion occurs, then the conversion may be attributed to the ad. However, if the conversion window is closed, the conversion could be attributed to another source (such as organic traffic), depending on the attribution model being used.
We hope this information about conversion tracking differences was helpful. Stay tuned for our next blog post where we’ll answer another one of your frequently asked questions.