This is a question we get asked all the time by clients and is something we have also wrestled with ourselves over the years. It is very frustrating when trying to report on campaigns to find that there are discrepancies between the data in Google Ads and Google Analytics. You would think that as they are both Google platforms the data would match, but we have found that they are sisters and not twins. This is because they don’t track data in the same way, which then creates a difference in the results that you see on each platform. This also is the case for other platforms that track clicks such as Facebook.
Smaller discrepancies are not typically anything to worry about, however, larger discrepancies can lead you to make the wrong assumptions about ad performance which may lead to poor budgeting decisions. So it is worth understanding the reasons why the data might be different and which version to use.
Here are some of the reasons there may be discrepancies:
Improper set-up between your accounts
If your Google Ads account isn’t connected to your Google Analytics, there’s a good chance that your paid traffic will be reported as organic traffic. The wrong attribution of traffic and lead sources can be an issue, especially when bidding on expensive keywords. Google Ads has step-by-step instructions as to how to connect your campaigns with Google Analytics, so make sure you dedicate some time when setting up your campaigns to ensure that the correct tracking is installed.
Data is measured differently
Clicks in Google Ads are defined by how many times your ad was clicked by your users. Whereas a session records an accumulation of user interactions on your website that take place within a specific time frame. These are two different data sets and are not the same metric and so this is why there may be discrepancies between them. By having an understanding of how clicks and sessions are each recorded, you can then take control of your data, and begin to make appropriate assumptions about your marketing performance.
Sometimes a user won’t always convert on their first visit, but decide to come back at a later date to buy or enquire. Take our website for an example, someone might search for “Digital Marketing in Manchester”, discover our paid ad and click through, they don’t enquire straight away but then to find us again they will search for “Volume Marketing” and click through an organic search result which they go on to enquire. As a result of this, Google will attribute some of the value to the initial interaction with Google Ads, but share the rest of the conversion value with the organic source from the second visit. However, Google Analytics will see this as either Direct or Organic traffic as opposed to paid and so the paid conversions will be lower than on Google Ads.
Issues with tagging and tracking
URL tagging and tracking codes are extremely important to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. However, if set up incorrectly they can result in incorrect data, which can then lead to poor decision-making as a result. There will also be issues if the Analytics tracking code is improperly configured on the landing page or if it doesn’t fire, this means Google Analytics will fail to record the session.
User clicks the same ad multiple times
Sometimes a user may click one of your ads more than once. If a user happens to click your ad more than once within a 30-minute session, Google Ads will report this as two separate clicks, but Google Analytics will only report this as being one session.
Google Analytics can’t filter invalid clicks
When dealing with PPC campaigns, they can sometimes be the victim of click fraud. This is the fraudulent clicking of pay-per-click adverts that generates fraudulent charges for advertisers. This not only drives up costs but also skews the analytical data. Google Ads can determine invalid clicks and conversions and automatically remove them from your reports, but unfortunately, Google Ads can’t do the same.
These are just a few reasons that you may see discrepancies within your data, but here are a few fixes:
- Ensure accounts are linked
- Use both click and sessions metric within your reports
- Enable auto-tagging and avoid manual tagging
- Go beyond conversion and click tracking in Google Ads and Analytics
Remember that Google Ads and Analytics are two separate platforms. Rather than worrying over discrepancies, it’s important to use the two tools together to help provide you with a thorough understanding of your overall marketing performance.
If you’re still unsure about discrepancies or need help interpreting your Google Ads and Analytics data in order to move forward, get in touch with our team to see how we can help you make the most of your marketing efforts.