Why my Facebook Data doesn’t Match my Google Analytics Data
Tracking your online performance for marketing and advertising is one of the most important tools for online success. In order to accurately assess your campaign performance, you will need to work through the data extracted from your various platforms.
Analysts have found that their Facebook Data doesn’t always match the data of Google Analytics. In most cases, Facebook reports more results than Google Analytics when reporting on the same campaign.
Why is this happening?
Reading this blog will help you understand how different tracking methods are being used. When numbers don’t match up, keep an eye on the below-mentioned reasons and adjust your reporting and/or strategy accordingly.
Below are the 12 most common reasons why the data and metrics don’t match up:
1 Cross-device conversions
Remember the time when ads and conversions occurred within the same web browser? That’s when Google Analytics was a useful tool to measure media. Today, however, we are living in the age of mobile devices where we are constantly exposed to ads on our phone.
To illustrate this point, imagine you are waiting for your bus to go to work. Like everyone else, you take your phone and zip through social media. You see an ad, you click, but then the bus comes so you no longer look at that ad on your phone. Later that day, at work during your lunch break, you decide to buy that product on your desktop computer.
In this very common scenario, Google Analytics would completely fail to attribute the conversion to the last impression as it cannot measure cross-device conversions and is thus missing out on vital data. Facebook’s internal research shows that of all mobile ads that turn into conversions, 35% to 55% of them happen on desktop computers. That means that your data tool is in fact under reporting your mobile conversions more than a third. Since on Facebook more than half of all ads are mobile, cross-device conversion tracking is the major difference of conversion tracking between Facebook and Google Analytics.
2 Impressions & Clicks
As you probably know, most analytics tools rely on cookies and clicks as they cannot capture impressions. Funnily enough, studies proved that 90% of people who saw an ad and bought a product in-store never actually clicked on an ad. When it comes to clicks, 15% of conversions are not captured when relying on cookie-based measurement.
Talking about cookies, keep in mind that Google Analytics is a cookie-based analytics program, so cookies need to be enabled to report a visit to a page. Visits with disabled cookies are not reported. Non-cookie-based tracking software doesn’t have this drawback and can, therefore, track more visits.
Be aware that whenever a user clicks on any portion of the ad (including likes, photos, shares), Facebook sees this as a click conversion. Other tracking tools like Google Analytics, however, only include click conversions after someone clicks on the link as they are only tracking links.
3 Clicks vs Sessions
In addition to impressions and clicks, keep in mind that ad servers track clicks, whereas Google Analytics tracks sessions. In other words, Google Analytics measures the visits to a page and the time spent on the page, while Facebook measures the click that precedes visiting the site.
4 UTM Parameters (Referrer links)
Did you know that most tracking providers such as Google Analytics use referrer URLs to credit conversions back to ads? This means that most providers end up under-reporting Facebook conversions by about 40%. This is due to the fact that roughly 40% of Facebook users browse Facebook using ‘https’ instead of ‘http’. So, when a user clicks on an ad on Facebook and converts on a site, the referrer can’t be recorded since the user left an ‘https’ environment and entered an ‘http’ environment. For this reason most providers also end up under reporting conversions to Facebook ads.
Similarly, if a user opens a new tab, for example, if you run to your train and go back to the website to buy the product when you’re home after work, the referrer URL will no longer be there. This means that the analytics tool will consider this sale as a brand new user and not attribute it to Facebook. Therefore, it’s outdated to expect the purchase happens in one single session in this fast moving digital ecosystem.
5 Ad Blocker softwares & Browser preferences
Keep in mind that your tracking pixel will not get counted if the user has an ad blocker installed in the browser. You guessed it right, this will cause underreporting of conversions. Thus, the number of conversions may end up lower than your actual internal data.
6 Multiple conversions
Another fact that you should keep in mind is that Facebook attributes multiple conversions to the ad last clicked or viewed if a user saw or clicked an ad and converted multiple times. Google Analytics, on the other hand, only allow one-per-click attribution which means that only one conversion would be counted per user rather than the actual number of conversion.
7 Indirect conversions (other Clicks)
Next to multiple conversions, you should also be aware of indirect conversions. Some users click on the page name on the ad rather than the actual content. When they land on the Facebook page, they may visit the advertiser’s website and then convert. As mentioned before, users may also click anywhere else on the ad (e.g. like, comment, share, etc.) and then convert. In that case, Facebook attributes these conversions as clickthrough while other providers like Google Analytics don’t.
8 Attribution Window
Did you know that Facebook conversion measurement attributes conversions based on a 24 hour view and 28 day click through window? Now that you know this fact, keep in mind that you must use the same attribution model when you do a comparison against other data. In other words, compare apples with apples and not mangos with bananas.
9 Conversion date
When do you think conversions are reported? On time of view or on time of conversion?
Whereas tracking tools such as Google Analytics often report on time of conversion, Facebook reports on time of view or click of the conversion. Let me explain this with an example: If an ad receives an impression on March 10 and the conversion takes place on March 14, then Facebook by default reports the conversion for March 10. Other tracking tools and Google Analytics, however, often report the conversion on March 14.
10 Limited visits
Similarly to conversion date, you need to be aware of conversion time. Did you know that when it comes to Analytics, Google limits a site visit to once every 30-minutes per (unique) visitor? On the one hand, it protects ‘spam’ visits from being tracked, but on the other hand it also disregards returning visitors within that time-frame. Facebook doesn’t use this limit and thus can report on multiple visits per unique user within the 30-minute timeframe. So there is a good explanation for the data confusion in this regard. When a user clicks your ad multiple times and opens your website multiple times within the 30-minute time-frame, this will be reported in Facebook as multiple clicks, but only as one visit in Google Analytics.
11 Different ways of how Facebook conversions are defined
Google Analytics only report direct referrals (source = facebook.com / m.facebook.com), or those happened in a straight line even though you might have created a campaign using URL parameters to track the link used in your ad.
Google Analytics defines a Facebook conversion as:
User clicked ad, resulting in user converted
Facebook, on the other hand, counts either ‘user viewed ad and converted within 1 day’ and ‘user clicked ad and converted within 28 days’ as a conversion.
Facebook defines a Facebook conversion as:
User clicked ad – user left site – user returned to site – user converted
12 The wrong page is set as a conversion page
Finally, one of the reasons why Facebook might be reporting an increased number of conversions could be because you placed the Facebook pixel (including the conversion tracking event) in the wrong conversion page. Facebook isn’t able to know exactly what a conversion means for your business, so you have to define it for them. And if you define it incorrectly, Facebook will report inaccurate results.
A common mistake is that the pixel is placed on the sales landing page. This is the page a user will visit immediately upon clicking on your ad. If a user visits this page, however, they don’t necessarily convert. To track the conversions of your campaign in an accurate way, you need to put the pixel on the page a user will see immediately upon completing the conversion, for example a signup form. In most of the cases this page will be a “Thank you for signing up” or “Thank you for your purchase” page.
These are the most common reasons why your Facebook and Google Analytics data don’t match up. Additional reasons could be down to the following points:
- Loading a page from the cache
- Visitors located in different time zones or
- Visitors of certain data filters
These factors can all affect the dissimilarity of the two report platforms.
So, who is right? Facebook data or Google Analytics data?
Now you will know that it’s not a matter of which data is accurate or of who is right or wrong, but it’s a matter of being aware of how different tracking methods are being used. Keep the above-mentioned reasons in mind and adjust your reporting accordingly.
Questions about your Facebook and/or Google Analytics data?
If you have any questions about your Facebook or Google analytics data, please feel free to drop us a chat in the app or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be happy to discuss the best way of analysing your campaigns.
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