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Ad servers and Google Analytics: who to believe?

Sharing her tips and tricks, Rebecca Buchanan, Digital Marketing Officer, writes about how to analyse Facebook campaigns to achieve the most accurate results. 

It’s time to analyse your Facebook campaign. Hands up who’s looked at Facebook clicks and then cross-referenced it with data from Google Analytics, only to find they don’t match up? When it comes to looking at data from difference sources, discrepancies are abundant. It can make for a bit of headache when it comes to analysing campaigns and knowing which one to believe. Let’s consider what might be causing the problems and what we can do to make sure we have the most accurate results.

Firstly, for Google analytics to track a visit, a visitor will need JavaScript, images and cookies enabled in their browsers. However, these can be disabled and people can clear their cookies which means that Google Analytics cannot track these sessions. Potentially, making Google analytics sessions a lot lower than Facebook ‘clicks’. Whilst we’ve just touched on Facebook ‘clicks’, it’s important to note that a click can refer to someone clicking anywhere on the ad – the picture, expanding the comments, a reaction (like, love etc.), not necessarily going straight to the webpage. For a slightly more accurate way to judge clicks to your webpage, you need to modify the columns within Facebook analytics and choose the column title ‘website clicks’.

So, you’ve checked website clicks and Facebook is still reporting a higher number than Google Analytics. When someone clicks on your Facebook ad link to go to the Macmillan site, they might hit the exit button before the page had a chance to load time to load, therefore Google Analytics did not have time to class it as a session.

Another reason could be to do with tracking, Google tends to register social traffic as direct or referral. So, if you’ve missed off the tracking link it will be very difficult to align clicks and actions.

Whilst it would be a much easier world if analytics added up exactly, sometimes it’s just not going to happen. Is there something we can do? Of course, there is. Firstly, let’s not compare apples to oranges and understand better what each metric means and report on it as so. For example, we can attribute clicks to the performance of the ad and sessions to the performance of our site.

It’s almost important to check your data’s freshness before taking it as final. A lot of Googles analytics are only calculated once a day and the daily processing of these reports happen in Pacific time [GMT-8]. Most metrics, including: clicks, impressions, and conversions are only delayed by 3 hours, so the total of Wednesday clicks will be available by 3am on Thursday. Geographic and search terms will be available by 6am Thursday, Auction insights by 8pm and Impression share data by 11pm. So, before you do your final analyses make sure you have at least one day in between to get all and the most accurate results.

Hopefully that has helped clear a few things up but if more questions arise do not hesitate to contact us at, we will be happy to help with any of your digital marketing needs.


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