The mystery of data discrepancies finally solved

David Linder

David Linder

MSc in Marketing from the University of Salford. Facebook Certified Planning Professional Facebook Certified Buying Professional
12 min read

Why do your Facebook, Google Analytics, AdWords and Bing display entirely different numbers? It’s called Data discrepancies

Data discrepancies have become common, and misunderstanding them will cause you to the incorrect conclusions. But there’s very good news: we’ve finally solved them to offer simple explanations about each discrepancy type and how to approach it.

Keep reading and learn to identify data-discrepancies and ways to get the right numbers.

Your marketing efforts and budgets eventually all result in a very important factor – your company’s goals. You intend to be along with each new sign-up, subscriber or visitor, and just counts. The issues arise whenever your different marketing or analytics tools each report another amount of conversions and visitors. Numbers from Facebook, Google Analytics, AdWords, Bing along with other platforms hardly ever correspond.

Most marketing platforms appear to report numbers greater than the specific results. This is simply not only frustrating but results in incorrect data-driven decisions and allocating the marketing budget inappropriately. But don’t worry, this detailed guide can help you understand:

  • How each platform counts conversions
  • Why you see different numbers than expected
  • How to see the specific numbers

Conversions, Events and Goals

A couple of years ago, most campaigns aimed to operate a vehicle optimum traffic with their landing pages or site, focusing their measurements on site traffic. That’s no more the case.

The goal of different marketing efforts would be to get people to perform certain actions such as for example registering, downloading an eBook, requesting a demo etc. Put simply, to convert.

Marketing and analytics platforms named these key objectives differently, as goals or conversions. To define these, you’d have to add code annotation on specific locations on your own site, such as a many thanks page for instance. Generally, you’d have to either put in a JavaScript code manually or utilizing the Google tag manager.

First, let’s understand the primary terms

Conversion – a meeting. Conversions will be the actions you wish your site people to perform, such as for example sign-up, that you track in-order to gauge the success of one’s marketing efforts.

Goal – The word Google Analytics uses for event/conversion. It could be confusing also to some, it represents another goal or perhaps a business goal. Goal may be the term for conversions on Google Analytics, for instance, a sign-up is a goal in Google Analytics.

Event – Events usually track actions on your own site which reflect your primary goals. Various actions on your own site could be deemed a meeting, like a video view or perhaps a click on a web link.

Unlike goals and conversions, events aren’t linked to your company’s objectives. Events are simply just actions performed by users on your own site. Events could be measured more often than once per session, so it’s possible that exactly the same event is repeated by exactly the same user.

Learn how exactly to define conversions for every of the platforms: Facebook, AdWords, Google Analytics, Bing.

FYI, it’s possible to import conversions from Google Analytics to AdWords however, not another way around.

How conversions are tracked, and what’s an attribution model

The basic scenario is simple to comprehend (and measure).

For Example: Let’s say your user hasn’t heard about your service or product. He sees your Facebook ad, clicks onto it, enters the website and performs your defined conversion, that is a sign-up. This scenario is simple and you’ll have one conversion via Facebook.

Facebook conversion

In true to life, however, not absolutely all users who click an ad, immediately subscribe, while other scenarios could be more complex, that leads to frequent data discrepancies. Conversions occur in a variety of ways, which complicates connecting the conversion to the proper marketing channel or campaign – that is called attribution.

What is attribution?

First, it’s vital that you know very well what attribution means with regards to conversions and clicks. Attribution may be the allocation of clicks and conversions to the marketing channel which generated them. In case a Facebook campaign caused a user to convert, we shall attribute this conversion to Facebook. But as stated, it’s not necessarily that easy and scenarios could be more technical.

For example: Let’s say a particular user entered your website from the Facebook ad but didn’t subscribe. Days later he gets an AdWords remarketing ad reminding him about your great service, and he clicked onto it and registered. Who ‘wins’ this conversion? Could it be Facebook or AdWords?

In true to life however, not absolutely all users who click an ad, immediately sign up, while other scenarios may be more complex, that leads to frequent data discrepancies. Conversions occur in a variety of way, which complicates connecting the conversion to the proper marketing channel or campaign - that is called attribution. What's attribution? First, it’s vital that you know very well what attribution means with regards to conversions and clicks. Attribution may be the allocation of clicks and conversions to the marketing channel which generated them. In case a Facebook campaign caused a user to convert, we shall attribute this conversion to Facebook. But as stated, it’s not necessarily that easy and scenarios could be more complex. For instance: Let’s say a particular user entered your website from the Facebook ad but didn’t subscribe. Days later he gets an AdWords remarketing ad reminding him about your great service, and he clicked onto it and registered. Who ‘wins’ this conversion? Could it be Facebook or AdWords?

The answer would depend on your own attribution model.

Now let’s better understand the primary attribution models and the various methods to count conversions.

Attribution models

Different attribution models are most likely the prevailing concern that behind data discrepancies and confusion in counting conversions. The attribution model defines how exactly to allocate the conversions you’re tracking by user sessions. The most famous attribution models are First touch and Last touch.

First touch –  Attribute the conversion to the initial session a user performed on your own site. For instance, if an individual who registered (the conversion in cases like this) attained your website after simply clicking a Facebook ad, the conversion will undoubtedly be assigned to Facebook (up to certain time, based on your conversion window which is explained later), even though he later clicked and registered by way of a Google remarketing ad.

Last touch – Attribute the conversion to the final session. It’s just as it sounds, and completely opposite to the initial touch attribution model. In cases like this, an individual who first clicked on a Facebook ad before registering by way of a Google remarketing ad, will undoubtedly be related to Google not Facebook, because the session generated by way of a Google ad was his last touch before registering.

The first and last touch attributions are pretty simple, but you can find more technical attribution models.

Linear attribution – Allocate the conversion evenly to all or any sessions, so inside our previous exemplory case of an individual who clicked the Facebook ad and registered after clicking a Google ad, the allocation will undoubtedly be 0.5 to Facebook and 0.5 to Google. If you’ve wondered about fractions of conversions, this is why.

Time decay – Like the linear model, with one difference. Time decay attribution distributes conversions in various portions according to the step, however, not evenly. The final interactions are credited a lot more than the initial, so inside our example, the quantity assigned to Google is greater than Facebook. For instance, the conversion could be 0.25 for Facebook and 0.75 conversion to Google.

Position based attribution – That one could be a bit tricky. It enables you to allocate the conversion to different interactions in the conversion funnel. It isn’t used often just because a fixed amount of steps is necessary in your conversion funnel because of this model to create any sense, that is false for some businesses.

This simple illustration explains the differences between your attribution models:

attribution models

It is essential to find the right attribution model for you personally. Your decision will affect the way you see your outcomes and calculate your campaign’s success. THE INITIAL click attribution is normally your best option to begin with, helping you to measure the performance of every of one’s marketing channels and how useful each is in generating conversions. In case a certain keyword in your AdWords campaign generates much traffic to your internet site, which becomes conversions let’s say through remarketing campaigns, you’ll definitely wish to know that it had been first generated by this type of keyword.

Example: On day 1, a user sees a Facebook ad on his newsfeed but doesn’t click it.  On day 3, exactly the same user sees an ad on Google, clicks onto it, visits the website but doesn’t convert. On day 8 a similar thing happens with a Bing ad. On day 10 he enters the website directly and converts.

Conversion comparison

What will be the default settings on different platforms?

Since different tools attribute conversions differently, serious data-discrepancies are inevitable in the event that you won’t align them yourself.

Facebook – Facebook attributes conversion to the date which an individual clicked on the ad rather than to the specific date of the conversion. That is essential, and the real reason for always retroactively checking your outcomes, because they are dynamic. Very advanced advertisers using Ads Insights API can make special Facebook reports that attribute the conversion to the date it just happened, regardless of once the click occurred, and in the limits of one’s conversion window settings.

AdWords – As in Facebook, Google AdWords attribute the conversion to the date an individual clicked on the ad rather than to the date of actual conversion.

Bing – Unlike Facebook and AdWords, Bing attributes the conversion to the specific date of conversion, not once the user clicked on the ad.

What are attribution windows and conversion windows?

No matter which internet marketing tool you utilize to market, when establishing conversions you need to specify a conversion window. In so doing, you define just how long a conversion could be attributed following the user who converted clicked on an ad (or view the ad for view through conversions).

It you can do a user who clicked on an ad but converted later, will never be related to the campaign and ad that actually converted him if the conversion occurred following the conversion window you have defined. For instance, let’s say you defined the conversion window on AdWords for seven days following the click, and an individual converts on the 8th day. The conversions will undoubtedly be counted in your analytics tool, nonetheless it will never be related to the ad on AdWords.

In other cases, a conversion occurring even 1 month following the click or view, may be related to it. For instance, let’s say you defined the conversion window on Facebook for 28 days following the click. In case a user clicked on your own ad and converted sometime during those 28 days, the conversion will undoubtedly be related to the ad he clicked on.

Facebook helps it be a little easier and lets you set the conversion window at an ad set level instead of account level.

What is view through conversion?

View-through conversion is really a relatively new kind of conversion attribution, which is just as it sounds. It counts conversions by users who’ve viewed your ad and converted, even without simply clicking it.

So technically you could have 1 impression, 0 clicks, and 1 conversion.

Sounds weird nonetheless it can happen. For instance, a view through conversion might occur whenever a user sees your ad on Facebook but will not select it, searches your brand on Google instead and lands on your own website through the serp’s, to join up. Therefore the impression occurred and the conversion occurred, however, not the click. Luckily for you personally, Facebook and Google recognize those users and match the conversion to the ad they saw.

Another scenario is that watching the ad was on the list of triggers because of this user to convert after addressing your site from the different channel. While those scenarios seem sensible, oftentimes the view through conversion may cause misleading results. For instance, you’re targeting exactly the same group on different channels, and you also can’t be certain which of the several ads resulted in the conversion.

View through conversions could be reported on Google and Facebook, based on your conversions settings. In AdWords, it really is reported limited to visual (not text) creatives on display campaigns.

In AdWords, you might arrange it at a merchant account level, as you do with all of your conversions settings. It really is set automagically to 30 days following the click and one day following the view.

Facebook helps it be a little easier by letting you set the view through conversion window at the ad set level, and also change it on the run, in order to create some ad sets to count conversions for clicks only plus some to count by conversions aswell. The default setting is seven days following the click, and one day following the view.

Using view through conversions settings will surely enable you to better understand the contribution of one’s marketing efforts, nonetheless it may also cause confusion when racking your brains on your computer data. Seeing more conversions than clicks will surely make you suspect one in your reports, but actually, it creates plenty of sense to track conversions in this manner.

Why use view through conversions?

View through conversion tracking might help you to get yourself a better measurement of one’s campaigns ROI. As explained above, users could see your ad however, not necessarily convert through it; in the event that you only track conversions by link clicks, you aren’t in a position to fully measure the success and effectiveness of one’s campaigns.

Using the view through conversions attribution will surely help you to get better results from your own Google display and Facebook campaigns, and see their real influence on your marketing results.

How to identify the true numbers?

In order to create smart data-driven decisions which will cause you to achieve your business goals, you need to make sure to rely on the right data, rather than be misled by data discrepancy.

Since different marketing channels such as for example Facebook or AdWords measure conversions in various ways, it really is highly recommended to employ a neutral analytics tool and measure all of your conversions from all of your marketing channels in a single place, in order to always be in charge of your computer data and create your personal benchmarks.

We suggest these 3 options for creating your benchmarks, reviewed from the easiest to probably the most complex:

  1. Use Oribi to automatically collect all conversions on your own site without counting on developers. In the event that you don’t know Oribi, this relatively new tool premiered in 2017 and enables marketing and product teams to track all events themselves without needing code annotations. To utilize Oribi, you’ll have to put in a simple script to your website. Out of this point you’ll have the ability to choose each button, page, band of pages and much more without making another code change. You should use advanced conditions such as for example gathering all of the buttons which connect to a particular link or site, group pages (such as for example blog or all landing pages) and much more. For every event, you’ll have the ability to track its count and conversion rate and see significant data and breakdowns.

Oribi

Since Oribi isn’t reliant on your own marketing channels to track conversions, you will be sure the numbers in your account are real, which is a sensible way to compare different marketing channels.

  1. Use Google Analytics goals. Establishing goals (conversions) in Google Analytics will provide you with reliable stats about conversions from different channels. Several points you should think about:
    1. If you’ve got a high visitor volume, the outcomes won’t be accurate. For large sites (in the event you’re not utilizing the premium version), GA samples these potential customers but doesn’t collect them all. You’ll obtain the right count for the goals however the conversion rate may be a little off because of the sampling.
    2. High maintenance. GA code annotation should be added for every event you’re using for AdWords, FB or Bing. If the code annotation location isn’t identical, the count changes.
  1. Save data to your personal DB. This program consumes probably the most resources but provides greater flexibility. Make certain the events you send to your DB are a similar as those you send to other platforms. This program is usually designed for large companies which hold huge amounts of data.

Why Facebook may show more clicks than your analytics tool

This is certainly perhaps one of the most common questions with regards to data-discrepancies. Generally, Facebook shows more clicks and also conversions assigned to the Facebook campaigns, than it seems on other analytics tools. There are many known reasons for this:

  1. You could be looking at the incorrect clicks column on Facebook. A select Facebook could be any select your ad, definitely not a click to attain your site. For instance, some users who see your ad can go through the connect to your Facebook page as opposed to the link to your website. In cases like this, Facebook will count it as a click, but because the user hardly ever really reached your website, your analytics tool will count zero visits from Facebook.

Make sure to regulate your Facebook columns and add the “Link clicks” column. “Link Clicks” will be the actual clicks that users made which led them to your internet site.

  1. Some users may select your ad many times and on different links. For instance, a particular user who saw your ad, may go through the Facebook page link as explained above and click it again, but this time around on your own link. In cases like this, Facebook will count two clicks, however your analytics system will count only 1 visit. Utilizing the column “Link clicks” may also assist you to solve this discrepancy.
  2. Sometimes users click your ads on Facebook and close the browsers before your website is fully loaded, leading to the click being counted on Facebook however, not in your analytics tool.
  3. Some issues might occur with the tracking code on your own website or website landing page that prevents sessions from being counted on your own website analytics tool.
  4. You could have accidentally filtered some sessions in your analytics tool reports.
  5. There’s the opportunity your link on your own Facebook ads is broken or incorrectly entered in your UTM parameters, some sessions could be related to referral, direct or (not set) medium rather than your Facebook campaign.

Can time zone settings cause discrepancies?

Different time zone settings will surely cause confusion in your reports. It’s actually fairly simple. If your advertising tool is defined on another time-zone than your analytics tool, you’ll see different numbers for exactly the same dates, specifically for small amount of time frames. For instance, if your Facebook advertising account is defined on Pacific time, as well as your analytics tool is defined on Eastern time, whenever choosing a particular date on both tools you will notice different numbers, as the 24-hour period varies. Always set your marketing and analytics tools to exactly the same time-zone.

Can cross-device conversions cause discrepancies?

By your website visitors using different devices within their different sessions, data discrepancies might occur in your reports. Most of us use our cellular devices to browse while on the run, and often flick through exactly the same websites on our pc when we’re in the home or at work. Some website analytics tools identify exactly the same user on different devices while some don’t, which cause them never to recognize cross-device conversions, that leads to data discrepancies.

For example, let’s say a user saw your ad on Facebook and clicked onto it using his mobile device, but didn’t convert. Later he was again on your own site using his pc and actually registered. Facebook will learn how to allocate this conversion to the mobile ad he saw first, however your website analytics tool may miss it and attribute this conversion to a desktop device, which although correct isn’t fully accurate.

David Linder

David Linder

MSc in Marketing from the University of Salford. Facebook Certified Planning Professional Facebook Certified Buying Professional

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