Your Google Analytics Data Will Never Match Your Facebook Data

May 3, 2017

Tracking the performance of your social campaigns is one of the most important factors for success. The fact is that your Google Analytics data and your Facebook data will never match.

Why is this?

The only way to accurately measure your Facebook data is through Facebook reporting itself.

1. Cross Device Conversions

In this day and age, people use multiple devices throughout the user journey before any purchase is made. It takes multiple touch points before a sale is made, and this happens across multiple devices. This was all well and good when a sale happened on a single device (desktop).

For example, suppose you’re out and about and start browsing on your mobile device. You click an ad but don’t convert. Later that day, you’re sitting at your desktop computer and decide to jump onto that company's website to buy the product you saw earlier. Google Analytics would fail to attribute that conversion back to the click on your mobile device and will subsequently under-report your results.

Facebook has the unique ability to track conversions back to users instead of cookies. This means you can track the same user across all devices as long as they’re logged into their Facebook account. In comparison, Google Analytics relies on cookies, meaning all the tracking happens exactly on the browser where the cookie was dropped.

2. Impressions and Clicks

Google Analytics uses cookies to track users on a website, and doesn’t have the ability to track impressions like Facebook. If cookies aren’t enabled, you won’t be able to track those users through GA.

With Google Analytics, it’s considered a conversion when a user clicks the intended link within the ad, whereas with Facebook, a user can click any portion of the ad, convert, and still be tracked as a conversion.

If a user clears their cookies, all of that data will remain on Google Analytics. In Facebook, however, this data is cleared from your custom audiences. It’s also good to note that Google Analytics back-dates data, while Facebook collects the data from the day your audiences are set up.

3. Clicks vs. Sessions

This one is always a cause for concern with marketers. “Wait, my clicks in Facebook don’t match my sessions reported in Google Analytics? Why?” There are several reasons for this discrepancy.

  • If a user clicks your Facebook post more than once in a 30-minute window, Google Analytics only tracks this as one session. Conversely, Facebook considers this as more than one click. (i.e., one Google Analytics session and two Facebook clicks).
  • If a user clicks your Facebook post and visits your website, becomes inactive for more than 30 minutes, and then re-engages with your site after 30 minutes, Google will records two separate sessions. Facebook reports only the single click. In this case, one Facebook click equals two sessions.
  • If a user accidentally clicks your Facebook ad but jumps off quickly, Google Analytics will most likely not have had the chance to record this click, since the page hadn’t loaded fully.

4. UTM Parameters

Google Analytics uses referrer URLs to credit conversions back to ads. Facebook users browse Facebook using ‘https’ instead of ‘http’. So, if a user clicks an ad in Facebook and leaves to convert on an http website, the user can’t be recorded since they have left a secure environment. This, again, will lead to under-reporting of conversions.

5. Multiple Conversions

This is an important one to note. Google Analytics only allows a one-per-click attribution, meaning only one conversion is counted regardless of the number of conversions that actually happened. If a user saw or clicked an ad and converted multiple times, Facebook attributes multiple conversions to the ad last clicked or viewed.

6. Attribution Window

Facebook conversion measurement attributes conversions based on a 24-hour view and 28-day click-through window—so, any comparison you do against other tracking data must compare exactly the same attribution window. Google Analytics uses the last interaction model, which attributes 100% of the conversion value to the last channel the customer interacted with before buying or converting.

To update your attribution window in Facebook, click Customize Columns and choose the window that best suits your needs.

facebook analytics

facebook analytics

7. Conversion Date

Facebook reports on the time of a view or click of the conversion, whereas 3rd party tracking tools often report on the time of conversion.

8. Ad Blocker Software

Your conversion pixel may not fire if the user has an ad blocker installed in the browser. This will cause undercounting conversions, so the number may be lower than your internal data.

Neimh McGlynn

Marin Software
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