Reasons Why Your Google Analytics Data Might Not Match Your Facebook Data
Is your business running Facebook advertising campaigns? If you’ve only previously used Adwords, you’ll find there are some significant differences.
You might also be troubled by discrepancies between what Facebook stats tell you compared with your Google Analytics data. It’s frustrating, especially when you are paying for clicks. Let me be the one to confirm that there’s always going to be a % difference. Your Facebook campaign will register more clicks than Google Analytics will register visits. Frustrating, I know. Facebook and Google Analytics are very different platforms. I find it helpful to understand some of the reasons for the discrepancies so I am going to share them with you.
First though, it’s useful to reflect on the different purposes of Facebook Advertising and Google Analytics. One is designed to help you understand your site traffic. It’s only concerned with real visitors. In contrast, Facebook and other advertising platforms are geared to impressions and clicks, and less visitor intention.
Clicks versus Visits
Here it’s important to understand the differences between clicks recorded by an ad server and the visits recorded by Google Analytics. In a Facebook report, clicks refer to exactly that, and clicks are not necessarily unique. On the other hand, Google Analytics records the number of unique sessions made by visitors. So with Facebook ads, multiple clicks in the same session by the same person are all counted individually. Google Analytics on the other hand records these as one visit even if the visitor explores more than one page. Google Analytics also recognises a returning visitor if the referral information is still present i.e. in a bookmark.
It’s also true that Google Analytics can only recognise a visit if the requisite browser settings are present. This includes allowing cookies.
As indicated above, Google Analytics is a cookie based programme. Ad servers such as those used by Facebook rely on different methodology, IP and User Agent Tracking. This can result in higher click counts because of dynamically assigned IP addresses (which are very common) and spider visits.
Facebook has no time limits on impressions but recognises when the same visitor comes back (impressions versus unique impressions). Google Analytics limits site visits to one per user every 30 minutes.
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If a visitor clicks on a Facebook ad but then hits the back button and therefore doesn’t visit the advertiser’s site it will still count as a click. On the other hand the technology underpinning the Google Analytics tracking cookie would prevent it from registering the behaviour as a visit.
Cookies can be characterised as 1st or 3rd Party. Google Analytics uses a 1st party cookie which means it’s more likely to be accepted by a wider range of browsers. That said, browser settings, as indicated previously are still important.
You will need to live with the discrepancies in data between the two platforms. However, you can still use Google Analytics to better analyse the quality of your Facebook campaign. Google Analytics is still essential for tracking visitor behaviour beyond the first click