Understanding Analytics and Adwords Discrepancies

Have you ever looked at Google AdWords data in Google Analytics, only to find that the numbers don’t match up with what you see in your AdWords account? For instance, in this example taken from the AdWords section of an Analytics account, data shows over 100 fewer clicks than sessions.

In this article, I’ll explain why data doesn’t completely correlate between these two platforms and how to troubleshoot discrepancies.

Double-Check Your Tracking Configuration

First, make sure that AdWords and Analytics are properly linked. In the Admin section of Analytics, navigate to AdWords Linking under Property Settings. From here, you can see if an AdWords account is indeed connected. If one is in place, make sure it’s the correct account and that it’s linked to all Analytics views that you’re using. If necessary, you can create a new link to an AdWords account here following Google’s instructions.

Even when accounts are already connected, note the date range in your report and determine if the accounts were linked for the entire period. For instance, if you’re looking at data from the past year but AdWords was just linked 6 months ago, AdWords will contain 6 months’ more data than Analytics.

If you’ve chosen not to link the accounts (perhaps you have unique tracking needs or have not been granted the proper level of access), ensure that you’re at least using tracking parameters across all active ads in AdWords or that you have a URL template in place. For more, see our post on UTM Parameters for PPC.

Understand Reporting Differences

You may think that a click from AdWords would logically equal a session in Google Analytics. However, note that two key factors can affect variations in this data.

AdWords filters out invalid clicks that could still be counted as sessions in Analytics. Conversely, if data shows MORE clicks than sessions, legitimate users may have clicked ads twice within a thirty-minute timeframe. By default, during this window of time, Google Analytics would consider a returning user to be continuing the same session.

Review Analytics Filters

You may be using a filtered view in Google Analytics that excludes some traffic. For instance, your view may exclude office IP addresses or only include visits from within your country of residence. Depending on the scope of the filters in place, Analytics may be leaving out some sessions that are being counted as clicks in AdWords. To check, navigate to the Admin section of Analytics, select your view of choice, and find the Filters option.

Reconciling Conversions

Conversion tracking discrepancies commonly cause frustration when comparing data between the accounts. After all, you need the most accurate data possible when reporting on results, and conversion goals relate directly to business lead and revenue goals.

First, understand that attribution differs between the AdWords conversion pixel and Analytics goals. Analytics will attribute the conversion to the last non-direct source by which a user arrived on the site. The AdWords pixel will attribute the conversion to AdWords as long as a user arrived from a Google ad at some point in the process and converted within a defined window of the last ad click (the default is 30 days).

For example, say that a user arrived from Google paid search on day 1 and then returned via organic search on day 2 before converting. Analytics would attribute the conversion to google/organic as the final source. However, AdWords would still take credit for a conversion, since the user had previously clicked an ad.

In addition, if you’re seeing large discrepancies, make sure that both platforms are accurately tracking conversions. Google’s Tag Assistant Chrome extension can help you make sure the AdWords conversion pixel is actually firing on the proper thank you pages (or wherever you’ve set it up to fire). On the Analytics end, make sure that you’ve set up your goal to track the proper page or event.

In conclusion, understand that AdWords and Analytics numbers won’t match up perfectly. Be prepared to explain discrepancies by understanding how each platform tracks metrics differently. If you see anomalies that seem to indicate inaccurate data, take the time to troubleshoot for a proper configuration.

What tips do you have for AdWords and Analytics discrepancies? We’d love to hear your thoughts and tips in the comments!