Mismatched Data: Facebook vs Google Analytics

2018/05/04 05:48

Understanding the data differences between Facebook and Google Analytics and how to report on your campaigns.

Data is the holy grail of marketing but with the large number of tools and platforms available, it can sometimes be difficult to decide which data is the most accurate and what you should be using to determine the success of your online marketing efforts and Facebook campaigns.

Ideally, there shouldn’t be more than a 10% – 15% discrepancy between your Facebook and Google Analytics data.

How the data differs

Before we look at how you should be reporting on your Facebook campaigns, let’s look at some of the common reasons why there are very often data discrepancies between Facebook and Google Analytics (GA).

  1. Differences in conversion dates. It’s important to note that Facebook and GA track and attribute conversions differently. While Facebook will attribute a conversion to the date that an advert was served, GA will attribute the conversion to the date that the conversion actually took place.
  2. Click attribution. Data on the clicks that lead to a conversion also differs between these two platforms. Even though you may have a multi-channel campaign running, GA will still attribute a conversion to whatever a user clicked on right before they converted. For example, a potential customer saw a Facebook ad, clicked on it but didn’t convert. The user is now aware of the product, service or offer so when they see an ad on Google later that day and then decide to convert, the conversion will of course be attributed to AdWords instead of Facebook.
  3. Unlike GA that uses cookies to track a user’s behaviour online, Facebook is able to track a user’s movements and actions across the web as long as they are logged in to Facebook. Where this becomes particularly important is that a user could see an advert on a work laptop and convert on a tablet at home later that day and Facebook will be able to attribute the conversion to a particular ad provided they are logged in on both devices. GA is not able to make this distinction.
  4. Ad Blockers. If a user has an ad or cookie blocker in place, your Facebook pixel won’t be able to load and Google also won’t be able to use cookies to track users either, leaving you with under-reported stats.
  5. View-through attribution. While Google Analytics needs a user to click on a particular advert in order to attribute a conversion to it, Facebook takes things one step further. If Facebook serves an ad to a user in their timeline but instead of clicking on the ad they type the website directly into a browser, Facebook will still be able to attribute that conversion to that ad.
  6. Site visit limits. Another clear difference between Facebook and GA are site visit limits. In order to prevent spam visits from making their way into reports, GA limits a site visit to once every 30 minutes per unique visitor. What this means is that if a visitor clicked through to your site multiple times within a 30 minute period, GA would track it once while Facebook would pick up on multiple clicks.

Tips for reporting on your Facebook campaigns

Now that it’s clear how Facebook and Google differ in terms of how they track certain metrics, here are a few tips on how to create more valuable reports on your Facebook campaigns:

  • Check your tracking pixels. Before you get started with your reporting, it helps to be extra careful and make sure that both your Facebook and Google Analytics tracking pixels are firing and working correctly. It also helps to place your GA code as close to the top of your site code as possible so that you’re picking up on as many conversions as possible.
  • Think twice about view-through stats. While view-throughs are a nifty feature and metric, it’s not full proof. While Facebook may have served your ad to a user, they may very well have simply visited your website by coincidence. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they converted because of that ad, which is why it’s advisable to rather turn view-through tracking off in Facebook in order to get more accurate stats.
  • Make use of the multi-channel funnel report in GA. The multi-channel funnel report is generated from conversion paths, which contain the sequences of visits that lead up to each conversion and transaction. This report will be able to give you a clearer view of just how accurate Facebook’s conversion stats really are.
  • Don’t forget direct source conversions. When pulling reports for your Facebook campaigns, you have to take direct source conversions in GA into consideration as this data could contain conversions and activity that GA was not able to attribute to Facebook.
  • Analyse the value of clicks. In order to determine just how valuable clicks from Facebook really are, it helps to include both clicks and sessions from GA in your reports. By comparing Facebook-reported clicks with Google-reported Facebook referral sessions, you can gain a better understanding of how users are engaging with your site once clicking through from a Facebook ad.
  • Make use of the social network referrals report. This GA report will give you valuable insights into how users behave on your website once they click on a Facebook advert. You may find that changing the click-through URL of your Facebook ads could lead to different actions, and hopefully more conversions, once a user lands on your site.

Integrating Google Analytics data into your Facebook reports is the best way to get a clear view of just how successful your campaigns are. There is immense value in pulling data from both platforms and it would be unwise to only rely on data from one of them. Knowing what may be leading to any discrepancies also makes a huge difference in being able to decipher the data and knowing what’s accurate and what isn’t.

What areas do you struggle with the most when it comes to reporting on your Facebook campaigns?