Facebook Ads vs. Google Analytics. Why does the data diverge and how can you fix it?

Collecting accurate and reliable data is the foundation for obtaining actionable information to make important budgetary decisions.

When tracking Facebook ads in Google Analytics, sooner or later you’ll run into data discrepancies. If they’re small, there’s no need to worry. But significant discrepancies can lead to incorrect conclusions about your marketing effectiveness. If they’re not resolved, it will affect your bottom line.

1. Data discrepancies

Because Facebook Ads Manager and Google Analytics track data differently, your numbers will never match 100%.

  1. Discrepancies between Facebook clicks and Google Analytics sessions

Google Analytics sessions and Facebook clicks are not the same thing. The biggest problem advertisers face is that the number of clicks recorded in Facebook does not match the number of sessions in Google Analytics.

Google Analytics will only measure a session after a user has clicked on an ad and got to your site. Whereas Facebook will track any interaction with a click, whether it’s a like, repost or comment.

Facebook reports offer many metrics to help measure the effectiveness of your ads, the most popular of which are “clicks” and “link clicks.”

As we just mentioned, the “clicks” metric includes every interaction with an ad, such as reposting, liking, or clicking on a link, to name just a few examples.

That said, “link clicks” only includes clicks on external links, such as a landing page leading to your site. As you can imagine, advertisers often misinterpret these metrics.

2. Users click on the same ad multiple times

A user often clicks on one of your ads multiple times. If for some reason he clicks on an ad twice in a 30-minute session, Facebook will report those interactions as two separate clicks, whereas Google Analytics will only show one session.

3. Facebook and Google Analytics track users differently

Google Analytics uses its own cookies to collect data about website visitors. If a user doesn’t accept cookies or has JavaScript turned off, Google Analytics won’t be able to track their interaction points.

Facebook, on the other hand, does not require cookies to track ad clicks. Users must be logged into Facebook, which allows the platform to easily attribute and track actions across browsers and devices.

According to Facebook, more than 65% of conversions start on one device and end on another.

Thus, there is a good chance that Facebook is logging clicks and Google Analytics is not.

4. Google Analytics tracking code doesn’t work

We’ve all done it at least once: accidentally clicked on a Facebook ad and quickly closed the window before we were redirected to the landing page.

In this case, it’s unlikely that the Google Analytics tracking code had time to load, leaving that session unregistered.

Facebook currently counts clicks anyway, creating a mismatch between the two reports.

This point in particular is a huge inconvenience to mobile ad marketers, and is probably the main reason for the data mismatch between Facebook and Google Analytics.

5. Differences between Facebook and Google Analytics conversion tracking

Facebook is trying to look more valuable to the advertiser, so it sometimes reports more conversions than Google Analytics. When a conversion occurs, Facebook automatically gives the ads that were viewed ice or interacted with, even if there were no clicks.

So let’s say a person sees an ad for your product on Facebook but doesn’t click, but later that day they visit your site with a regular search and decide to make a sale. In this case, Facebook will link that conversion to the ad the person saw, whereas Google Analytics cannot capture that interaction.

By default, Google Analytics uses a last-click attribution model. So, going back to our scenario above, Google Analytics will attribute conversions to organic search, ignoring Facebook completely.

6. Different attribution window by clicks and impressions

By default, Facebook uses a 7-day window for conversions by clicks and a 24-hour window for conversions by views, see help for details.

Google Analytics supports the attribution window by clicks and impressions completely differently and this needs to be further configured when creating the conversions.

Also, Facebook does not distinguish between the two types of conversions (on clicks and displays), which means that they are combined into one report.

7. Facebook assigns multiple conversions

Facebook is a people-centric platform, so it can assign multiple conversions to the same user, whereas Google Analytics can only assign one Customer Journey conversion.

8. Facebook Pixel is set incorrectly

A common misconception is that marketers set their tracking pixel on a landing page that is linked by ad creative. Ideally, the tracking pixel is best placed end-to-end on all pages of the site.

2. Reduce discrepancies between Facebook Ad Manager and Google Analytics

Data discrepancies are common, but that doesn’t mean you can’t minimize them.

Misunderstanding the data discrepancies above can lead to poor decisions about what to spend your time and budget on.

Fortunately, there are a few solutions that can help reduce the discrepancy between Google Analytics and Facebook, such as

  • reate customizable metrics for your URLs;
  • Use both click-through and session metrics in your reports;
  • Go beyond conversion and click tracking in Facebook Ads and Google Analytics.
  1. Create UTM tags for your URLs

Use URL parameters to better measure traffic and conversions in Facebook Ads and Google Analytics.
Using utm tags is a key method to help bridge the gap between the data you see in Facebook and Google Analytics.

Auto-tagging as in Google Ads is not available in Facebook, which means you have to manually add them to the URL.

The most common (and easiest) way to generate URL parameters for your Facebook ad campaign is to use Campaign URL Builder.

Be sure to use “facebook” as your campaign source and “cpc” as your campaign channel. This will help differentiate your paid traffic from any organic content you share on Facebook. Also, remember that URL settings are case sensitive, avoid using capital letters and spaces.

2. Use both click-through rates and session rates in your reports

Include both Facebook clicks and Google Analytics sessions in your reports.
Explain to your clients and executives, Facebook Ads and Google Analytics “report” clicks and sessions differently.

3. Go beyond conversion and click tracking in Facebook Ads and Analytics

The methods discussed can help minimize the data discrepancy between Facebook Ads and Analytics – but won’t necessarily eliminate it.

To eliminate the gap between Facebook Ads and Analytics, you need a solution that will provide a single source of reliable information, and:

  • captures all interactions throughout the customer journey, such as the source of the first and last click;
  • track all conversions and determine which of your marketing activities are generating leads and revenue;
  • integrates with Facebook and other data sources such as CRM, Google Analytics, etc.

Simply put, you need end-to-end analytics. Examples of services that provide the following capabilities: Ringostat, OWOX BI.

If you’re seriously investing in online advertising campaigns, you know how important it is to collect data and evaluate results. This is the only way to determine whether your investments pay off and whether your ads bring the desired results.

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