Why does Facebook ads data not match Google Analytics data?

Why does your Facebook advertising data not match up with your Google Analytics data? This is a question that pops up time-and-time again. Whether it is your conversion data, or click data, the discrepancies between Google Analytics and Facebook are usually very significant.

Whether you’ve wondered the answer to this question yourself, or you need a detailed explanation to send to your clients, this blog post is here to help!

In my experience, I’ve seen discrepancies between Facebook clicks and Google Analytics sessions as high as 80% in industries where the audience targeted has high mobile usage. In other instances, the discrepancy has been around 50%.

In this blog post I’ll be covering the potential reasons for both Facebook click and conversion data being reported differently in Google Analytics compared to Facebook, and providing some recommendations to help make your reporting as accurate as possible.

The basics:

Use Google UTM Tags on your Facebook ads

To track your Facebook ads traffic in Google Analytics, you need to be using Google UTM tracking. You may already be doing this, in which case skip to the next section of this blog post. If not, you can learn how to set this up here.

When you set up your UTM tracking, the most important things are the fields for source and medium, so make sure these are filled in accurately.

Set up Facebook conversion tracking

Even if you have Google Analytics goals, events or ecommerce tracking, you should still set up Facebook conversion tracking. This is because these two channels report conversions very differently, so it is important to have visibility of both sets of data, for you to then make an informed decision from. If you don’t already have conversion tracking set up, you can learn how to set this up here.

Why doesn’t my Facebook clicks data match up to what is reported in Google Analytics?

There are many different reasons that the clicks reported in Facebook might not match the sessions or visits reported in Google Analytics:

Are you looking at ‘All Clicks’ in Facebook, or ‘Link Clicks’?

Facebook has two clicks reporting columns, one is for all clicks, and one is for link clicks. All clicks includes clicks on the ads for interactions such as likes or shares. Link clicks is just clicks through to your site from the links in your ads. If you look at all clicks, it will be much higher than what is reported in Google Analytics because it includes likes and shares as well as link clicks.

Facebook clicks and Google Analytics sessions are two different things

Facebook clicks are simply every time there is a click on a Facebook ad. This means that if the same user clicks an ad twice, it is counted as two clicks.

A Google Analytics sessions is one visitor in a specific period of time, usually the default time of 30 minutes. This means that if someone clicks through to your website more than once in a 30 minute period, Google Analytics would count this as only one session, despite the fact that the user may have clicked through to your site from a PPC ad, Facebook ad and organic listing in that 30 minute period. This kind of behaviour where the user clicks through to the site from multiple sources in a short period of time is typical of comparison shopping. If a user clicks your Facebook ads multiple times within the Google Analytics session time of 30 minutes, Google Analytics would only record one session, whereas Facebook would record the clicks of each time the user clicked an ad, regardless of if it was the same user.

Google Analytics tracking relies on the user having Java, images and cookies enabled

For Google Analytics code to track users, the user must have Javascript, images and cookies enabled. As users become smarter about online tracking, this has become more of an issue because they are more conscious of turning off these things and using browser extensions to prevent this tracking. Facebook on the other hand does not require these things to be enabled in order to track clicks on the ad, and so this is one way that makes Facebook report more clicks than Google Analytics sessions.

Users can exit before Google Analytics code loads

Sometimes a user clicks a Facebook ad and then exits the site so quickly, or moves to another page so quickly, that the Google Analytics code isn’t even triggered because the page doesn’t load fast enough before the user has existed or moved to another page. Facebook on the other hand will have already counted that click, which is why Facebook’s clicks can be reported higher than Google Analytics sessions.

Google Analytics uses sampled data

Google Analytics uses sampled data, which means that not every visit to your site is used in reports within Google Analytics, but only a sample of that data is used. This allows Google Analytics to return the results to your reports more quickly, but it also means that the data is a sample and not the full raw data. This sampling can mean that in some reports Facebook traffic may be represented differently than it is reported in Facebook’s ads manager. You can learn more about Google Analytics sampling here.

Are you using a filtered Google Analytics profile?

Many clients have several filtered versions of their analytics profile, for example they may have a filtered view to exclude their staff and agency IP addresses. This means that if your staff or agency have clicked your Facebook ads, Facebook would have recorded the click on the ads, but it wouldn’t be reported in that particular Google Analytics view.

Mobile apps sometimes remove referral data

Mobile apps sometimes remove referral data of traffic when the link is clicked within a mobile device. I’m not entirely sure of the technicalities of why this happens, however it is something that is commonly accepted and recognised. When the referral data is stripped (your UTM tracking details), the traffic will usually be reported in Google Analytics as direct traffic.

URL redirects can stop Google Analytics code from firing

If the URLs you are landing users on from your ads are no longer active and have been redirected, it may be that the URLs aren’t firing Google Analytics code in time before they redirect. The new redirected URL will not contain your UTM tracking, which would then mean that there’s no referral information for the traffic having originated from your Facebook ad. Facebooks ads would still count the click on the ad.

Reporting time zones

If your Facebook ad account is set up in a different time zone to your Google Analytics account, you may find that when you compare data for the same time period in both platforms there will be different totals because some traffic may not be counted within that time period, that is counted in the other platform all because of time zone differences.

Is your Google Analytics tracking code implemented properly?

If you haven’t set up your Google Analytics tracking code properly on your site, you may be incorrectly tracking traffic. For example, if you haven’t got the code on every single page of the site, or if it’s in the wrong place on the page it might be taking longer to load and not firing in time to count a visit before the user leaves or goes to another page.

You can find full instructions on how to implement Google Analytics tracking here.

To check if your Google Analytics code is on every page of your site, you can use a Screaming Frog to run a custom crawl which looks for pages that do not contain your UA number. Please note you need the paid for version of the tool to do this, and it won’t work if your UA code is externalised and called upon to trigger because then the UA code won’t be present in the source code of the page. There are instructions for using Screaming Frog to check your Google Analytics code here.

Using Screaming Frog to check Google Analytics

Why doesn’t my Facebook conversion data match up to what is reported in Google Analytics?

The reasons why Facebook conversion tracking and Google Analytics goals, events or ecommerce tracking are different are partially due to the reasons identified for clicks above. If the visit from the click isn’t tracked successfully or as an individual visit, then naturally if a conversion occurs because of that visit, it won’t be tracked back to that visit either. In addition to this, there are a few other reasons the conversions reported via Facebook conversion tracking and Google Analytics events, goals or ecommerce:

Facebook and Google have different attribution models

By default, Google Analytics attributes a conversion to the very last traffic source that the user visited the site via before making the conversion. For example if the user visited via organic search, then Facebook ads, then a PPC ad, Google Analytics would attribute the conversion to PPC.

The default attribution model for Facebook’s conversion tracking on the other hand is for any conversion that involved the user interacting or viewing a Facebook ad and then converting, to be attributed to Facebook ads. In the example of a user who first visited the site via organic search, then via Facebook ads, and then lastly via PPC, Facebook ads would attribute that conversion to Facebook. It is for this reason that Facebook will report more conversions than Google Analytics.

Facebook’s default attribution settings also include view-though conversions which mean that if the user didn’t even click the ad but viewed it and then converted within the next 24 hours, Facebook would attribute the conversion to Facebook ads. A view through conversion would have never been tracked in Google Analytics at all.

This kind of attribution is very loose, and if you’d like to change the attribution used for your Facebook ads reporting columns you can customise this using these instructions.

Have you got your Facebook conversion tracking set up properly?

It sounds pretty obvious, but a lot of the time the Facebook event code has been placed on the wrong page of the site (like the page before the checkout rather than the thank-you page). This will naturally inflate the amount of conversions recorded in Facebook compared to Google Analytics.

Are you looking at the right Facebook conversion?

The Facebook Ads Manager interface does have a column for all actions, which combines all the conversion actions you might be tracking on your site with Facebook pixels, for example adds to basket, initiate checkout, as well as complete purchases. In Google Analytics, you might not be tracking each of these stages to purchase as individual conversions, and so the number of total actions recorded in Facebook will be significantly different to the conversions reported in Google Analytics.

What if the times of conversions don’t add up?

If you’re comparing the days or times that conversions happened and you find they don’t match, it might be because Facebook will record the time as the time of the click that resulted in the conversion, whereas Google Analytics record this that the time of the actual action taking place.

What can you do to avoid the discrepancies between Facebook and Google Analytics?

Unfortunately there is very little that can be done to change the discrepancies between Facebook and Google Analytics. You will probably always experience some level of discrepancy, but you can try the following tips to reduce this:

What can you do to reduce traffic reporting differences between Analytics and AdWords?

If you’re really worried about these discrepancies, you could look at your server log files as these can sometimes report traffic sources more accurately than Google Analytics.

Another option would be to create bespoke Facebook ads landing pages, which are only used in the ads, and not accessible from the websites main navigation or used in any other ads. This means that when you view the Google Analytics traffic to these pages, you can be confident they are all from Facebook, regardless of what Google Analytics might report. The only way this wouldn’t be accurate is if someone bookmarks the link and returns numerous times, or shares the link with others.

What can you do to reduce conversion reporting differences between Analytics and AdWords?

Try to keep the attribution models used across Facebook and Google Analytics as similar as possible, by removing view through conversions from being reported in Facebook (instructions here).

You could also try using the Multi-channel Funnels report in Google Analytics, to see at what stages in the path to purchase Facebook ad clicks are assisting conversions. From this information, you can get an idea of potentially how influential Facebook ads have been on the conversions reported in Google Analytics.

Ultimately, the discrepancy is nothing to be concerned about, it happens across the board for every advertiser I have ever spoken to, and every account I have ever worked on. Facebook have lots of measures in place to counter ad fraud and automatically filter out invalid clicks, so your ad spend is in safe hands!

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  • Very helpful post Tara. I never noticed this so thanks a lot! I have a question though, which just popped out of my mind now. Do you think Facebook ads will continue to flourish this year? just wondering 🙂 Thanks in advance Tara!

    • Domino Effect

      For me FB Ads are here to stay, and most of the markets around the world are using it 1st instead of Google, due to the specific targeting options as well as well as its being used much often by their target markets.

  • Thanks for another great Tips. Its fantastic post concerning advertising and completely explained, keep it up all the time.