Click Vs Visits- Why The Discrepancy?

Many people often look at Google Analytics, or other tracking systems, and wonder why there is a discrepancy between the number of clicks from PPC ads and the number of visits (also called sessions). Below we look at 5 reasons for this discrepancy but before we mention these it is important to remember that ‘clicks’ represent the number of times a visitor clicked your ad, where as ‘visits’ reflect the number of unique sessions initiated by visitors to a site. So why might the two figures not match? There are five common reasons-

1. A visitor may click your ad multiple times

– If a user clicks on an advert multiple times, AdWords will recognise these multiple clicks where as Analytics recognises all these clicks/page views as one visit. Users tend to engage in this sort of behaviour when comparison shopping, making it rather common.

2. A user may click on your ad and later return, during a different session, to your site via a bookmark.

– This means that the referral information from the original visit will be retained so one advert click ends up being recorded as multiple visits.

3. A visitor may click an advert but stop the page from fully loading.

– This might be done by a visitor navigating their way to another site, hitting the ‘back’ button, or hitting the ‘stop’ button. This means that Adwords registers a click but Analytics tracking code is unable to execute and send the tracking data to the relevant servers.

4. Google filter out invalid clicks to ensure accurate billing.

– Whilst this maybe the case, Analytics reports these clicks as visits to your website in order to show a more complete set of traffic data.

5. Sessions time out after 30 minutes.

When using Google analytics, sessions are timed out after a period of 30 minutes of inactivity so if someone were to get distracted from their browser while surfing a site, their session could time out even if they remain on the site. If this user then continued looking at the site and moving pages after 30 minutes, it would count as another visit (or session).

Tracking discrepancies understandably frustrate many people, especially when they are related to key performance metrics and not just clicks and visits. It is important to remember that no tracking system is 100% accurate and this is why Google state that Analytics should be used for trends not and not necessarily hard data. So until we’re all wired into the matrix and user behaviour is that much more measurable, we’ll just have to live with some discrepancies! 😉

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8 Comments

  1. Good to see you over here, Hayley!

    We had a video just a few days ago about twitter:

    Interview with Twitter Founder

    We also have a few different feeds now, one for news:

    http://www.receptional.com/news/feed

    And one for blogs:

    http://www.receptional.com/blogs/feed

    I’ve forgotten where we put the ultra-mega combined feed that has everything new in it. If I remember, I’ll post a link 😉

    • Hey Andy,

      Nice one, I hadn’t seen the video but will take a look now. How about some Andy Langton with a whiteboard (or projector maybe so that the Moz crew don’t think you’re copying!) delivering inspirational and educational online SEO seminars?! Now that would be great and hugely popular I’m sure… I’ll keep popping back to check when the 1st one’s going live 😉

      Hayley

  2. Loving all the blog posts guys, you’ve gone right to the top of my feed-list with all of the great and mega-informative posts. Can you get some videos on the go to? The UK needs some whiteboard friday-esque vids too! Wish I was still there to enjoy the blogathon with you all! Hayley

  3. This is good to know, it has interesting ramifications for how to establish cost per acquisitions etc.

  4. Hi Matthew,

    I understand the reasons for non-matching between clicks & visits but what’s the average percentage for that gap, is it 50% or 40% or 80%…etc.? please advice.

    Thanks
    Qais

    • Matthew LoughlinJuly 8, 2009 at 8:18 am · Reply

      Hi Qais,

      Thanks for your comment, unfortunately I have no data on what others find the typical percentage gap to be but for my retail clients it averages around a 12-15% discrepancy each month.

      It does vary widely between months for some clients which I would attribute to point 1 of the above post (multiple ad clicks from comparison shoppers) as the retail industry is of course highly competitive.

      If I come across further discrepancy data from other accounts and from non-retail clients, i’ll be sure to add another post!

      Many thanks,

      Matthew

      • I came across this post when searching for information on this topic. When comparing CPC count vs. GA visits, I see nearly an 18% difference for the last month. 18% in favor of the CPC count of course.

        We’ve been looking towards some methods in Omniture to count the actual clicks, not sessions – however, it’s interesting to see that you’re using a 12%-15% discrepancy figure as that’s pretty close to the 18% that I see over the last month.

        What industry are your retail clients in?

  5. I was thinking some of these reasons might lie behind the discrepancy, but i wasn’t sure about them. Anyways, i suppose the higher both are the better for the site’s owner, since he has a healthy web traffic. This should be a good sign that his business is also working pretty well. Outrank.

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