It is not uncommon for clients to ask us what the difference is between these and why there is a discrepancy between the AdWords and Analytics conversion figures, so I thought I would explain why. No two tracking systems will ever provide the same data but this is normally acceptable when they're close enough for it to not be a major issue. AdWords and Analytics however, are rather different and have been known to cause a headache or two! Although the mismatched conversion metrics may be sometimes be significant and surprising, it doesn't mean that the data is necessarily incorrect. The two products simply record the conversions differently with Google citing the following three main reasons for discrepancies between the two:
- AdWords credits conversions for clicks (Conversions 1-per-click) whereas Google Analytics credits them as visits.
- AdWords and Analytics have different cookie behavior and invalid clicks filtering.
- Discrepancies also occur because of processing delays.
What's The Difference Between AdWords and Analytics Tracking?
Google AdWords conversion tracking and google analytics tracking are two different tracking systems that capture data in different ways. Each requires the installation of tracking code on the website to be tracked and having say, AdWords conversion on a 'confirmation page', you will not see conversion data in Google Analytics and vice-versa!
The main difference and reason for having different tracking methods is that using AdWords conversion tracking allows data to be easily captured on AdWords reports. This data can then be used to automate data which when added to your regular campaign and other reports gives you conversion number/rate data which helps you to make informed decisions based on account performance.
1. AdWords credits conversions for clicks (Conversions 1-per-click) whereas Google Analytics credits them as visits.
The issue is as follows: Google AdWords tracks ‘first touch'- if a user searches for a query then clicks on your PPC advert and goes to your site, does not purchase at that moment, but returns say, a week later, AdWords will register the conversion back on the first date and attribute the sale to AdWords. Analytics on the other hand tracks ‘last touch' meaning that if a user were to perform a search, click an ad, visit the site, leave, then come back a week later, Analytics would attribute that search to organic or other sources, unless they did a search and clicked on an ad again.
This is of course not a major issue if the majority of visitors place an order on the first visit, but if you have a large portion of visitors who order at a later date, this can be present an issue and a big discrepancy can arise between the two tracking systems.
2. AdWords and Analytics have different cookie behavior and invalid clicks filtering.
One of the major differences between Adwords and Google Analytics is that Adwords cookies last for 30 days where as Analytics cookies last for 6 months to 2 years! This of course means that if a visitor converted 31 days after clicking on an AdWords ad, the conversion won't be reported in AdWords but will be counted in Google Analytics! This presents itself as an issue for companies that tend to have a longer buying cycle with people taking longer to consider their purchase, shopping around, etc, and is common behaviour for more expensive consumer goods.
In terms of Invalid Clicks- the goals that are reported in Google Analytics may be filtered out when they are imported into your AdWords account due to Google's Invalid clicks technology (read more here).
3. Discrepancies also occur because of processing delays.
Mismatched statistics can be caused by the fact that it can take upto 24 hours for goal information to appear in your AdWords account after it's been processed. Google analytics goals will also only be available to import into your AdWords account after people have completed them.
Also, if you change the name of a goal or a profile containing your imported goals in Analytics, these new names will be reflected in AdWords only after the goal receives a completion and was processed. If a visitor did complete a goal on your site after you made changes to the goal or profile name, you will have to wait up to 24 hours for the changes to be reflected in your AdWords account.
So Which Is Better?
It depends! The limitations of the Adwords conversion tracking are that it doesn't give you the features and powerful reports and data that Google Analytics can provide such as:
- Highly customizable reports: That show much more than just paid search. This information such as natural search volume, keywords etc as well as key metrics such as page bounce rates, and conversion metrics are all key performance indicators that you NEED to be aware of if you wish to improve your online presence and user experience!
- Site Overlay: Allows us to view user activities and conversions as a visual layer on your site. It shows you how many people clicked that link and where they went after that. This is a great way to test the conversion of your site on a very granular level.
- Advanced Segmentation: Allows you to isolate and analyse specific groups of visitors (segments).
- Internal Search Analytics: Internal site search feature gives webmasters a wealth of information on user behaviour, site roadblocks and pitfalls that can be addressed to improve site usability.
- Event tracking: lets you track and analyse specific actions that are triggered by clicks. These actions can include everything from an outbound link, to a PDF download, and even a video play.
- Goal & Funnel Visualisation: This allows you to track how efficiently your pages are driving conversions, whether this is a purchase, newsletter sign up, etc. These funnels are clear and easy-to-understand and give us a much needed insight into pages that have usability issues or other issues that need addressing.
Adwords conversion tracking can be useful for monitoring trends but Analytics enhance the tracking and offers a great depth of detail in the reporting functions. In my opinion, it is a must as it is a goldmine of information that we can use to optimise our paid search campaigns.
Many people like to use both systems as AdWords conversion tracking can provide more real time data on campaign, ad group, and individual keywords as well as ad copy. Both certainly can be beneficial, as long as we understand the limitations of both and bear in mind that data in AdWords is more useful for trends and not necessarily hard data!
If you need help with your Google Analytics tracking or wish to speak with a Google Analytics Qualified Consultant contact us today or call our UK office on +44 (0)1525 715520.