Click Vs Visits – Why The Discrepancy?

Click Vs Visits – Why The Discrepancy?


by Matt Loughlin
Director / Head of Paid Media

25 June 2009

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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