Why Facebook Ads Doesn’t Match Google Analytics 4 (+ How to Fix it)

Katie Holmes
2nd March 2023

We’re going to show you a few methods that you can put in place to help resolve the inconsistencies between Facebook and Google Analytics 4.

Important Note: Google Analytics is sunsetting Universal Analytics in July 2023 and replacing it with GA4 tracking. For this article, we’ll mostly be focusing on GA4 to ensure you have the most up-to-date information.

Gathering accurate, reliable data is the foundation for gaining the actionable insights you need to make important budgetary decisions.

Marketers have long struggled to accurately match Facebook conversion and click metrics against data in Google Analytics as both platforms track performance so differently.

There are many factors that lead to data discrepancies between Facebook and Google Analytics, and the purpose of this guide is to help you understand what they are.

For this article, we’ll discuss:

💡 Pro Tip

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First off, what are data discrepancies?

Put simply, data discrepancies in analytics are when two or more platforms display a difference between data and information.

When tracking Facebook ads in Google Analytics, you’ll likely run into data discrepancies at some point or another. Typically, small data discrepancies aren’t a reason for concern.

Related: How to track Facebook ads in Google Analytics (+ attribute sales revenue)

Tools such as Facebook Ad Manager and Google Analytics track data differently, so, truth be told, your numbers won’t ever 100% match.

Large data discrepancies, on the other hand, can draw you to the wrong conclusions about your marketing performance if left unresolved, which can negatively impact your bottom line.

💡 Pro Tip

Follow Katie on LinkedIn for tips and tactics on attribution, analytics and all things digital marketing. Don’t forget to say hi. 👋

What are the reasons for discrepancies between Facebook and Google Analytics?

There are several possible reasons for data discrepancies between Facebook and Google Analytics:

💡 Pro Tip

Haven’t the time to read the full blog? Download our guide on the Facebook and Google Analytics data discrepancies and read it anytime, anywhere. Our guide walks you through the most common data discrepancies and explains why they occur. You’ll learn how to identify and fix these issues to make informed decisions about your campaigns.

[DOWNLOAD] Solving the data mismatch between Google and Facebook

Google Analytics 4 sessions and Facebook clicks aren’t the same

The biggest challenge advertisers face is that the number of clicks reported on Facebook don’t match the number of sessions in Google Analytics.

Google Analytics will only measure a session after a user has clicked on an ad and landed on your website, whereas Facebook will track any click engagement whether that be a like, share or comment.

Facebook reporting offers endless metrics to help measure the performance of your ads, with the most popular being “clicks” and “link clicks”.

“Clicks” in Facebook includes every interaction on an ad, such as a share, like or link click, to name a few examples.

“Link clicks”, on the other hand, only include the clicks that take place on an external link, say a landing page on your website.

As you can imagine, marketers often get these two metrics mixed up. 

Users click on the same ad multiple times

It’s not uncommon for a user to click on one of your ads multiple times, especially if they’re engaged in online shopping.

If, for some reason, a user clicks on your ad twice within a 30-minute session, Facebook would report those interactions as two separate clicks, whereas Google Analytics 4 would only display one session.

Facebook and Google Analytics track users differently

Google Analytics uses first party cookies to capture data about web visitors.

If a user doesn’t accept cookies or has JavaScript disabled, then Google Analytics can’t track their touchpoints.

On the other hand, Facebook doesn’t require cookies to track clicks on an ad.

Users are required to log into Facebook, which makes it easy for the platform to attribute actions and track performance across different browsers and devices.

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

So, with that said, there’s a strong possibility that your Facebook is recording clicks and your Google Analytics isn’t, which is causing an inconsistency between your two platforms.

Google Analytics tracking code doesn’t fire

We’ve all done it.

Accidentally clicked on an ad on Facebook, and quickly closed the window before being redirected to a landing page.

In this case, it’s unlikely the tracking code on Google Analytics has had a chance to load, thus leaving that session unrecorded.

Facebook, on the other hand, would have still counted the click, creating an inconsistency between both reports.

This point, in particular, is a huge inconvenience for marketers that advertise on mobile and is probably the main culprit for the data discrepancy between Facebook and Google Analytics.

Differences between Facebook and Google Analytics attribution models

By default, Facebook uses a 7-day window for click-through conversions and a 24-hour window for view-through conversions. Meta did bring back 28-day click attribution in late 2022, but it’s only available to a small number of accounts.

For acquisition events in Google Analytics 4, the lookback window is 30-days. You can also switch to 7-days if necessary. For all other conversion events, the maximum lookback window is 90, but you can reduce this to 30-days or 60-days.

If your sales cycle is longer than 7-days (chances are it is) there is a strong possibility that your conversions are going unattributed on Facebook.

Google Analytics 4 can’t track view-through conversions

When a conversion happens, Facebook will automatically attribute credit to the ad a lead viewed or engaged with – even if no clicks took place.

So, let’s say a person sees a Facebook ad for your product but doesn’t click. Later that day, they visit your website using organic search and decide to make a sale.

In this case, Facebook would attribute this conversion to the ad that the person saw. 

Google Analytics, however, wouldn’t be able to credit the view as its attribution only works if a user clicks on the ad and lands on your website. 

It’s worth mentioning at this point that Facebook can’t differentiate between the two types of conversions, which means that they’re combined into a single data point.

So it’s impossible to tell whether a lead converted as a result of a view or a click.

💡 Pro Tip

Marketing mix modelling can help businesses fill in the data gaps. Take Ruler, for example. Ruler’s marketing mix modelling assigns revenue attribution credit based on a user-level and considers ad views and clicks. It allows marketers to statistically analyse revenue over a period of time to discover exactly what generated those sales or closed deals.

Learn more about Ruler’s marketing mix modelling

Facebook assigns multiple conversions

Facebook is a people-based platform, so it can assign multiple conversions to the same user, whereas Google Analytics can only allocate one conversion per journey.

This point, in particular, causes a few headaches for businesses who rely on repeat purchases.

Facebook pixel installed incorrectly

If you install the Facebook pixel incorrectly, then Google Analytics will fail to capture your data.

A common mistake is that marketers will install their tracking pixel on the landing page, which is linked in the ad creative.

Although, it’s unlikely that users will convert into a lead on their initial marketing touchpoint.

Related: Complete guide to tracking marketing touchpoints

Ideally, the best place to put your tracking pixel is on a page where only you converted users can reach. For example, a thank you page after filling out a form.

By default, Facebook uses a 7-day window for click-through conversions and a 24-hour window for view-through conversions. Meta did bring back 28-day click attribution in late 2022, but it’s only available to a small number of accounts.

Apple’s iOS 14.5 impact on Facebook tracking

Apple’s iOS 14.5 introduced a new privacy feature that requires apps to obtain explicit user permission before tracking their activity across other companies’ apps and websites. 

This feature, known as App Tracking Transparency (ATT), has significant implications for Facebook tracking and Google Analytics.

When users opt-out of tracking, it limits the amount of data that Facebook and other platforms can collect about their behaviour outside of the app. This can potentially affect data accuracy across the web, including data used by Google Analytics to track user behaviour on websites and apps.

How to reduce the discrepancies between Facebook and Google Analytics

Data discrepancies are common, but thatdoesn’t mean you can’t minimise them.

Misunderstanding the data discrepancies above can lead you to the wrong decisions about where to spend your time and budget.

Thankfully, there are a few solutions that can help reduce the mismatch between Google Analytics and Facebook, such as:

Create custom parameters for your URLs

Use URL parameters to measure your Facebook traffic and conversions more effectively in Google Analytics.

Related: How to track links with Google Analytics

URL parameters are probably the most basic method to help bridge the gap between the data you see in Facebook and Google Analytics.

Auto-tagging is not available on Facebook, which means that you’ll need to manually add in your URL tags.

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

Make sure to use “facebook” as the Campaign Source and “paid” as the Campaign Medium. Google Analytics defines paid search as “cpc”. If you were to add “cpc” to your Facebook ads, Google Analytics 4 would misattribute your traffic and conversion events to Google Ads.

Setting up URL parameters should help differentiate your paid traffic from any organic posts you’ve shared on Facebook. Also, remember that URL parameters are case sensitive, so avoid using capital letters and spaces.

If you’re not sure how URL parameters work, you can check out our guide on tracking links in Google Analytics.

Remove view-through conversion from Facebook

If you want to simplify your conversion tracking, then you can remove view-through conversions from your attribution settings on Facebook.

That’ll mean that Facebook will only count click-through conversions, and should minimise your click and conversion discrepancies.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Log in to Facebook Ad Manager

2. Go to the Ad Set you want to update your attribution settings for. 

3. Click on Edit.

4. Scroll down to Optimization & Delivery. Expand the Show More Options.

5. Update your Attribution Setting by choosing one of the options in the dropdown and save. To remove view-through, click either “1-day click” or “7-day click”. 

If you’ve followed the steps correctly, your Facebook ad manager should only report on click-through conversions.

Use both click and session metrics in your reports

Include both Facebook clicks and Google Analytics session metrics in your reports.

Explain to your clients and company executives that Facebook Ads and Google Analytics report clicks and sessions “differently”.

Go beyond conversion and click tracking in Facebook Ads and Analytics

The techniques we’ve discussed can help minimise the data discrepancies between Facebook Ads and Analytics, but they don’t necessarily resolve them.

To close the gap between Facebook Ads and Analytics, you need a solution that can help provide a single source of truth, and also:

Using marketing attribution software like Ruler, you can track visitors on an individual level, allowing you to monitor and measure the exact movements and track cross-channel journeys more cohesively.

Related: How to view full customer journeys with Ruler Analytics

You can follow individual users and pinpoint which ads, campaigns and landing pages are having the most significant impact on revenue-led metrics.

One benefit of Ruler is that it uses marketing mix modelling to determine the impact of different Facebook ads on business metrics such as revenue. 

Unlike multi-touch attribution that uses click path data, marketing mix modelling attempts to track invisible touchpoints such as Facebook views. 

With marketing mix modelling, you’ll have more intelligent data to link your revenue back to your Facebook efforts. You’ll gain a clear picture of your marketing wins (and losses), so you can improve and optimise your marketing strategy going forward.

Learn more about Ruler’s marketing mix modelling and see how it can help improve and optimise your marketing spend.

Ready to reduce the discrepancies between Facebook and Google Analytics?

It’s important to remember that Facebook and Google Analytics are two completely different platforms.

Sometimes, it’s not necessarily about fixing the discrepancies it’s about accepting the fact that both Google Analytics and Facebook are complementary tools working together to provide a better understanding of your marketing performance.

And, with a tool like Ruler, you can go beyond basic conversion tracking in Google Analytics and Facebook to attribute revenue directly to your advertising efforts.

Which, in turn, will help you prove your impact on the bottom line and will allow you to manage and scale budget into the areas that have the potential to drive more revenue.

Ready to improve the quality of your reporting in Facebook and Analytics? Book a demo of Ruler Analytics and start attributing revenue directly to your advertising efforts.

This article was originally published in August 2020 and was last updated on 2nd March 2023 for freshness.