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

Katie Holmes
7th June 2021

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.

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

Are you struggling to match your Facebook and Google Analytics data? We reveal the most common reasons that lead to data inconsistencies between Facebook and Google Analytics and provide recommendations to help make your reporting more accurate.

Solving the data mismatch between Facebook and Analytics

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.

✏️ Important note

Chances are you’ve experienced the effects of the iOS 14 update. Ruler acts as a connector between Facebook and Analytics with the use of first-party cookie tracking.

It allows you to continue tracking the full source of your leads from Facebook and other marketing channels to provide a single source of truth about which ads, campaigns and landing generate the most value for your business.

Book a demo a Ruler Analytics to learn more

Discrepancies between Facebook clicks and Google Analytics sessions

First, we’re going to analyse the discrepancies between Facebook clicks and Google Analytics sessions. Then, we’ll take a closer look at the issues related to conversion tracking.

Note: For a more in-depth explanation, we recommend that you download our guide on how to solve the data discrepancies between Facebook Ads and Google Analytics.

Google Analytics sessions and Facebook clicks aren’t the same

The biggest challenge advertisers face is that the number of click-throughs reported on Facebook doesn’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”.

As we’ve just mentioned, the “clicks” metric includes every interaction on an ad, such as a share, like or link click, to name a few examples.

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

As you can imagine, these metrics are often misconstrued by advertisers.

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 would only display one session.

Facebook and Google Analytics track users differently

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

Related: First-Party Cookies and Third-Party Cookies: All You Need to Know

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

On the flip side, 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 the load, thus leaving that session unrecorded.

Although 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.

💡 Pro tip

While we’re on the topic, check out our guide and reveal the most common reasons that lead to data inconsistencies between Facebook and Google Analytics

Differences between Facebook and Google Analytics conversion tracking

Facebook will set out to make itself look as valuable as possible to the advertiser, so will sometimes report a higher number of conversions than Google Analytics. Here are some notable reasons for the data discrepancy between Facebook clicks and Google Analytics conversions.

Differences between Facebook and Google Analytics attribution models

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, but 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, whereas Google Analytics would be unable to capture this interaction.

By default, Google Analytics uses the non-direct last-click attribution model.

So, if we go back to our scenario above, Google Analytics would attribute all credit to organic search for the conversion, completely ignoring Facebook.

💡 Pro Tip

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

Google Analytics can’t track view-through conversions

By default, Facebook uses a 7-day window for click-through conversions and a 24-hour window for view-through conversions.

Here’s an explanation from Facebook, for those of you that don’t know how a View-through conversion works

Google Analytics only supports a click-through attribution window, so as you can imagine, this discrepancy leaves a lot of advertisers in a tailspin.

That’s not all.

Facebook doesn’t differentiate between the two types of conversions, which means that they’re combined into a single data point.

For more information, make sure you check out this guide on how to measure your impact on marketing with Facebook Attribution.

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.

💡 Pro Tip

Learn how to send customer journey data to your CRM and enrich your Google Analytics with web form, phone call and live chat activity to understand which marketing sources generate the most revenue, both online and offline.

Unlock marketing revenue in Google Analytics

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.

Reduce the discrepancies between Facebook Ad Manager and Google Analytics

Data discrepancies are common, but doesn’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.

P.S. If you’re not sure how URL parameters work, we recommend you checking out our guide on tracking links in 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 “cpc” in Campaign Medium.

facebook ads google analytics discrepancy - url builder - www.ruleranalytics.com

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

Remove View-through conversion from Facebook

If you want to simplify your conversion tracking, then you can remove 24-hour view through conversions from your attribution settings on Facebook.

That’ll mean that Facebook will only count click-through conversions, and should match up better with Google Analytics.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Log in to Facebook Ad Manager
2. Click “Ad Account Settings

facebook ads google analytics discrepancy - view-through conversions - step 1 + 2 - www.ruleranalytics.com

3. Go to “Attribution” and click “Edit“.

facebook ads google analytics discrepancy - view-through conversions - step 3 - www.ruleranalytics.com

4. Click the drop down under “Attribution Window” and select “Click“. Once you’ve done that, click “Save Changes“.

facebook ads google analytics discrepancy - view-through conversions - step 4 - www.ruleranalytics.com

If you’ve followed the steps correctly, then your Facebook ad manager will now only report 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.

✏️ Product note

Want more information on Ruler? See exactly how Ruler tracks customer touchpoints and closes the loop between your Facebook campaigns and revenue.

Download the guide on how Ruler Analytics works

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 24th January 2022 for freshness.