Google Ads and Analytics don’t track data in the same way, which creates an inconsistency between the results you see in both platforms. By understanding the common data discrepancies, you can take action to increase the quality of your data and improve the accuracy of your reporting.
Being native platforms, you’d expect Google Ads and Analytics to report the same results, but that’s far from the truth.
Matching up the numbers in Google Ads and Analytics has been a long-standing challenge for advertisers as both platforms track performance differently.
However, with a greater understanding of the data discrepancies, marketers can develop strategies to minimise the mismatch and focus on delivering more value.
For this article, we’ll discuss:
💡 Pro Tip
Are you struggling to match your Google Ads data with Analytics? We reveal the most common reasons that lead to data inconsistencies between Google Ads and Analytics and provide recommendations to help make your reporting more accurate.
Solve the data mismatch between Google Ads and Analytics
Data discrepancies in analytics are when two or more platforms display a difference between data and information.
It’s not uncommon for small data discrepancies to arise between Google Ads and Analytics. Generally, they’re no reason for concern.
However, large data discrepancies can lead you to the wrong assumptions about the performance of your marketing and influence poor budgetary decisions.
With a greater understanding of data discrepancies, you can develop the appropriate strategies to help minimise or overcome them.
Data discrepancies in Google Ads and Analytics are often caused by a variety of factors which we’ve broken down into the following categories:
Accurate data is crucial when it comes to analysing performance and developing a strategy for increased revenue.
Here’s a rundown of the most common causes for the data discrepancies between Google Ads and Analytics. For a more in-depth explanation, we recommend that you download our guide on how to solve the data discrepancies between Google Ads and Analytics.
There are several reasons why your Google Ads and Analytics may report different numbers.
However, many data discrepancies are due to incorrect (or absent) configuration between Google Ads and Analytics accounts.
If your Google Ads account isn’t connected to your Google Analytics, there’s a chance that your paid traffic is getting reported as organic. The wrong attribution of traffic and lead sources can be a problem, especially for advertisers who are bidding on expensive keywords and have a lot to prove.
Related: What is lead source and tips from 30+ on how to get started
Also, if you’re an agency or someone who manages multiple PPC campaigns, there’s a possibility that you’ve connected the wrong ad account to your Google Analytics property.
You may have numerous departments within your company that share a single website and Google Analytics account but have separate ad accounts for specific billing purposes.
Having multiple Google Ads accounts can cause a lot of problems and inevitably lead to data inconsistencies within Google Analytics. Whenever possible, you should avoid linking multiple Google Ads to your Google Analytics property.
URL tagging and tracking codes are key to measuring the effectiveness of your marketing. However, if set up incorrectly, they can result in inaccurate data and lead to poor decision making.
If you disable auto-tagging and forget to add manual tags to your URLs, all visitors, including those from Google Ads, will be specified as “organic ” in Analytics. Also, in some instances, you may have to use manual and auto-tagging.
Related: What is GCLID auto-tagging in Google Ads?
Medium and source variables in Google Analytics are case sensitive, and by default, tracks Google paid as “google/cpc”.
If you have used different medium and source variables on your manual tags, then there’s a strong possibility that you’re seeing duplicate entries in Analytics due to incorrect configuration.
If the Analytics tracking code is improperly configured on the landing page or doesn’t fire, Google Analytics will fail to record the session.
Also, it’s not uncommon for marketers to forget to remove the hard coded GA tracking code from the website whenever they migrate over to GTM.
In the event of this happening, the tracking code is duplicated on each landing page, and every Google ad click can lead to two sessions in Analytics.
Google adds a GCLID parameter to your URL every time a user clicks on your ads. A website that redirects from one URL to another can lose its GCLID tracking code, creating a problem for advertisers measuring pay-per-click performance in both Google Ads and Analytics.
Click and conversion discrepancies between Google Ads and Analytics are expected as both platforms measure performance differently. By understanding some possible causes, you can take effective steps to improve your data accuracy and make smarter decisions to boost your conversion rates.
If you’ve ever compared clicks from your Google ads account with sessions stored in Google Analytics, you might have noticed that the numbers don’t match.
That’s because “Clicks ” in Google Ads and “Sessions ” in Google Analytics are essentially separate metrics and are measured differently.
Clicks are defined by how many times your ad was clicked by your users, whereas a session records an accumulation of user interactions on your website that take place within a specific time frame.
By understanding how clicks and sessions are recorded, you can take full control of your data and make appropriate assumptions about your advertising performance.
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, Google Ads would report those interactions as two separate clicks, whereas Google Analytics would only show one session.
If you’ve managed PPC campaigns for some time, then you’ve likely heard of click fraud. In the event of that happening, Google Ads will determine clicks and conversions as invalid and automatically remove them from your reports. Unfortunately, Google Analytics can’t filter out invalid sessions resulting from fraudulent activity.
Google Ads and Analytics essentially use different attribution models. By default, Google Analytics uses the “last-click attribution” model. Meaning, 100% of the credit is awarded to the last source a user clicked on before converting into a lead.
Related: Marketer’s guide to last-click attribution
Google Ads, however, uses the “last Google Ads click attribution” model, which is slightly different as the credit is attributed to the last Google Ads click in the conversion path.
For example, if a user clicked on one of your Google ads and then returned the following day using an organic search, Google Ads would attribute 100% of the credit to the advertisement. On the flip side, Analytics would allocate 100% credit to organic search.
Call and offline conversion tracking is only supported in Google Ads and is not currently available in Analytics. As you can imagine, this is a notable challenge for advertisers who are using Google Ads to drive more offline interactions.
💡 Pro Tip
Do you know which digital marketing channels are driving your most valuable offline leads and sales? If the answer was no, download our eBook on offline conversion tracking to connect the leads you generate online with the sales you convert offline.
Download the complete guide to offline conversion tracking
There is little that can fix some data discrepancies. Thankfully, there are a few solutions that can help reduce the differences between Google Ads and Analytics.
First and foremost, make sure that the correct Google Ads account is linked to your Analytics property. Whenever possible, avoid connecting multiple ad accounts to ensure data is accurate. You can find more details on how to connect and verify your Google Ads and Analytics accounts at Google’s help centre.
Avoid using manual tagging as it’s more susceptible to human error. Whenever possible, enable auto-tagging in your Google Adwords account to ensure data accuracy. We have a guide on how to set up auto-tagging in Google Ads, which can help you get started.
Include both Google Ad clicks and Google Analytics session metrics in your reports. Explain to your clients and company executives that Google Ads and Google Analytics report clicks and sessions “differently”.
If phone calls are an integral part of your lead generation, then there’s a chance that you’re missing out on crucial information about your marketing performance. Using a call tracking solution can provide a single source of truth on which ads are driving the most valuable leads.
The techniques we’ve discussed can help minimise the data discrepancies between Google Ads and Analytics, but they don’t necessarily resolve them. To close the gap between Google 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 track view full customer journeys in 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.
💡 Pro Tip
Want more information about Ruler’s marketing attribution abilities? See exactly how Ruler tracks customer touchpoints and closes the loop between your Google Ads campaigns and revenue.
Download the guide on how Ruler Analytics works
It’s important to remember that Google Ads and Analytics are two completely different platforms.
Sometimes, it’s not necessarily about fixing the discrepancies, it’s about accepting the fact that both Google Ads and Analytics 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 to attribute revenue directly to your advertising efforts.
Which, in turn, can help you prove your impact on bottom line metrics and will allow you to manage and scale budgets into the areas that have the potential to drive more revenue.
Ready to improve the quality of your reporting in Google Ads and Analytics? Book a demo of Ruler Analytics and start attributing revenue directly to your advertising efforts.
This article was originally published in 14th May 2021 and was last updated on 24th January 2022 for freshness.