If you, as a Google Ads user, also follow the data in Google Analytics (and you should), you probably noticed certain discrepancies between the data. Unfortunately, this is a problem that occurs pretty often.
If you’ve checked and made sure your Google Ads and Google Analytics accounts are linked and the codes are well implemented on all the pages you want to track, read about the most common causes of data discrepancies.
The differences between clicks and sessions
There is a long list of differences that can cause discrepancies in the number of clicks and sessions, and the most common are:
1. Google Analytics does not track data in the same way as Google Ads
While Google Ads tracks clicks, Analytics registers sessions. It’s easy to assume that one click means one session, but that’s not the case.
Sessions record activity within a given time frame, which is 30 minutes for Analytics.
If the user double-clicks on the ad or ad extension within that time, Google Ads will record 2 clicks, but in Analytics it will still be recorded as a single session (even if the user left the site and then returned soon).
The reverse situation can also happen. If someone clicks on an ad once and stays on the website for more than 30 minutes, Google Ads will record one click and Analytics two or more sessions.
Unfortunately, the data can never be completely harmonized and all deviations up to 20% are considered normal by Google.
If a larger deviation occurs, check for one of the problems described below.
2. Users leave the website before Analytics can record their visit
It takes a few seconds for your ad’s landing page to load, but some users won’t be patient enough and will leave the page before it loads.
In that case, Google Ads records a click, but the Analytics code fails to start and does not record the session.
This situation can happen when you accidentally click on an ad, although the much more common cause is that the page loads too slowly.
Research has shown that if a page loads for 3 or more seconds it has a 50% higher dropout rate than pages that load under 3 seconds.
To see your page speed rating, check the Google Page Insight tool.
Just insert your page URL, and Google will show you its average rating with suggestions for improvement.
It is possible to check the speed separately for mobile devices, and separately for desktops.
3. URL auto-tagging in your Google Ads account is turned off
Auto-tagging allows you to track website conversions, import data from external sources into Google Ads (eg. Analytics, CRM, etc.), export data from Google Ads to Google Analytics and allows some of the data from Google Analytics to be imported and used in Google Ads reports.
If auto-tagging on your Google Ads account is turned off, this will cause a difference in clicks because Analytics will not attribute clicks to CPC traffic (the traffic that came from Google Ads) but to organic traffic (Google search traffic that doesn’t include ads).
If you choose not to use auto-tagging, you must manually tag your end URLs with campaign tracking variables.
To check if your auto-tagging is turned on, go to your Google account and select “Settings” in the menu on the left.
Select “Account Settings” – in the second row from the top you’ll see the item “Auto-tagging”.
If it says “Yes” it means it’s on. In case it says “No” click on the arrow, check the box next to “Tag the URL that people click through from my ad” and click save.
4. Google Ads filters invalid clicks from the report, while Google Analytics displays all data
This situation most often occurs when Google Ads estimates that someone is intentionally clicking on your ad (e.g. someone who wants to increase your costs) and filters or removes those invalid clicks from the report while Analytics still records them as sessions.
Some other situations in which Google Ads will considers click invalid are:
- when it recognizes that these are automatic and robotic clicks or clicks from other deceptive software
- the second double-click which is most often caused by the user’s mouse settings or some other problem related to the mouse itself.
5. The option to import data from one account to another is not selected
To check this setting, go to your account and click on “Tools and Settings” in the upper right corner. Under “Setup”, select the “Linked accounts” option. Find Google Analytics and select “Details”.
Find the linked account and click the pen symbol next to the “Views”. Here you çan see if the metrics import is enabled.
Linking Google Ads and Analytics allows you to track the entire buying cycle – from the interaction with the ad to the conversion.
This can provide a unique insight into customer behavior and become the basis for customizing your marketing plans.
By connecting these two tools you get the opportunity to:
- see ad and site performance in Google Ads reports in Analytics
- import e-commerce goals and transactions from Analytics into Google Ads
- import Analytics metrics such as bounce rate, vvg. session duration and pages / sessions, to your Google Ads account
- improve Google Ads remarketing with remarketing and dynamic remarketing in Analytics
- get detailed data in Analytics multi channel flow reports.
6. Users return to your website via a bookmark
If users click on the ad and bookmark the site, the “gclid” parameter will be stored with it, which is used by Analytics to identify traffic from the ad.
So, when users return to the page via that bookmark, Analytics will record a session as if it came from an ad, but there will be no click data in Google Ads, nor will they be charged.
There is no way you can influence this situation because it depends on the users, but it should be kept in mind if you notice differences between the number of sessions and clicks in your reports.
Some other situations that can cause a difference in clicks and sessions are:
- The selected landing page automatically redirects to another webpage, which can prevent the Google Analytics code from starting and correctly identifying traffic.
- The landing page is unable to load the code correctly, which is why clicks reported on Google Ads will not be recorded in Google Analytics.
- Users return during the campaign, in that case Google Ads records everything as one click and Analytics as multiple sessions.
- User’s browser settings block Google Analytics.
Difference in conversions
Digital marketing has a common problem with the difference in data that often occurs when tracking conversions.
Google Analytics calculates the conversion rate as the percentage of users who made a conversion relative to the goals within Analytics.
On the other hand, in Google Ads the conversion rate indicates the percentage of clicks that ended in a Google Ads conversion, and is defined by the Google Ads conversion tracking code.
Due to the differences in data monitoring, there are differences in the data, and the most common discrepancies are:
- Attribution differences
By default, Google Ads assigns a conversion to the last Google Ads click, while Google Analytics, in most cases, assigns the conversion to the last click on any channel (except direct, so-called: Last non-direct click).
This situation occurs when one day a user clicks on your Google Ads ad, does not convert, and the next day returns to the same site via organic search and performs a conversion. Google Ads will attribute this conversion to ads, and Analytics to organic traffic.
2. Different conversion recording
In Analytics, you can configure goals or use e-commerce transactions to track conversions. Each goal can be recorded only once per session lasting 30 minutes.
As we already mentioned, Google Ads does not know the concept of a session. Therefore it can record multiple conversions in the same time period if the setting for an action is marked as “Each” instead of “One”, and the user returns to a specific page within 30 minutes.
To check how your conversion actions are recorded, go to your Google Ads account and then to “Tools and Settings” in the upper right corner. Under ‘Measurement’, select ‘Conversions’. In the column “Sum” you can see how conversions are recorded.
3. Report updating
Sometimes it turns out that the problem is very simple. Google Ads and Analytics reports are updated differently. Google Ads conversions are visible in Google Ads reports after 3 hours, while those imported from Analytics into Google Ads require up to 9 hours.
Regarding conversions, there may be some more differences in data between Google Ads and Google Analytics:
- Conversion Date – Google Ads records the conversion by the click that led to the desired action, and Analytics records the exact time the action occurred.
- Differences due to user settings – users can enable tracking for one platform and block tracking for another which will lead to a difference.
- Multiple Google Ads accounts send traffic to a page tracked by one Analytics with the same goals – in this case you’ll see multiple conversions in Google Ads because that platform tracks conversions separately, while Analytics will only attribute conversions to the last click and show fewer conversions.
You can eliminate discrepancies in conversions by tracking all conversions exclusively through Google Ads.
This will show you more accurate conversion data as a result of your ads, and you won’t have to worry about differences.
See the table below for all the differences regarding conversion tracking directly in Google Ads and by importing data from Google Analytics.
|Google Ads||Google Analytics|
|By default, Google Ads uses the “last Google Ad click” attribution model, which means that the conversion will be attributed to the Google ad that the user last clicked on before performing the conversion. This attribution model will ignore all other channels if a click on a Google ad was included in the user’s path. For example, if someone clicks on our Google Ads ad and immediately afterwards visits Facebook, re-enters our website and converts Google Ads will attribute the conversion to Google ads.||Google Analytics uses a “last non-direct click” attribution model. This means that Google Analytics will attribute the conversion to the last click. For example, if someone clicks on our Google Ads ad, and immediately afterwards visits Facebook, re-enters our website and converts Google Analytics conversion will not be attributed to Google Ads and it will not be imported into the Google Ads system.|
|Store visit conversions are based on anonymous, aggregated statistics. Google Ads creates modeled numbers using current and past data on the number of people who click or view ads and later visit the store. Data cannot be associated with individual ad clicks, visible impressions, or people.||Store visits are based on user data that enabled Location History. Only aggregated and anonymous data is reported to advertisers. They are unable to see any store visits related to individual sessions on the website, ad clicks, visible impressions, or people.|
|The goal conversion rate in Google Ads is based on goals we define through Google Ads conversion tracking code or import goals from Analytics. Clicks or video views for goals are tracked.||The goal conversion rate in Analytics is based on the Goals we defined in a particular view and the sessions recorded in that view.|
|A conversion is recorded after each click on the ad.||One conversion per session is recorded.|
|Counts conversions that occurred solely as a result of an ad click.||Counts conversions from all available sources.|
|Allows you to track one conversion (for example, for leads) or all conversions (for example, for sales).||Does not allow flexible conversion tracking.|
|It can exclude invalid clicks from the report and thus conversions that result from those clicks.||Records all conversions.|
|Records the date of the conversion based on the last click on the ad before the conversion.||Records the date of the conversion when it actually happened.|
|Conversion data is refreshed within 3 hours.||Conversion data is refreshed within 9 hours.|
|It can track the following conversions:|
cross – account conversions – conversions from ads to multiple Google Ads accountsphone call conversions – conversions that result from call extensions or phone numbers embedded on a pageview-through conversions – conversions that result from someone seeing our ad but not clicking on it. Google Ads estimates which conversions may have occurred after the ad was shown.cross-device conversions – conversions that result from clicks on different devices.cross browser conversions – conversions that are recorded when a user uses multiple different web browsers – clicked on the ad in one browser but completed the conversion in another.
|Google Analytics does not have those options.|
- the first step is to always check that your Google Ads and Google Analytics accounts are properly linked and all the codes implemented
- data problems most commonly occur when measuring clicks and conversions
- if the difference in clicks is less than 20%, Google considers it normal, for bigger discrepancies it is necessary to check for other reasons
- conversion differences are most often caused by attribution differences and different conversion recording
- it’s better to track conversions via Google Ads to get the most accurate data possible