Back in the day, running an Adwords account used to be relatively separate to the Analytics account, but since Google made the move to try and integrate all key stats straight out of your Analytics account, it’s no surprise that Adwords data has formed a key part of that.
But there’s a problem.
Regular Adwords users will know that there has long been a discrepancy between the conversion data you get in Adwords compared to the conversion data that GA tells you. In fact, Google even openly admits that there can be circumstances when the data may differ. They make it sound “occasional” but I haven’t yet come across an account which does exactly match its Adwords with the GA stats.
The hardest part is trying to explain to a client why this may be, and also advising them which one to take note of for consistency. Perhaps controversial, but for me, I would rather use the GA stats for my Adwords ROI analysis rather than digging too deep into the Adwords account itself. Analytics is the complete site stats package, and I treat paid search very much like any other campaign whereby it sends traffic to my site, therefore I want to view my site stats in relation to the campaign rather than as a standalone item. Otherwise clients get hung up about the fact Adwords reports different stats. At least this way I have some consistency.
Of course, when you do have both conversion tracking elements set up and you start to notice discrepancies in your Adwords account, the important thing to remember is that it doesn’t mean the Adwords tracking code is wrong or isn’t working properly, it’s more a case that the visitor activity and conversions are just being monitored from a slightly different perspective. Although both Google-owned, no 2 tracking systems will provide the same data.
To add further confusion, there is the ‘import goals’ Adwords feature which launched back in 2009. Consequently there are a couple of ways you can track your Adwords conversions:
- Import goals from GA into Adwords
- Use the traditional Adwords conversion tracking code
To try and match up your goals and transactions in GA with your goals and transactions in Adwords is always going to be tricky, as they would never give the same data. One of the main reasons for this is the lag time in Adwords compared to GA. Google have improved this over the last year or so, but it’s still a bit of a headache when comparing data between the two for a set period of time.
Another reason is the fact that both Adwords and Analytics have different cookie behaviour, so assessing conversions 1-per-click in Adwords can look different in GA as it’s credited as a visit, not an actual conversion.
Here are just a couple of things you can do to make sure your data is as accurate as possible:
- Ensure Adwords and GA are linked – check your ‘track Adwords campaigns’ box in Analytics and link up your GA profile in Adwords.
- Check Adwords traffic is being tagged – make sure that the Adwords campaign URLs are automatically tagged to help GA tracking accuracy.
The main reason for having Adwords conversion tracking is to help you optimise your Adwords campaign. Using it to compare with Analytics conversion data isn’t needed when you can already see sales in relation to the source, keyword and ad that converted in GA, but it does go that extra way to helping you understand your paid search campaign performance.
If your clients are questioning the discrepancies, I would advise focusing on GA stats as a primary measure for your in-depth reports and analysis, then cross-reference these with Adwords data when you’re trying to understand paid search specifics such as trends. Ultimately, there are limitations within Adwords for reporting too, whereby you can’t get the same features and data that GA provides such as internal search analytics, event tracking etc, so it would be best not to rely on Adwords for anything other than trends.
Use Google Analytics conversion data like its breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Use Adwords conversion data like it’s all the snacks you have in-between.