Why Your Google Analytics and Facebook Clicks Data Are Different

If you’ve ever tried to track the number of clicks from your company’s social media accounts, you’ve likely run into a common problem– the data from individual platforms and Google Analytics almost never agree on exactly how many clicks there have been from social media. It can make tracking the effectiveness of a campaign seem downright impossible.

The best solution to this problem is to record data from each platform and Google for the most holistic approach. But it’s also important to understand why these numbers are all different and, for that, we’re here to help! Check out these 5 reasons why your Google Analytics and Facebook data always seem to disagree:

1. Cross-Device Tracking

 You don’t have cross-device tracking enabled on Google Analytics. Cross-device tracking is relatively new for Google Analytics and requires a couple of steps to set up (Warning: it also requires some basic coding knowledge.) Without cross-device tracking, Google Analytics will not record website visits or conversions if they occur on a different device than the original action, i.e. clicking through to the website from a phone but switching to a laptop to complete the purchase.

2. Cookies

Google Analytics uses cookies to track website actions; Facebook does not. If a user’s cookies aren’t enabled, you won’t be able to track their actions through Google Analytics. Additionally, cookies make Google Analytics much more stingy about what counts as a click-through than Facebook’s more loose definition.

However, cookies do have a lot of benefits. They allow Google Analytics to back-date data, so if a user clears the cookies on their browser it won’t lose their data, while Facebook will lose some information about that user.

3. Clicks vs. Sessions 

There are a couple of key differences between a Facebook “click” and a Google Analytics “session.”

  • If a user clicks your Facebook post more than once within 30 minutes, Google Analytics only tracks this as one session while Facebook tracks it as two clicks.
  • If a user visits your website from Facebook, becomes inactive for more than 30 minutes, and then re-engages with your site after 30 minutes, Google records two separate sessions. Facebook reports one click. In this case, there’s been one Facebook click and two Google Analytics sessions.

  • If a user accidentally clicks your Facebook ad but leaves immediately, Google Analytics will most likely not record this as a session but Facebook will record it as a click.

4. Different Attribution Windows

Facebook attributes clicks and conversions based on a 24-hour view and 28-day click-through window. Google Analytics attributes sessions and conversions by tracking only the last interaction. That means Google Analytics attributes 100% of the conversion value to the last channel the customer interacted with before buying or converting, so if a user sees a Facebook post, clicks through a carousel, etc. and then goes to Google to search for the company and make a purchase, 100% of the credit for that sale goes to search instead of social.

In addition, Google Analytics only allows one attribution per click. In other words, if a user sees a post on Facebook and goes to the website multiple times within a few days of seeing the ad, they will count as multiple clicks and conversions on Facebook but only count as one on Google Analytics.

5. HTTP vs. HTTPS

Google Analytics uses referrer URLs to credit conversions back to ads and Facebook users browse Facebook using ‘https’ instead of ‘http’. If a user clicks an ad on Facebook and is taken to an HTTP website, the user can’t be recorded since they have left a secure environment. This will lead to Google Analytics under-reporting sessions and conversions. Change the way your Google Analytics tracks clicks to secure websites by following the steps here.

5. Ad Blockers Enabled

If a user has an ad blocker installed on their browser, Facebook’s Pixel may not fire correctly. This will cause undercounting of sessions and conversions, so the number may be lower than Google Analytics’ data.

Story by: Kelsey Thompson