Understanding the discrepancy between Google Analytics and Facebook’s Attribution

Mar 13, 2020 | Facebook

Ever run a Facebook advertising campaign and can’t make sense of the analytics. Why does Facebook say one thing when Google Analytics says another. Which is right? What gives…

If you’re reading this…I am going to assume this is an attribution issue you’ve faced and are looking to overcome. So hopefully we can make sense of it for you…

Let’s start with why Facebook and Google analytics are giving you different reporting numbers. Well, first off, Facebook and Google Analytics are not the same, they track different things by default. 

Google Analytics is very reliable when it comes to customers making purchases or taking actions after clicking on an ad. Their attribution is made up primarily of click-based traffic that converts on the same device and during the same session. 

Facebook’s attribution is far more flexible. It has the ability to track people and attribute business outcomes through device swaps, multiple visits, and even on view throughs. This allows Facebook to attribute multiple scenarios that lead to an action or purchase because we know that not all purchases come from a click or even a first time store visit – most products need some sort of consideration. 

If you were to set up your Facebook attribution to track purchases on ‘first visit same device’ it should match the analytics Google is giving you.

As you can see in the chart below, there are multiple scenarios that lead to purchases, but the majority of the purchases involve multiple visits, multiple devices, or a combination of both – which makes it difficult for Google Analytics to attribute all purchases. Regardless of where the purchase comes from, all should and need to be tracked in order to budget plan and scale your digital programs.

So who’s right? Well both Facebook and Google Analytics are right, but we’d argue that Facebook to be more right. The results from Facebook’s attribution are more actionable and will give the advertiser a clearer view of the full picture.

Note, the discrepancy between Facebook and Google Analytics will vary by product, industry, subject, and/or outcome. 

For example, if you’re advertising funny cat videos, chances are the majority of people seeing your ad will click and watch the video on the same device during their first session. The attribution gap in this scenario would likely be a lot smaller between Facebook and Google. Small, cheaper, easier to purchase products will result in a much closer agreement.

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For higher priced items that require more consideration like event tickets, life insurance, or large electronics there will be a larger discrepancy between Facebook and Google Analytics (similar to the chart above). This is likely due to needing time to compare the purchase item with competitors, talking to a significant other or family member before purchasing, or waiting a little bit until you have the proper funds to make the purchase.

It is important to note neither Facebook nor Google Analytics will be perfect. 

What do we recommend doing to get as perfect as possible? To find the true impact of your Facebook advertising and allocate advertising budgets appropriately we suggest running Lift Attribution Testing.

What does that mean?! Check out a recent blog we wrote breaking down Lift Attribution Testing.

Facebook describes Conversion Lift Attribution Testing as “a kind of lift test where you can track conversions, including standard and custom events, to understand the true value of your Facebook advertising and how well it performs independent of your other marketing efforts. It works by dividing people into randomized test and control groups in an intent-to-treat test methodology and comparing the performance of these groups over time.

You can run a Conversion Lift test on a specific Facebook ad campaign or across all of your Facebook advertising. In either case, the test will use your chosen audience to create its test and control groups and then track conversions (as observed from your pixel, App Events, and Offline Conversions) that occur throughout the test’s duration. The test will calculate the difference in performance between the test and control group, which represents the lift of your Facebook advertising relative to the conditions of your test.

Conversion Lift is a powerful way to understand the impact of your Facebook advertising while addressing some of advertising’s common challenges”.

We strongly suggest all advertisers frequently lift test, as we do for our clients. If you have any questions about attribution or lift testing, contact us here! We would be happy to walk you through the process of understanding the true value of your digital advertising.

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