Google Analytics and Adwords data differences

One of the most frequent questions I receive is “Why is the data in my Adwords reporting different than the data in Google Analytics?”

Hopefully I can explain some of the differences.


Adwords and Google Analytics are separate tools with different tracking mechanisms. You can use one or the other, or both. They don’t interact with each other or somehow share cookies. With Adwords you just have to put the conversion tracking script on the confirmation page, whereas with Google Analytics/Monitus, every page has to be tagged.

Adwords tells you just about conversions from your Adwords campaigns. Google Analytics tells you what all visitors do on your website on all pages. Adwords campaigns are just one of many traffic sources you see in Google Analytics.

First you should make sure that your Google Analytics and Adwords accounts are setup properly. Here are my specific recommendations:

  1. Make sure that your Adwords and Google Analytics accounts are linked. This is a manual step that we at Monitus cannot do for you. More Info
  2. Make sure you use auto-tagging in your Adwords. This gives you better reporting in Google Analytics. This is a setting in Adwords that you have to do. More Info
  3. Do not use any redirects or click-tracking on your destination URLs in your Adwords ads. Send traffic directly to the intended landing page on your Yahoo! Store.
  4. Put the Adwords conversion tracking script on the confirmation page of your checkout. If you put the conversion tracking script on other pages of your site, such as the cart page, the conversions you see in Google Analytics will never line up with Adwords reporting. As an extra bonus, it is very simple to add revenue tracking to the Adwords conversion tracking script. See here

To make sure everything is setup correctly, clear the cookies and cache in your browser. Do a search on Google that triggers your ad. Click on your ad (yes, this will cost you, but it’s very important that you experience your store as your customers would). In the browser bar you should see:

www.yoursite.com/landingpage.html?gclid=1231239u9qwoehkqjwe

If you do not see the gclid parameter go back to steps 2 and 3. The gclid parameter tells Google Analytics that this is an Adwords ad. If gclid is missing, Google Analytics will think that this is Google Organic traffic.

Not to sound like a broken record, but none of these steps are part of the Monitus tracking service or free initial installation offer.

Once you have done these four steps, you should see an Adwords report section in Google Analytics and of course some data.

Adwords report in Google Analytics

Now that you are setup properly, let’s look at the data.

To help check whether you are getting decent data I have created this Google Analytics custom report. Please click on the link to import it into your Google Analytics profile:

Get this custom report

There are two tabs in this report, one for Adwords and one for other campaigns.

Only the Adwords tab will have click data. If you see campaigns where clicks are completely different than visits, there may be a tracking or setup issue. Try and pull up an ad in that campaign and check landing page URLs, the landing page itself, the existence of the gclid parameter, etc. Review the steps mentioned earlier in this document.

Other campaigns have to be setup manually. If you have paid campaigns, such as Adcenter, the only way you can see them in Google Analytics as campaigns is if you tag your links according to the URL builder.

Having said that, Adwords tracks clicks, whereas Google Analytics tracks visits. Out of the box Adwords gives credit for a conversion to the first click, whereas Google Analytics gives credit for a conversion to the last non-direct visit.

Here is an example of the same visitor coming to your site on three separate visits:

1st visit: Click Adwords ad
2nd visit: Google Organic
3rd visit: Direct and place order

Adwords gives credit to the ad click, Google Analytics gives credit to Google Organic, not Adwords. Therefore, you should not expect data to be the same. This fact is also highlighted by Google

Reconciliation

Google Analytics has a tool called Multi-channel funnels that allows you to change the attribution model. This allows you to see campaigns from a first click perspective and campaigns that have provided an assist. Use this report section to get “closer to the truth”. Here is an overview of the tool.

I have also written about this tool and how to reconcile Adwords data. The actual appearance of the report may be different today, but the approach is still the same.

Finally, even if you do everything right you will find that the data will be different across tools. Tracking is hard and data is messy. As long as the differences and biases are consistent you should be able to work with that. It’s more important to analyze trends over a period of time than looking at specific data points. If Adwords clicks are consistently 10% higher than visits, any trends or changes over time will be consistent as well.