The Difference between Conversion Tracking in Google Analytics & Google Adwords

Written by Jon on 19th July 2016

I often get asked why conversion data within Google Analytics and Adwords are different and don’t match up, there are a number of reasons for this and they are all around how each one of these platforms determine what a conversion is.

Attribution Model

Google Analytics will attribute the conversion on a last click basis. So, should a user click onto your website and complete a transaction this is normally attributed to the source of the last click i.e. organic search, referral.  These metrics are normally updated within 72 hours from the conversion.

Google Adwords works differently in that it will attribute the conversion against the date you originally clicked on the ad that eventually led to the conversion, this allows you to manage the amount generated by the paid advert to the actual cost of the click. As long as the customer clicked on an ad prior to purchasing, Adwords will count that as a conversion.

Date of Transaction

For example, if I purchased a pair of trainers on the 13th June, however I had clicked on the relevant advert on the 9th of June, Adwords would attribute the conversion to the first click on the 9th of June, whereas Google Analytics would attribute the conversion to the 13th June, the day the conversion actually happened.

As a default, Adwords will report within 30 days, although this can be set to longer. This means if someone clicks on your ad at the beginning of the month, but does not purchase until the end of the month and searches for your website via a search engine then each attribution model would allocate the conversion at different times of the month.

One Conversion vs Every Conversion (Inc. Goals)

You can configure your conversion tracking within Google Analytics to use ecommerce tracking or individually set up goals. This will depend on what you are looking to record and the type of website you have i.e. ecommerce, lead generation etc.

Goals provide you with more options on what to track; this could be an interaction i.e. email sign up or even just a page view. It is quite likely if you are running an ecommerce website you will use a mixture of ecommerce tracking and goals.

In Analytics each goal will only be counted once per session. This is different to Adwords in the fact that Adwords tracking does not record sessions and is not aware of them. Therefore should a user reach the same conversion page more than once in one session, this would only be recorded as one goal conversion in Analytics.

However it would be recorded as multiple conversions within Adwords if you have the conversion action setting set as ‘Every’. You can also set this to ‘one’ which will only count one conversion per click.

The same is also true of Google Analytics ecommerce tracking if each order has its own transaction ID and will attribute multiple conversions to the same session.

As these types of tracking are measured differently then it is possible for user browser settings to affect the measurement of conversion, for example, should a user block a particular set of cookies, this could lead to the conversion being recorded with Google Adwords, but not Analytics.

Cross Device & Telephone Calls

Adwords does enable a form of cross device tracking that you can view in the “all conversions’ this is based on estimates and measurements from users who are logged into their Google account.

Telephone calls can be tracked using call extensions; these cannot be be measured within Analytics in the same way.

Importing Adwords in to Analytics

To view Adwords data within Analytics you should import your account (be aware it can take up to 9 hours for data to be refreshed) and this is a good idea so you can track GA conversion rate based on clicks or ad spend.

So which is the right way?

There is no right answer to the above and will depend on how you are reporting on data, it is a good idea if you are using Adwords to import into Google Analytics and this will give you a stronger overview of your spend and how it relates to your advertising spend.

The key thing to understand is how each platform attributes the conversions and that a new PPC campaign needs time to collect this data to give you a true reflection of your marketing campaign.