Why are my Visits different from my Clicks?

- February 19, 2008

Traffic Sources Navigation in Google AnalyticsA very popular Google Analytics report amongst the Campaign Management and Campaign Strategist teams here at MoreVisibility is the AdWords Campaigns report, located within the Traffic Sources section. This report is fantastic, as it pulls in click, impression, and click-through rate data straight from your Google AdWords account, and integrates it within the Google Analytics system.

This report really makes our lives easier, as we don’t have to toggle back and forth between two different systems. All of our Google AdWords Campaigns, Ad Groups, and Keywords are all in GA, and we can even see how much we spent! This report is probably one of the most under-rated features of all of Google Analytics.

Anyway, let’s talk about the title of this post, which is another very common question that I get asked. First of all, let’s define both “Visits” and “Clicks” – this is exactly how Google Analytics defines them:

Visits – The number of Visits to your site
Clicks – The number of Clicks on your search ad(s)

Clicks are pretty simple to understand – a person clicks on your ad, a click is registered, and counted as such. Visits is the tricky one. Visits counts the number of unique sessions created by your visitors. A unique session is basically a connection between a user and a webserver (your website).

There are a few different reasons why these two metrics are always different from each other, in the exact same date-range:

Multiple Clicks – There is nothing stopping a person from clicking on your ad multiple times in a specific date-range. No, it’s not click fraud, it’s probably comparison shopping. They click on your ad once, they go back and click on a competitor’s ad, then they go back again and click on your ad again, because they liked your offer or website better :). AdWords will record both clicks in that same session; however, Analytics only counts that as one visit, as the session was never terminated (they left your site, but the connection was still alive / their browser was still open). AdWords = 2 Clicks, Analytics = 1 Visit.

Multiple Visits – This is very close to the opposite of the first reason. Someone can click on your ad, close their browser or shut down their computer. Later, they can come back to your site via a bookmark, or if they remember your URL, they’ll type it in manually in the address bar. In this case, AdWords = 1 Click, Analytics = 2 Visits.

The Impatient Visitor – There’s also nothing stopping someone from clicking on your AdWords ad, and while your website is loading, they may get tired of waiting around for your website to load and go back to Google Search, or hit the “Stop” button on their browser. AdWords will count that click, but chances are that Analytics will not have had enough time to register that person as a visitor. Here, it’s AdWords = 1, Analytics = 0.

Invalid Clicks – There is always the issue of invalid clicks on your AdWords ads. The Google AdWords system automatically filters out invalid clicks from your account before you even see them. However, if these clicks land on your website, Analytics has no choice but to count those as visits. Analytics can’t automatically filter out “invalid visits” like AdWords can filter out “invalid clicks”. Therefore, the score here can be something along the lines of AdWords = 4, Analytics = 9.

The best possible answer that I can provide for the question “Why are my Visits different from my Clicks?” would be that both metrics are tracked and calculated differently by two completely different systems. Remember, you’re charged for the clicks – the visits are free ;).



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