Q1 of 2008 started just the other day (or so it seems) and here we are, about to begin Q2. Many marketers and business owners hold quarterly status meetings, right after a quarter has ended, to evaluate the performance of their online initiatives. Specifically, they meet to evaluate their paid search campaigns (and, they should). Chances are that they are advertising with Google AdWords. Chances are also really good that they are using the Google AdWords Conversion Tracking Feature and have a Google Analytics account running at the same time. Which, of course, makes me very proud 🙂
And, if you’re like me, you like your data like Lieutenant Commander Data – with “android-like precision”. (Yes, I just dropped a Star Trek reference. My Co-Worker’s “Resistance is Futile” blog series has inspired me to reference Star Trek more often, so you have her to thank for it).
“I am looking at my weekly / monthly / quarterly reports, and Google AdWords shows that I have received 74 conversions…but when I log in to Google Analytics, I see that I have 88 Goal Conversions for the exact same Conversion Point. Which one is right?”
There are many possibilities here. Before I can answer this, let me explain some things:
What is Google AdWords Conversion Tracking, and how it works:
What is a Goal in Google Analytics, and how it works:
A Goal in Google Analytics is when someone visits a page that has been defined as a Conversion Goal within a Google Analytics profile. The idea behind what page(s) to select for Goals in GA is identical to choosing which pages to place AdWords Conversion Code on. However, Google Analytics only requires its regular tracking code to be present on that page in order to record a Goal Conversion. Upon entering your website, up to five cookies are set on a visitor’s computer, whether they reach your Goal Conversion page or not. GA takes the number of visits to your Goal Conversion page(s), and simply does the math throughout its reports.
So…why are AdWords and Analytics Conversion Numbers Different?
There are a few different reasons:
A. Cookie Deletion / Cookie Blocking Habits
Depending on a user’s browser settings, they may be blocking the AdWords Conversion Tracking cookie, and not blocking the Google Analytics cookies, or vice-versa.
B. Script Location on Conversion Page
Because these are two different scripts, there is a possibility that one script will “execute” before a user closes their browser or leaves the page, before the other script had a chance to execute.
C. Different Servers
The Server that processes AdWords Conversion Tracking is a different server from the one that processes Google Analytics data. So, much like reason B above, one server may have finished receiving information, but another server may have not finished receiving information before a user leaves the site or closes their browser.
D. Certain Google Partner Sites
Some of Google’s Search Partner Websites (where your ads may appear) cannot have their Conversions tracked with the AdWords Conversion Tracking script. However, if you’ve coded your URLs for Google Analytics, you will still see a Conversion for “google / cpc”.
E. Google AdWords can assign a conversion to a Campaign within a 30-day period
A user may not convert right away on their first visit to your site – they may come back some days or a couple of weeks later, and then convert. If you run a report in Google AdWords one day, and run the same exact report with the same date-range a week from when you ran it the first time, chances are you may see a different number of conversions between the two reports. Google Analytics cannot go back in time and credit a prior campaign or keyword with a conversion – it can only give credit for a Goal Conversion as it happens.
The combination and the mixture of all of those reasons makes it almost impossible for the AdWords Conversion Counter and Goals in Google Analytics to be identical figures.
Final Question: “So, which one is the right one / which one should I be looking at?”
The answer here is both of them. Keep in mind that neither Google AdWords nor Google Analytics are accounting packages or server logs – you cannot use those for official bookkeeping or record-keeping. I like to say, use the number of Conversions in Google AdWords and Goals in Google Analytics as guides, while analyzing and evaluating trends and habits, not for accounting purposes.
I know, I know…it was just the other day that Google Analytics officially launched Benchmarking and Audio Ads integration. However, I’m greedy, and I already want more!
So, I’ve created a list of things that I want Google Analytics to build into the program, and I’d like to share those with you right now. Some of them may sound like pipe-dreams, while others may actually seem reasonable. For the purposes of this post, I ask you not to burst my bubble, and play along. 🙂
#1 – A “Blogs” Report
If you have a Feedburner account (like our blog does), Google Analytics should be able to synch your GA and your FB (Feedburner) accounts up, like it synchs up AdWords and now Audio Ads. Then, we could see Feedburner-like stats in Google Analytics, such as susbcribers, reach, uncommon uses, and so on. Admit it, it would be cool, wouldn’t it? This report could be found in the Content Section, right underneath “Top Content”.
#2 – Custom Reporting Options
I would love to be able to pick a custom date-range when I create an automatic report. Right now, the only four options to choose from are “Daily”, “Weekly”, “Monthly”, and “Quarterly”. What if I want a bi-weekly / mid-month automatic report? Or what if I want an “every 10 days” report that gets emailed to me automatically? Wouldn’t that be neat?
#3 – A “Reset Your Dashboard” Button
This would be perfect for that one time where you totally screw up your dashboard and you want to start over again with the default dashboard reports.
#4 – An even more customizable dashboard!
This is an extension from request #3. What if I don’t want to have the “Site Usage” window on my dashboard? What if I want each widget on the dashboard to show the top 10 or 15 items, instead of the top 5? How in the world do I get one of the four Google Analytics Views to show up on the dashboard page exactly as I want them (showing the pie chart, the comparison to site average, etc…)?
#5 – Cost-Data Import from other Pay-Per-Click Marketing Programs
Yeah, you probably knew this one was coming sooner or later. This is probably the most requested feature, ever (at least by me, I’ve been requesting it since 2006). This can actually be a manual import, it doesn’t have to be automatic. I’d spend that extra minute on the first of each month and upload my Yahoo! or my Microsoft AdCenter cost data into GA, via a CSV file, so that I could compare that data up against my AdWords data, wouldn’t you?
#6 – Integration with Google Website Optimizer
A logical request, as I already have requested an integration with Feedburner. This makes a lot of sense to me – you would be able to see the results of your A/B or your Multivariate Tests in Google Analytics, and be able to compare your successful combinations or pages against your other current website pages.
#7 – Embed the Map Overlay on your website
This one isn’t necessarily for me – However, I have heard a ton of requests for this particular item. I guess what you can do right now is simply take a screen-shot of the Map Overlay, and save the image and upload it to your site…but maybe there could be some way to provide a snippet of code to be placed on a website?
#8 – Improved Site Overlay functionality!
I completely LOVE the Site Overlay report. However, whenever there is flash present on a site, or there are heavy amounts of dynamic scripts, Site Overlay “breaks” and cannot show any clickstream data. I hope that someday, Site Overlay will be upgraded – and possibly with a few bells and whistles added on to it?
#9 – Bring Back the Lookup Table!
Google Analytics has an advanced filter option called “Lookup Table”, that is currently unavailable. In fact, it has been unavailable for a very long time. Basically, I’d like to play with it, so please bring it back and re-activate it! I actually had a possible use for the Lookup Table a while back.
#10 – Goal re-ordering option
I would love to have the ability to re-order Goals in the same fashion that I can re-order Filters. This way, if I happen to create a Goal in the G1 slot, and then I create a Goal in the G3 slot, I could move the one in G3 to the G2 position, so that I can be as organized as possible, and keep similar goals close together. I hate having to rename and re-configure a goal to have to do this – a lot of times I create a goal or two goals, and later on down the road, another goal becomes available or thought of. Meanwhile, the original goals have already gathered data, so it would be a shame to change the Goal URL and / or Goal Funnel.