Seeing Different Data in Google Analytics and AdWords? Here’s Why

Theo Bennett - March 4, 2014

So your data in Google Analytics (GA) does not match exactly what you see in Google AdWords. Don’t fret, you’re not alone and you probably have not done anything wrong.

This so called “discrepancy” is a common cause of concern for many marketers. You look in your trusty GA reports and see X visits and Y conversions and AdWords shows Z clicks and Y+10 conversions. So which is correct and which data set do you use? They are both correct and you use them both.

Use both? They’re both correct? Yes! Let’s take a moment to explain two fundamental differences between the GA and AdWords tracking:

From Clicks to Visits

AdWords clicks and GA visits are never 1 to 1. A click on your ad is a potential visitor to your site. They are not counted by GA until the AdWords engine redirects them to your site, the page loads and a gif request is made to the Google Analytics Servers. If at any time the potential visitor abandons the process, you will have a click on your ad in AdWords and 0 visits in GA. Or, if the visitor’s browser does not support JavaScript or images or has opted out of tracking (a very small %) the visit will not be recorded in GA.

Conversion Attribution

Any visitor that comes to your site via AdWords and converts within 30 days of that visit will show as a conversion in AdWords. If, however, this same visitor comes to your site via another source – through your email marketing efforts or through organic search, for example – sometime after the initial AdWords visit, GA will credit the last source before conversion, not AdWords.

Just remember that:

  1. Clicks do not equal visits
  2. AdWords conversion coding takes credit for ANY conversion that involved AdWords as a referring source – as long as the AdWords visit occurred sometime within the last 30 days; but, GA will always credit the last source. (Well actually the last non-direct visit but I’ll explain that in another post!)

Happy Analyzing!

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