By David Isman
One of the most common issues brands see when advertising on Facebook is trying to understand and reconcile attribution data discrepancies between Google Analytics and Facebook Ads Manager. Wouldn’t you love to be able to report to your CEO that you can explain why these numbers don’t always match up? Even better, you could detail how to find a closer estimate of your actual attribution.
Below, I break down a step by step guide on how exactly you can gather your data and then analyze it so you can provide a clearer picture of your digital advertising performance.
Just as the saying goes, “There are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth,” the true story of your digital advertising attribution is somewhere in the middle of these two sources.
Two Main Reasons for These Discrepancies
While data discrepancies can be due to an array of factors, there are two common reasons behind the majority of them.
(1) Conversion Timing
The timing of when the platform registers the conversion event is one of the major reasons behind data discrepancies.
Google Analytics (GA) reports last-click conversions as its default setting while Facebook reports instead on any conversion within a 28-day window that comes after a click.
This means that any user that clicked on a Facebook ad and didn’t convert, but later came back through a different channel (search, display, direct, etc), would be counted by Facebook but not by GA.
(2) Cross-Device Conversions
Cross-device conversions are not counted in GA, but they are counted when you’re using the Facebook pixel.
In practice, this is when a user clicks on an ad on one device and eventually converts on another (perhaps switching from smartphone to desktop to do additional research). Facebook will count this conversion, but GA will not.
It’s important to note this effect is significantly stronger for more expensive products and services such as high-end retail and online education since research plays the biggest role in their decision-making.
Whenever it’s the case that the click on the Facebook ad was not the last click, or the user switched devices, it’s even more crucial that we still account for their role in the conversion funnel.
The reason it’s so crucial to take Facebook’s role into account here is because without that click on your Facebook ad, the user may not have been aware of your brand, been considering your brand, or needed that reminder to get back into your funnel.
If we were to rely solely on last click reporting, the reporting would fail to give Facebook any value in that customer journey even though it likely influenced at least a part of your consumer’s decision.
Reconciling Data to Determine Attribution
Despite what digital advertisers may wish, there is sadly no magic formula that can calculate attribution perfectly. Even the most sophisticated and expensive solutions leave out many qualitative and quantitative factors.
The two methods described below connect the dots to give you a much better sense of how to reconcile your reporting discrepancies.
3 Questions to Answer before Reviewing Your Attribution Data
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