Table of contents
Differences Between Facebook Ads and Google Analytics 4 Conversions (and How to Fix That)
Masha Efy, Creative Writer at OWOX BI
Right now, many people are asking about Google Analytics because they're adapting to the switch from Universal Analytics to GA4. One common question that's been around since Universal Analytics and continues with GA4 is, "Why are the clicks and conversions on Facebook much higher than what Google Analytics shows?"
In this article, we'll look into why this difference in data exists and how to minimize them.
Introduction to Facebook Pixel
Facebook Pixel is a piece of code that allows tracking user interactions with a website after seeing or clicking on Facebook ads.
When a user visits your site and adds items to their cart but doesn't complete the purchase, the Facebook Pixel can track this. Later, you can show users targeted ads on Facebook to remind them of their abandoned carts.
This personalized approach increases the chances of converting potential clients into customers.
Key Features of Facebook Pixel
Facebook Pixel has the following features for effective ad tracking and optimization:
Conversion tracking: Pixel follows user actions on your website, such as purchases or sign-ups, helping you measure the success of your ads and understand customer behavior.
Audience building: It helps create custom audiences based on specific actions users take on your site, allowing you to target them with relevant ads.
Dynamic ads: You can show personalized ads to users based on their interactions with your website, promoting products they've shown interest in.
Event tracking: Track and optimize various events on your site, such as button clicks or form submissions, and refine your ad strategy.
Cross-device tracking: Facebook Pixel provides insights into how users interact with your content across devices. For instance, if a user clicks on an ad from a mobile phone but completes a purchase later on the desktop, the Pixel can connect these actions to provide a view of their customer journey.
Conversion optimization: Finally, Pixel can analyze the behavior of users who've previously made purchases on your website. With this information, you can create a new ad campaign that specifically targets similar behaviors, increasing the chances of converting those users into customers.
Introduction to Google Analytics 4 Tracking
Google Analytics 4 collects data about how people interact with your website or app. It uses a "tracking code" that you place in the tag of your website. When someone visits your website, the code gathers information on which pages they view and what actions take.
The information is sent to Google Analytics, where it's sorted into reports showing insights about your audience and how they act. This helps you see what's going well and what can be better on your website or app.
Key Features of Google Analytics 4
Event-based tracking allows measuring specific interactions with your website or app, such as clicks, page views, and video plays.
Cross-platform insights help understand how users engage with content on desktop, mobile, and other platforms.
Enhanced user lifecycle analysis enables tracking of user journeys from acquisition to conversion and retention, taking you through the entire customer lifecycle.
Predictive metrics: This feature uses machine learning to predict future user behavior and outcomes.
Customizable events and parameters: You can define and measure custom events and parameters that are relevant to your specific business goals, allowing for more tailored analytics.
Enhanced privacy controls: Google Analytics 4 allows you to set specific data retention periods for user-level and event-level data, giving you more control over how long data is stored. It also allows getting user consent before collecting and processing their data, ensuring compliance with privacy regulations like GDPR.
Real-time reporting helps you react promptly to user behavior and campaign performance.
Improved integration with Google Ads: Google Analytics 4 connects with Google Ads, providing a clearer picture of how your ads contribute to user engagement and conversions.
Reasons for Discrepancies Between Facebook Ads and Google Analytics
Discrepancies between Facebook Ads and Google Analytics metrics often arise because of different tracking approaches, attribution models, and data processing methods used by the platforms. Let's take a look at each of them:
Tracking Model: Google Analytics 4 Sessions vs. Facebook Clicks
Google Analytics 4 looks at how long a person interacts with a website, including different things they do. But on Facebook, each click on an ad is counted as a separate event, even if the person doesn't stay long.
"When someone clicks a Facebook ad and goes to a store's website, in GA4, this counts as a single visit. But on Facebook, every click on that ad, even if they saw the same things, is counted separately. So, while they had one real visit, Facebook might show many clicks. This can cause data differences between the platforms".
Attribution Model: Facebook vs. Google Analytics
When it comes to tracking, exact numbers can't be the same for everyone due to the different tracking methods used by Facebook and Google Analytics.
Google Analytics uses special codes in website links to see where visitors come from. Facebook, on the other hand, uses conversion Pixels to know what people do outside of Facebook. They connect these actions to the ads users have seen on Facebook, but there are some differences in how they count and measure.
Watch an exclusive webinar to discover a key strategy to enhance your marketing achievements
The way Facebook and Google Analytics handle attribution windows and dates varies, leading to differences in reported conversions. Facebook uses a 7-day look-back window for click-through conversions and an additional 24-hour window for view-through conversions. This means that if you click on a Facebook ad, visit a website, and later convert within 7 days, Facebook counts it as a click-through conversion.
Similarly, if you view the ad and then convert within 24 hours, Facebook registers it as a view-through conversion. However, Google Analytics 4 does not consider view-through conversions as Facebook conversions.
Another reason for different conversion numbers is how they handle conversion dates. Google Analytics records events on the day the action was done in the user's time zone. Facebook, however, reports conversions based on the date of the ad click or view in the time zone of the Facebook ad account.
A person visiting a site multiple times in a day could trigger multiple sessions in Google Analytics. This depends on the time between visits and the campaign source.
Sessions can end in two ways:
- A session expires after 30 minutes of inactivity by default.
- At midnight, which is considered the end of the session period.
Also, sessions end when there's a change in the campaign. For instance, if someone clicks an ad in the morning, leaves, and returns via another ad in the evening, it will be counted as two sessions.
Facebook Conversions vs. Google Analytics Goal Events
Google Analytics UTM-based tracking offers a more accurate way to attribute the conversion directly to the specific Facebook ad, ensuring that you get a clear picture of the user's journey from ad click to conversion.
"A potential customer using an Android phone comes across your Facebook ad and clicks on it. The link from the ad takes them to your website. With Google Analytics, you've added UTM parameters – utm_source, utm_medium, and utm_campaign – to the URL in the ad. When the user lands on your website, these UTM parameters are passed along, allowing Google Analytics to identify that this visit originated from your specific Facebook ad.
On the other hand, Facebook's pixel-based tracking relies on placing a piece of code on your website's pages. When the user arrives on your site, this pixel triggers and sends data back to Facebook, indicating a user interaction. However, if the user isn't logged into their Facebook account on the browser, Facebook's pixel might not be able to connect the visit to their Facebook user account, leading to potential inaccuracies in tracking".
Google Analytics 4 Can’t Track View-Through Conversions
View-through conversions happen when someone sees an ad but doesn't click it, then later visits and buys. In contrast to Facebook's pixel-based tracking, Google Analytics 4 doesn't count view-through conversions because it focuses on tracking user actions during one visit. GA4 is interested in what users do on your website or app while they're actively engaged.
Issues with Google Analytics Tracking Code Firing
We've all done it – clicking an ad on Facebook and closing the window before the tracking code in Google Analytics loads. This means the session isn't recorded in Google Analytics, but Facebook still counts the click. This inconsistency is a major issue for marketers, especially on mobile, and a likely reason behind the data differences between Facebook and Google Analytics.
Multiple Conversions Assigned by Facebook
Sometimes, Facebook counts multiple conversions for one user action. For example, if someone clicks an ad and goes to the website, Facebook might count each action separately. This can make the numbers look bigger than they really are. Google Analytics usually counts everything in one session, showing a more combined view of what people do on your site.
Apple's iOS 14/15 Impact on Facebook Ads Tracking
Apple's iOS 14/15 updates prompt iPhone users to block tracking by hiding their IP address. Since many people use iPhones (almost 50% of smartphone users), this change can greatly affect your ability to measure campaign data, track results, and calculate ROI. Whether you're into email marketing, Facebook ads, or measuring your website's success, this iOS update will likely impact your marketing efforts.
Multiple Clicks on the Same Ad
People often click on ads many times, especially when shopping online. If a person clicks on an ad twice within 30 minutes, Facebook counts it as two separate clicks. But in Google Analytics 4, this is seen as one session. This shows how the platforms have different ways of tracking interactions.
Strategies to Align Facebook and Google Analytics 4 Data
Data discrepancies are a reality, but they can be managed. Not understanding these differences might make you decide wrongly about spending time and money. But there are ways to fix this gap between Google Analytics and Facebook:
Increase Data Consistency with UTM parameters
Customizing URL parameters is a simple way to improve tracking between Facebook and Google Analytics. Since auto-tagging isn't an option on Facebook, you'll manually add these tags.
Let's say you have a landing page URL:
Adding UTM parameters for your Facebook campaign:
- Campaign Source: facebook
- Campaign Medium: paid
Your UTM URL would look like this:
The added UTM parameters tell Google Analytics that the visit came from a Facebook campaign and was paid. This way, you can better monitor the effectiveness of your campaigns and understand user behavior.
Import Facebook Ads Cost Data into Google Analytics
While you can look at each campaign on its own platform, it's easier to analyze everything in one spot. Google Analytics 4 is a good choice because it lets you put all the data in a single table, making it simpler to see how all your advertising is doing together.
There are several ways to import cost data from Facebook to Google Analytics 4, such as manually adding CSV files through GA4's interface, using the GA4 SFTP method, or employing OWOX BI's prebuilt solution. Find the detailed guide on how to import non-Google advertising cost data to Google Analytics 4.
Exclude View-Through Conversions
To simplify conversion tracking, exclude view-through conversions in Facebook attribution settings. This will result in Facebook only counting click-through conversions, which can help decrease discrepancies between clicks and conversions.
How to Exclude View-Through Conversions:
Facebook Ad Manager → Ad Set → Edit → Optimization & Delivery → Select either "1-day click" or "7-day click"
By following these steps, your Facebook ad manager will exclusively display data related to click-through conversions.
Incorporate both Click and Session Metrics in Your Performance Reports
Using click and session metrics in your reports offers a well-rounded perspective on the performance of your marketing campaigns. Click metrics focus on the number of times users interact with your ads by clicking on them. On the other hand, session metrics delve deeper into user engagement by taking into account a series of actions taken within a single visit to your website or app.
Evaluate Each Step of the Sales Funnel
Understanding your audience's journey through the sales funnel is important for aligning GA4 and Facebook data. By evaluating each stage from awareness to conversion, you can identify where gaps might arise. For example, if Facebook reports high click-through rates but low conversions in a specific funnel step, it could mean that you need to optimize that stage's landing page or content.
Look Outside of Standard Reports in GA4
Finally, step beyond the usual GA4 reports with the help of a CMO dashboard, providing a full picture of the marketing activities. This way, you will have data from Facebook and GA4 in one place and keep an eye on your marketing goals in real time. No more hunting through scattered data or dealing with spreadsheets – it's all right there for smarter decision-making.
Optimize Cross-Channel Budget Allocation with OWOX BI
OWOX BI will make budgeting across different channels smarter. It gathers all your advertising cost details in one place without any coding hassle, no manual cleaning or data processing; it's all set up for you. You can easily keep an eye on your imports, combine data from various platforms, and get a dataset full of useful metrics for understanding ROAS better. This will help you discover your top-performing channels, distribute your advertising budget effectively, and optimize your campaigns for higher returns on investment.
Outpace competitors by optimizing multiple advertising campaigns across diverse channels using OWOX BI
Why is Google Analytics showing incorrect data?Google Analytics could show wrong information because of tracking mistakes, filter settings, spam traffic, or different tracking methods. To fix this, check your tracking, filters, and setup to make sure your data is accurate and reliable.
How do I analyze Facebook ads with Google Analytics?To analyze Facebook ads with Google Analytics you have to integrate both platforms and use UTM parameters for accurate tracking. Connect Facebook Pixel to GA4, ensure proper UTM tagging, and use custom reports to compare data and identify discrepancies.
What is the discrepancy between Google Analytics and Facebook Ads?The difference between Google Analytics and Facebook Ads comes from how they count clicks and engagement. Facebook counts clicks and views, while Google Analytics tracks how users interact in sessions, which can cause numbers to differ.