When you advertise on both search engines (e.g., Google, Bing, Firefox) and social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest), you also have to deal with the results reports of these platforms. Facebook & Instagram (Meta), Linkedin and Google all have their own measuring tools. Chances are, when comparing and adding up the results, they don't match. For example, it often comes down to the fact that Google Analytics assigns fewer events to social media platforms than they assign themselves.
Where does the difference in data between Google Analytics and Facebook analytics come from?
The difference in the results displayed is because the data systems of Google and Meta (Facebook Analytics) use different attribution models. This means that events are not attributed in the same way to the platforms involved.
Meta attributes itself an event in the following two cases:
- When you complete a website event within seven days of an outgoing click on the Meta platform;
- when you complete a website event within one day of displaying an ad on the Meta platform.
Google Analytics attributes an event to the platform that caused the last (most recent) click to the website.
Therefore, because the attribution models used differ from each other, there may be an overlap/difference between the results displayed. Let us show what we mean with two examples:
Suppose a user clicked on a Facebook ad on Monday, which brought them to your website. That person looks around, but does not complete a conversion such as a purchase. On Wednesday, the user performs a search on Google. Through an organic search result, the user returns to your website and makes a purchase.
In this case Meta attributes the purchase to Facebook. The user has made a purchase within seven days after clicking on the Facebook ad. Google Analytics in this case attributes the conversion to Google/organic. This is because the last click that led the user to the website was a click on an organic search result.
A user sees a Facebook ad during his lunch break. Because the user has to get back to work, this person does not click on the ad any further. When they get home in the evening, they do a search on Google. The first result is your company's Google search ad. The user clicks on the ad and makes a purchase.
Also in this case, Meta attributes the purchase to Facebook. The user made a purchase within one day of displaying the Facebook ad. Google Analytics assigns the purchase to Google/paid. This is because the last click that led the user to the website was a click on a search ad.
What is the correct attribution model?
With marketing, you try to convert search traffic into customers at the right time, on the right platform, and with the right content. The success of your marketing is not only determined by the last click that led to a purchase.
As mentioned in the examples, it does not always happen that a website visitor makes a purchase immediately on his first visit to your website. A customer goes through a journey. In this process, someone has multiple touchpoints at different times and on multiple channels with your company. We call this the Customer Journey or Buyer’s Journey. Wouldn’t it be crazy if you make marketing efforts at every key moment in the Customer Journey, but then only look at the platform that led to the final purchase? The last click attribution principle that Google uses by default, therefore falls short.
But now we hear you think; "Can I no longer use Google Analytics at all?". Fortunately, that is not the case. For a long time, it was very difficult to get marketing activities that have done preparatory work visible in Google Analytics. There are now a number of ways available to make these things more visible.
Making social efforts more visible in Google Analytics
You can make the social media marketing efforts more visible in Google Analytics through a number of ways. We have listed the best ways.
Using a different attribution model
The first way we will discuss is also the most radical way. Adjusting the attribution model will not only ensure that the impact of social media is more visible, you will also see a shift in the other channels. Analytics supports the following attribution models:
Many Universal Analytics accounts are set to the last click. Adjusting the attribution model now can lead to unwanted shifts or wrong historical data. However, the linear or time interval attribution model is better for the completeness of the customer journey. For GA4 (the new Analytics) data-driven attribution is the most interesting. However, there is currently still too little user experience with this. Want more information? Then also read our blog about the data driven attribution model.
Even if the analytics account is already set to the last-click attribution model, you can see how the data changes with other attribution models. You can find this via:
conversions -> multi-channel funnels -> model comparison tools.
Create conversion goals
To better visualize the impact of various channels in Google Analytics, we also recommend setting more conversion goals that are important to your business. A conversion is not only a purchase, but also subscribing to a newsletter, adding a product to a shopping cart or wish list are so-called conversions. The different goals help to give insight into what source customers do certain conversions.
Reading the conversion goals
Reading goals in Google Analytics can be done in several ways. We generally look at the “Acquisition” heading. You start here on an overview page that immediately shows the relationship between the different channels. At the top of this page, you can choose from which goal you want to view the results. You can also select all the goals.
Diving further into the Google Analytics data
Under the heading 'Conversions' you will find the subheading Multi-Channel Funnels. Here you will find reports that go even deeper into how the different channels help to achieve conversion goals. Here you will find, among others:
Although Google Analytics defaults to last-click attribution, it does track assisted conversions. When Analytics can track that the same customer has been on the website via two channels by means of cookies, Analytics can assign an 'assisted conversion' to the channel that has supported the achievement of the conversion goal. The condition here is that Google Analytics recognizes when touching different channels that it is the same user.
Model Comparison tool
The model comparison tool is also worth using. With this tool, you can compare attribution models without having to make major changes to the account. This way, you can immediately see what effect it has on the awarded conversions when you use a different attribution model. You can also choose which conversions you want to include in this. Here’s an example:
The last tip we give is the correct use of UTM parameters. With the use of UTM parameters you make sure that all campaigns have the same source and medium. This causes actions to be grouped instead of being attributed to referral traffic. Also, when you start a big campaign, such as a 'summer sale', you can give all campaigns the campaign UTM 'summer sale', this way you can see exactly from which channels people have clicked on this campaign!
Which channels contribute to your campaigns can be found on Analytics (Universal Analytics) under 'acquisition' -> 'campaigns'. When your Google Ads is linked to Analytics, you will also find here which traffic has come in through each Google Ads campaign.
Google Analytics & Facebook Analytics usage
Because we continue to use different platforms, there will always be a difference in results in the reports. Google cannot measure everything that happens on a social media platform and due to attribution differences, the data collected by the different platforms does not match.
Several major market studies have shown that social media marketing plays an important role in the consumer decision process. Meta, just like Google, does everything they can within the Meta business manager to make sure the results are as accurate as possible. Like Google, Meta earns money from advertising. If social media marketing really didn't work, Meta would have been out of business long ago.
The various reports offer great insight into what marketing is doing for your business. Are you having trouble bringing up the different results? Or do you want to spar about how to do it better? Let's talk! One of our marketing specialists would be happy to take a look with you.