Why Adwords and Analytics numbers don’t match

Ever wondered why adwords and analytics number never match. Why there is always a discrepancy  between your analytics vendor and adwords clicks reported by Google adwords panel.

The most important question of all why the adwords click analytics is missing from adwords panel whereas it is presented in google analytics interface which always shows a discrepancy in number.

Knowing if there will always be a discrepancy what is the acceptable limits and what to do when this discrepancy started touching a higher percentage.

What should be my next plan of action if the discrepancy percentage started moving towards higher percentages?

These are the most asked questions in today’s digital marketing world but never answered by anyone officially in any capacity. Let’s today try to understand why.

To understand the core of the problem we have to first understand how adwords and analytics works and what results in the discrepancies. And many other important questions which we never asked but always wanted to.

Adwords: Search result appear in google, search network partners and its content network partners. User then clicks on the Ads listed for that keywords. Now this ad is shown after a tight stringent rules of campaign targeting set by the advertisers.

Whenever the click happened a count is augmented in the adwords panel for that keyword.

Analytics: Now whenever the user lands on the website and the javascript tags of your analytics partner is fired a visit is recorded by the analytics. Let it be Google analytics, Webtrends, Sitecatalyst or anyone. It will start working and tracking once the javascript tags is fired.

Now technically and theoretically during this click and user landing onto your website, this journey happens in microseconds to few seconds depending on the user speed and server speed of the network.

In reality this journey will be the deciding factor for your discrepancy percentage between adwords clicks and analytics visits which is a little long as always than thought.

Many things happens as follows:

1)      User clicked on the ad but due to slow speed of his network, before the page load he had closed the browser.

2)      User clicked on the ad but due to heavy size of the landing page and its graphics he had abandoned the website even before the firing of your analytic javascript tag/beacon (most often the analytics tags is at the bottom of the page which means that it will not fire till the full page load happens).

3)      User clicked on the ad but due to technical limitation of the system from which he was browsing, the page couldn’t load properly and resulted in abandoning of the website landing page by the user.

4)      User was browsing with JavaScript disabled or no cookie policy and due to this technical limitation of your analytic vendor this visit could not be tracked.

5)      User accidentally or clicked with wrong expectations (may be due to misleading d copy etc) and while landing on the website he immediately realizes the mistake and closed the browser immediately.

6)      User accessing the network from office or home but the website is blocked by the network system administrator.

The above reasons are just one of the many reasons that could be behind this discrepancy of user clicking but not reaching your website. It will be very difficult and less useful to get after all of them and list them here. What’s more important is that to understand that whenever there is a discrepancy (as there will always be), we have to picture it as the leakage between our marketing dollars and the results.

So if I say that the discrepancy between adwords clicks and analytics visit is around 10-20 percent, it simply means that if I am spending 100k on search engine marketing (PPC ads) then 10K-20K is wasted in leakages in either one or some of the  above reasons.

What to do now: if I know now that these leakages are bound to happen and they always should be then should I just close my eyes and keep draining 20k-30K every month for the leakages that’s happening.

My boss is going to hang me if he knows the above truth. As my boss already did once in my last organization for this 20 percent leakage that’s happening with our every marketing dollars spent.

Thankfully there was a way way back then and there is way right now also.

My next steps after knowing the above truth and fact will be how best to minimize the leakages. Can I bring down the leakages to an acceptable percentages. The answer to above all is yes you can.

Next Steps:

1)      Understand ,identify and guess the most possible technical reason behind the leakage.

2)      Spend marketing dollars to improve upon the technical reason identified and see if you can improve upon the discrepancy percentages.

If we see closely enough then all of the above reason are mostly technical and could be addressed easily. For e.g.

a)      Slow speed of the user or the server.

b)      Slow rendering of the landing page.

c)       Later firing of the javascript tags which is placed at the bottom of the page.

d)      Wrong perception/message by your ad or misalignment of your ad copy and landing page.

Improvement Program:

1)      Landing Page Optimization:

a)If your users are from slow speed networks then it will be a good idea to switch to a very light version of your landing page with minimum required graphics and images and size. This will take care of slow speed users who will gets faster rendering of the landing page despite of the slow speed of their network.


b) If you have distributed marketing campaign across many geographical location then it will be a good idea to understand which geographical location generally have slow speed networks and then have a separate adword campaign and less heavy and faster loading landing page for that geographical location.


c) If you have a good section of your visitor from mobile then it will be a good idea either to separate the adword campaign with WAP mobile ads and faster landing page or to build a faster loading landing page. Also check the most used browser size and  the landing page should be optimized for that size.


d) Putting your analytic javascript as close to the head of the landing page specially so that it will be first one to fire rather than putting it in the bottom closing body tag.


2)      Ad copy and Landing Page alignment:

Though this could be most unlikely but it would be a good idea to run through the percentages discrepancy for all the adwords campaign and check for the highest discrepancy group with your analytics report. Start with checking the ad copy and landing page chemistry and how often this leads to wrong expectations.

Reasons 4 and 6 are out of your reach  to improve upon and hence lets treat them currently as out of scope for now.

Monitor each of your effort closely by starting with one campaign and then if successful then replicate it among others.


Hidden secret and Logic:

Have you ever wondered why even google analytics and google adwords numbers are offset by a percentage and where is the clue that I am missing.

First of all Google Adwords was aligned with Google analytics few years ago. However there was a little secret which Google never revealed. Google adwords was presented as part of Google analytics within the GA (google analytics) UI. However allocation of click and visit recording remains the same. Analytics show the visit when the analytics tags is fired and it does nothing when click happens. So if an user is clicking on an AD, analytics will not record the visit till the user reaches the website and the analytics tags are fired which will then be backlinked with the adwords to get the other parameters which will then be populated in the Adwords section of the Google  Analytics reporting interface.

So one question I am unable to understand always is that why is adwords made a part of analytics and not vice versa, why is adwords always free to register click even when your analytics vendor ( even Google analytics) cannot register a visit.

All the required parameters are already there with Google Search Page, then why it would not show me the little analytics of the geolocation of all the clicks that happened and other details which help me to identify the source of the leakage and help me to rectify that.

The most promising question is why I cannot identify and go after these leakages. I can understand that these leakages will always be there but why cant I reduce them and wait for some good luck /miracle to happen.

Then something caught my attention that earning from adwords alone is in billions. Well a percentage of 10-15 even could be something a number beyond my imagination.


So I Guess Adwords and Analytics are not destined to meet but what we are destined to is to reduce the gaps as much as possible.

Disclaimer: The views, opinion expressed here are done in the personal capacity of the author and has nothing to do with the organizations he worked for in the past current or in the future.

Author was Microsoft Accredited Professional, Google Adwords Qualified, Google Analytics Certified and is an Ace Site Catalyst Certified and Ace Digital Analyst Certified professional.

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