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22 Oct 2010

Conversion Reporting Woes

October 22, 2010PPC Advertising
With Pay Per Click advertising, tracking conversions and analytics data always seems to be a challenge. From syncing AdWords and Google Analytics to script placement, nothing ever seems to go right the first time. Once things are squared away, you then typically run into discrepancies in your reporting. Oh the difficulties we Pay Per Click marketers face.

Because Google AdWords and Analytics use different means of tracking conversions, reporting differences are pretty much inevitable. One reason is because AdWords tracks conversions as unique customer acquisitions (1-per-click). If the same person completes multiple goals on your website it is only represented as one conversion in AdWords. Google Analytics, however, will count each conversion individually. Invalid clicks are also excluded but will appear in Analytics, as well.

In addition, the cookies that AdWords Conversion Tracking uses expire a lot quicker than Analytics’. A conversion is only counted in AdWords if the user converts within 30 days of clicking your ad, whereas in Analytics the cookies can last from six months to two years. For some companies this can result in data that is significantly underreported in AdWords.

To complicate matters even more, you can also view conversions within Google’s Search Funnel reporting in AdWords. They both receive data from the same tracking pixel; however difference in conversion counts will occur for a couple of reasons. First, the Search Funnel only reports conversions from ads on Google.com and excludes those resulting from the Search Partner and Display networks. Second, AdWords reports conversions at the time of the click whereas the Search Funnel goes by the time of the conversion.

Tracking conversions and using the data effectively is essential for running successful PPC campaigns. The same is true for understanding the differences in your reporting. Although it may be quicker and easier to rely on the data from only one source, make a habit of consulting the additional conversion statistics available to you.  At the very least be sure you are matching data against Google Analytics, which tends to be more accurate in most cases.