Google Analytics vs. Conversion Counter

When Google released Google Analytics, some wondered about the fate of the conversion counter. While far more limited in its reporting capabilities, the conversion counter offers a way for Adwords advertisers to see campaign performace – through the interface or reporting module. Specifically, the counter provides for far superior rolling daily analysis and same-day reporting that Google Analytics doesn’t provide.

As savvy webmasters and marketers installed Google Analytics and maintained the conversion counter, they discovered that the numbers (conversions and sales value) the conversion counter reported looked different (often very different) than Google Analytics numbers. There are a few reasons for this (none of which are really explained by Google’s help entry on the topic):

  1. Date-of-click vs. Date-of-sale – Google conversion counter attributes a conversion (and sales value) to the date of when a customer clicked on the ad. Google Analytics attributes the transaction to the date of the sale. For example, if I clicked on an Adwords ad on May 1, but then came back to the site through anyother means besides clicking on the ad again (ex. bookmark, direct) and purchased on May 15, Google conversion counter would attribute the conversion to May 1. Google Analytics would attribute the sale to the date of the sale – in this case, May 15. (Note: This gets tricky when you are looking at visitors who click at the end of one month, and purchase in another. See Adwords Tip: Run Look back reports when using conversion counter)
  2. Separate Cookies – GCC and GA are on two separate systems (GA is built on the old Urchin platform). With cookies coming from separate servers, there is bound to be cookies that may be dropped by one system and not the other. Users may also be blocking one and not the other as well.
  3. Improper/Missing Page Tagging – Proper installation of the tracking codes on landing and receipt pages is critical with any tracking system. Nine times out of ten, improper or missing code installation is the root of reporting issues. Make sure you follow the instructions provided for both codes and TEST, TEST, TEST. The first thing to check when you see no data coming in – are the pages still tagged with the codes.
  4. Improper URL tagging – Google has made is very simple for Adwords advertisers to link their campaigns into an GA profile. Using the auto-tagging feature, it’s the click of a button and your campaign data is feed into GA. Still, there are those who manual tag Adwords destination URLs, and simple tagging errors can reek havoc on your Analytics reporting. Again, test often, especially if your site is frequently updating pages/code.

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