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In the last blog, I talked about how a lot of marketers choose to integrate Google Analytics conversions into their AdWords accounts while keeping their AdWords conversion tracking in place and active. We frequently run across marketers using both tracking mechanisms who wonder why they are seeing different numbers from each.

You should expect to see differences in the conversion numbers between the two tracking mechanisms. So how do you know if something is not working right in one or the other? Finch has run across a number of common illegitimate reasons for discrepancies between AdWords and integrated Google Analytics conversion numbers viewed in your AdWords conversions page. I described four of those illegitimate reasons in the last log. Below are four additional reasons.

 

 

Reason #5: The Google Analytics _trackPageview code is not installed on all pages of the website
(Of 8 illegitimate reasons for discrepancies between AdWords and Google Analytics conversions)

This problem has a similar nature to Reason #1. Since Google Analytics uses first-party cookies (meaning the domain on the cookie is your domain), it is necessary to have the Google Analytics pageview tracking code on every page of your website. If you omit this, then Google Analytics will not record the source attribution when the user enters your website, and the subsequent conversion will therefore not be tracked to AdWords. The result is you will see lower numbers of conversions than you should in your AdWords accounts for the Google Analytics conversion code.

Make sure you have the pageview tracking installed on all pages on your website. It is easy to check; just go to a page on your website, view source in your browser, and search for trackPageview. More details on setting up Google Analytics pageview tracking can be found here: https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/collection/gajs/

 

Reason #6: Conversion code is displayed on pages that are not actually conversions
(Of 8 illegitimate reasons for discrepancies between AdWords and Google Analytics conversions)

Finch has seen websites that will display conversion code on pages that are not actually conversions. One example of this is when the website shows order histories to users in a “My Account” area, and the conversion code is presented in the source code when the user views a past order. Obviously, these are not actually purchases and should not be counted as conversions.

This problem will lead to discrepancies between the conversion numbers from each tracking mechanism when it is occurring with one mechanism and not the other. For instance, if only the AdWords conversion code is being presented during order history views and not the Google Analytics conversion code, then the AdWords conversions will be inflated and vice versa. If the problem is occurring with both tracking mechanisms, this will also lead to discrepancies as each will handle the order history views differently. For instance, Google Analytics will add the revenue to the existing transaction, whereas AdWords will record an additional conversion. The result is that AdWords conversions will be more numerous, but with a lower average value.

One way to track this down for AdWords conversions is to view the Webpages tab in the Conversions page:

Webpages tab

This will show you the URLs that your AdWords conversion code is being loaded on. If you see URLs that should not be considered a conversion, then you know you have a problem and need to remove the code from these pages.

Finch is not aware of a similar type of report for Google Analytics conversions. We suggest that you review your implementation logic of your tracking code to see if you can determine any issues – which is good practice anyway. You can also view various pages of your website that you think could potentially be erroneously rendering conversion tracking code and view the source to see if it is present or not.

 

Reason #7: Errors in transaction tracking code
(Of 8 illegitimate reasons for discrepancies between AdWords and Google Analytics conversions)

Both AdWords conversion tracking code and Google Analytics eCommerce transaction tracking work using JavaScript code that is rendered in the source code and run by the user’s browser. If there is an error in the code, then the browser is unable to run it, and a conversion will not be recorded. This will result in conversions being missed.

AdWords conversion tracking code is very simple, and therefore harder to mess up than Google Analytics code. It is rare that errors exist which prevent a conversion from being recorded completely, as there is only one dynamic variable that can be filled in (value). One thing to look out for is to make sure you are using a period for the decimal mark, and not a comma (which may be the norm for your culture).

Google Analytics eCommerce tracking has more dynamic variables that are rendered by your website and therefore has more opportunity for errors. One potential problem is when you are not escaping or removing special characters correctly in the JavaScript. For instance, you may be using single quotes to delineate the fields in the _addItem as you see in the example here: https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/collection/gajs/gaTrackingEcommerce#Example. If you have a product name or category that also has a single quote, then it will result in an error, and the conversion will likely not be recorded. Finch recommends that you filter out any non-alphanumeric characters from your fields to proactively prevent this problem.

To investigate this issue, you can use a JavaScript debugging tool to see if your code is throwing an error. There is a great Chrome browser extension called the Google Analytics Tracking Code Debugger that you can find here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/jnkmfdileelhofjcijamephohjechhna. Also, Google refers to this tool and provides a lot of other great troubleshooting information here: https://developers.google.com/analytics/resources/articles/gaTrackingTroubleshooting. You can also attempt to reconcile your Google Analytics transactions with your order management system. This will allow you to determine if there is a common pattern to transactions that are missing within Google Analytics. Keep in mind that you will not be able to find a small percentage of transactions in Google Analytics because the user had JavaScript disabled – causing the tracking code to not work.

 

Reason #8: Problems with your Google Analytics goal conversions setup
(Of 8 illegitimate reasons for discrepancies between AdWords and Google Analytics conversions)

If you have a lead form type website, you are likely using goal conversions within Google Analytics. It is important to understand that goal conversions work fundamentally differently than AdWords conversion tracking. Goal conversions are implemented using a combination of URL pattern matching and the _trackPageview code rendered on the webpage. In other words, when a user encounters a URL that matches the pattern configured within Google Analytics for the goal, and the page includes the pageview tracking code, then a conversion is recorded. This contrasts to how AdWords conversion tracking (and Google Analytics eCommerce transaction tracking) works – where a conversion is recorded wherever conversion JavaScript code is encountered.

Problems arise when you change the URL of the thank you pages and do not correspondingly update your goal URL pattern matching to capture the changes. It is quite likely that the AdWords conversion tracking was preserved onto the thank you page that now has a new URL; however Google Analytics is no longer counting the new thank you page as a conversion. This will result in missing conversions by Google Analytics.

Perhaps you did update your goal conversion setup in Google Analytics with a new goal to capture the new thank you page. However, since it is a new goal, it is not automatically imported into AdWords. Furthermore, you have to wait until the new goal records a conversion before you can even integrate it into your AdWords account. Until you have successfully imported the new goal into AdWords, you will be missing conversions in the Google Analytics conversion numbers.

Using goal conversions with AdWords requires constant, careful diligence, to ensure that your setup continually and accurately matches changes to your website. Any time you create a new goal, you want to make sure you import it into AdWords on the earliest day possible, as the integration works on a going-forward basis. Otherwise you will show fewer conversions in the Google Analytics conversion codes within AdWords than actually occurred.