Comparing Analytics and AdWords conversion metrics

The Google Analytics Goal Completions and Ecommerce Transactions metrics are calculated differently than the Conversion Tracking metrics in AdWords. If you see data for these metrics in your Analytics account that differs from your conversion metrics in your AdWords account, it doesn't necessarily mean that your tracking implementation is wrong; it could simply be a result of the different tracking methods.

At a glance: Tracking differences between Goals, Transactions, and AdWords Conversions

  Analytics: Goal Analytics: Transaction AdWords: Conversion
Count Once per session per configured goal Many per session (Transactions with same Transaction ID within one session are not double counted.)

User configurable for each conversion action:

Unique conversions: Once per ad click

All conversions: Many per ad click

Attribution time Time of Goal completion Time of Transaction completion Time of last ad click before conversion, not the conversion itself
Attribution source Last non-direct click model by default, but configurable. Last non-direct click model by default, but configurable. Only counted if the user has clicked on an ad from the AdWords account (google/cpc traffic only)
Reporting Reported fully after a 72 hour processing window Reported fully after a 72 hour processing window Reported daily for your chosen conversion window (7-90 days, default: 30 days) 
Handling of multiple codes on 1 page One session can have one goal completion for each configured goal. So, the total can be up to 20 per session. N/A If multiple Conversion Tracking tags for the same account are installed on a single page, AdWords counts a separate conversion for each tag

In depth: Accounting for the differences between AdWords and Analytics tracking

If you're tracking the same conversion activity using both the AdWords Conversion Tracking code and an Analytics Goal or Ecommerce Transaction imported into AdWords, you'll notice data differences for the following reasons:

1. Attribution differences

AdWords will attribute a conversion to the last AdWords click only. On the other hand, for all reports except the Multi-Channel Funnels reports, Google Analytics uses a last click attribution model across all channels (excluding direct). For example, let’s say a user clicks on a creative from your AdWords account, then returns the next day via a Google organic search result and reaches your Goal page or triggers a Transaction. Google Analytics will attribute the Goal or Transaction to google/organic. AdWords will attribute the Goal to the AdWords campaign.

2. Date of Transaction

AdWords reports conversions against the date/time of the click that led to the successful action, not against the date of the successful action itself. This allows you to match the value generated to the right advertising cost. For example, let’s say a user makes a purchase on July 20th, but clicked on the creative three days earlier, on July 17th. In AdWords, the conversion would be attributed to July 17th, the day of the click. Conversely, in Google Analytics, the conversion is attributed to July 20th, the day the conversion actually occurred.

3. Reporting freshness

AdWords conversion tracking numbers are reflected a little sooner (typically within 3 hours)  in AdWords than imported goals/transactions from Google Analytics into AdWords (typically within 9 hours).

4. Unique conversions vs. All conversions

In Google Analytics you can configure Goals or use Ecommerce Transactions to count conversions. Goals can be defined as a Pageview, Event, or interaction such as Time on Site. Each Goal in Google Analytics can only be counted once per session.

Conversely, AdWords Conversion Tracking has no concept of "sessions" and counts multiple conversions in a given date range. For example, if a user reaches the same conversion page twice in a given session, then only one Goal will be counted in Google Analytics, but each conversion could be counted in AdWords if the counting preference for that conversion action is set to "All" (setting the counting preference to "Unique" will count only one conversion per click).

Unlike Goals, Transactions in Google Analytics can be counted multiple times in a session provided each Transaction has a unique transaction ID. This means that users who completed multiple Transactions in a given session will register multiple Transactions in Google Analytics. This is similar to counting All conversions in AdWords Conversion Tracking, although AdWords allows you to pick your counting preference for all conversion actions, including sales.

Learn more about how metrics are calculated in Google Analytics.

5. User preferences to different tracking methods

Because Google Analytics and AdWords do not require the same tracking method to record Goals and Transactions, sometimes conversions are counted in by one method but not by the other. If, for example, a user disables, opts-out, or blocks a method (e.g., specific cookies) that Google Analytics uses to track data about a website session, a conversion might not be recorded by Google Analytics, but might still be recorded by AdWords.

6. Account level tracking

You may be sending clicks from ads in multiple AdWords accounts to a single website, which is tracked by one Google Analytics property. If this is the case, then you may see more conversions in AdWords than in Google Analytics, depending on whether you are using AdWords Conversion Tracking or importing Google Analytics Goals into AdWords.

AdWords Conversion Tracking can be set up either at the individual account level, or across multiple accounts using cross-account conversion tracking, i.e., AdWords only counts a conversion if the click originated from the single AdWords account (in case of account-level conversion tracking) or a group of accounts that share the cross-account conversion tracking. Google Analytics, on the other hand, tracks user behavior at the property level.

This is important because conversions are not de-duplicated for a single user in AdWords if you are using AdWords Conversion Tracking at the account level. For example, assume you have two AdWords accounts (account A and account B) and you have identified the same action as a conversion for each account by adding the appropriate AdWords Conversion Tracking snippet for both accounts to the page and designating it as a Goal in Google Analytics. Next, assume a single user clicks on an ad from the first account (A), then clicks on an ad from the second account (B) and finally converts. Each AdWords account would report a conversion, even though it was a single user. According to the default Google Analytics attribution methodology, this would only be counted as one conversion and it would be attributed to the campaign from the second account (B) since that was the last interaction before the conversion.

If on the other hand, both accounts A and B are managed by a common manager account (My Client Center) and use cross-account conversion tracking, only one conversion will be counted and will be attributed to the second account based on last-click model.

If you are importing Google Analytics Goals and Transactions into your AdWords accounts, then your conversions are automatically de-duplicated across multiple AdWords accounts. In this scenario, assume you have two AdWords accounts (account A and account B), and you have designated a Goal page in Google Analytics. You have also reported that one Google Analytics Goal into both AdWords accounts (but you have not added the AdWords Conversion Tracking for either account to the page). Next, assume a single user clicks on an ad from the first account (A), then clicks on an ad from the second account (B) and finally converts. The conversion would be attributed to the second account (B) in both Google Analytics and AdWords. By default (assuming no adjustments via AdWords Attribution or Multi-Channel Funnels), the first account (A) would not be attributed with any conversions in either tool.

In either case, you can use the Multi-Channel Funnels reports in Google Analytics to see the overview of user activity, including assist paths to conversions.

7. Cross-device conversions

AdWords conversion tracking enables cross-device conversion estimates that are reflected in Estimated Total Conversions column in AdWords. This is based on actual measurements and estimates derived from users that have signed in to Google across different devices.

8. Phone call conversions

Certain conversion actions are only supported in AdWords conversion tracking and are not currently offered in Google Analytics tracking. If you use call extensions, calls that originate from those extensions and last longer than a configured duration (configurable in AdWords) are counted as call conversions. Such conversions cannot currently be tracked using Google Analytics goals.

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