Comparing Analytics and AdWords conversion metrics

The Google Analytics conversions metrics Goal Conversions and Ecommerce Transactions are calculated differently than the Conversion Tracking metrics in AdWords. If you see data for these metrics in your Analytics account that’s different 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.

These different tracking methods used in Google Analytics and AdWords offer different perspectives on the same user activity, giving you different ways to understand and analyze your data.

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

  Analytics: Goal Analytics: Transaction AdWords: Conversion
Count Once per session Many per session 1-per-click: Once per ad click Many-per-click: 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 Attributed to the source/medium of the Analytics session, for ALL traffic Attributed to the source/medium of the Analytics session, for ALL traffic Only counted if the user has clicked on an ad from the AdWords account (google/cpc traffic ONLY)
Reporting Reported fully after the usual 48 hour processing window (4 hours for Premium) Reported fully after the usual 48 hour processing window (4 hours for Premium) Reported daily for your chosen conversion window (e.g., 30 days). Tracked conversions are checked for validity for the last 48 hours so may decrease
Handling of multiples Different Goals in the same account will track, once they are based on different Analytics actions, even if on the same page. N/A If multiple codes for the same account are on a page, only 1 conversion action will be counted for the ad click: usually whichever conversion code executes first on the page.
Browser requirements JavaScript; images; first-party cookies (in some cases) JavaScript; images; first-party cookies (in some cases) Third-party cookies (in some cases); images

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

AdWords increments Goals the same way regardless of whether you are using the 'native' AdWords conversion tracking code or are importing a Goal from Google Analytics as an AdWords conversion action. In either case, we do not expect the number of google/cpc Goals or Transactions in Google Analytics to exactly match up with the number of Goals or Transactions reported in the AdWords interface 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 Funnel reports, Google Analytics uses a last click attribution model regardless of whether or not it was AdWords. 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. For example, let’s say a user makes a purchase on July 20th, but clicked on the creative 1 day ago on July 19th. In AdWords, the conversion would be attributed to July 19th, 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

Usually there is a longer reporting lag in AdWords than in Google Analytics. Therefore, avoid comparing data for the past 48 hours. For more details, consult either the AdWords data freshness or the Analytics product feature comparison and data limits.

4. Lookback window

AdWords uses a 30 day lookback window for goals or transactions imported from Google Analytics. Said another way, imported Goals or Transactions will only be imported to AdWords if they occur within 30 days of the click. In most cases, the Google Analytics lookback window adheres to the cookie expiration time. This is important to remember in reference to Google Analytics and AdWords because it means that if users arrive at your website via AdWords and return directly to the site, (like by typing the URL into the browser or arriving via a bookmark in their browser) then that returning session is attributed back to the original campaign (in this example, AdWords) after the initial click for up to length of time equal to the Analytics cookie expiration.

5. One-per-click vs many-per-click 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 therefore will count multiple conversions in a given date range. For example, if a user reaches the same conversion page twice in a given session, then only 1 Goal will be counted in Google Analytics, but each many-per-click conversions could be counted in AdWords.

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 the many-per-click metric in AdWords Conversion Tracking, but given the other differences between products mentioned in this article, these numbers are not likely to match exactly.

Learn more about how metrics are calculated in Google Analytics.

6. User preferences to different tracking methods

Because Google Analytics and AdWords do not require the same tracking technology 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 technology 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.

7. 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 works at the account level, i.e AdWords only counts a conversion if the click originated from the same AdWords account that the conversion tracking snippet was generated from. 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. For example, assume you have 2 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. In Google Analytics, this would only be counted as 1 conversion and it would be attributed to the campaign from the second account (B) since that was the last interaction before the conversion.

If you wish to de-duplicate conversions from the same user across multiple AdWords accounts, then you will want to consider importing Google Analytics Goals into your AdWords accounts, instead of adding the AdWords conversion tracking snippet for each account to your site. In this scenario, assume you have 2 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. The first account (A) would not be attributed with any conversions in either tool.

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