A lot of our clients rely on Google Analytics to help track their results and traffic. Google Analytics is a powerful tool, but it is a different platform than Facebook, and as a result, tracks and reports conversions and attributions in a different way. To put things simply, left to their default settings, each platform tends to place emphasize on the results which are best for themselves.
But! There is a way to set these up to show the results that matter most to you!
Before we begin, it is important to understand the difference between how GA and FB are able to track events. Google relies heavily on pixel and UTM data, while Facebook is able to use a combination of both pixel data and accounts (tied to people!). This gives Facebook the advantage of being able to track events across platforms (e.g. that the same person was looking at your store on mobile and then later via desktop), as well as the ability to collect ”view through” attributions (i.e. when someone sees an ad, but does not click on it).
Now the most common reason that numbers will be different between GA and FB, is how each is set up to collect and report attributions:
Google Analytics -
I’m not sure which attribution model you are currently using in GA, but by default, most clients have this set to the Last Interaction attribution model AKA the last touchpoint. For example, Sally sees a Shoelace ad, clicks the ad, and then immediately buys the product. Google would attribute the Shoelace Ad to the purchase. If Sally clicked the Shoelace ad, but got distracted by lunch, and made the purchase later in the evening, Google would attribute the sale to organic/direct reach.
Facebook Analytics -
Facebook’s attribution model, by default, is a lot more inclusive. It counts 1-day view throughs (e.g. Sally sees a Shoelace ad, but does not click on it, later on she goes to your site and buys the product) AND up to 28 days click through (e.g. Sally clicks on a Shoelace ad, and a week later, Sally returns to your store to buy a product). If there are multiple ads which Sally clicked on or saw in this time frame, the attribution will be assigned to the last ad Sally clicked on.
Facebook allows you to see this break down, and you can actually change the attribution to what is most relevant to you (e.g. you may only care about people who bought products the day they clicked the ad). I’ve attached a gif here to show you how to access this breakdown in your Facebook Ads manager: http://g.recordit.co/MylsBfB8B5.gif
Setting Facebook’s attributions to one-day click through is the closest we can get to matching GA’s Last Interaction Attribution model, but it is not perfect, because Facebook still includes the whole day that someone clicked (e.g. Sally clicked the ad, had lunch, then returned to your site), while GA will only report this as Sally coming to your site after her lunch directly.
**So what is the best way to consolidate the two?**
We recommend setting up your GA to include a Linear or Time Decay Attribution Model (more info here: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1662518?hl=en). This setting allows for a fuller scope of multiple touch points which led to a purchase. Once this is set up, you can decide which Facebook attribution is most relevant to you (e.g. 1 day click through, or 7 day click through) and compare this break down to your GA results.
I’d also definitely recommend checking out this great article that goes a bit more in-depth about the difference between the two.