Google vs. Facebook Attribution – Which One Should I Use?

Facebook v Google Attribution

We have many customers that ask us “why doesn’t my Google Analytics and Facebook reporting align?”. The reason is attribution.

Google Analytics and Facebook attribute sales in different ways which results in different numbers being reported. This can be confusing and can make it difficult to understand the full extent of your advertising performance.

Therefore, it is important to understand how each of the different channels report so you can continue optimising efficiently and effectively.

How Does Google Analytics Attribution Work?

Google Analytics uses the last non direct click to attribute a conversion to a traffic source from the past 30 days. This means that if someone visits the website multiple times, through different methods, the last non direct click will get the credit for the conversion.

For example, you might visit the website first through a Google search, then via an ad from a Facebook post. Finally, you purchase by visiting the website through an email that you received. In this case, Google Analytics will attribute the sale and revenue from your purchase to the email.

In this case, neither Google Ads or Facebook will report the sale in Google Analytics even though it was a part of the consumer’s journey to purchase.

Note on non direct clicks: this means that someone could visit the site directly as the last visit and this won’t count if there was another channel before it.

How Does Facebook Attribution Work?

Facebook tracks and attributes conversions through the use of a Pixel. This pixel will track when someone either clicks on an ad within the last 28 days or views an ad in the past day as the default attribution.This means that if somebody clicks on a Facebook ad in the last 28 days or sees an ad in the last day and purchases, Facebook will credit the sale within the Facebook interface.

In the previous example where email got the credit for the sale in Google Analytics, in the Facebook interface, Facebook would take credit for the sale.

This reporting is useful to optimise the campaigns using the most data available. Typically, the more data, the more the algorithms have to optimise. However, it doesn’t give a full picture of the consumer’s journey to purchase.

Comparison of the Two Interfaces

If we were to compare the two interfaces we would find that there are advantages and disadvantages of each. Analytics allows you to compare across different channels, however, Facebook tracks views of an ad rather than just when someone clicks.

Analytics vs Facebook

Due to both channels having pros and cons, it can be difficult to determine a source of truth.

What does this mean for me?

Comparing the sales from Google Analytics and Facebook is not an apples for apples comparison. You can’t take the data from Facebook and compare this to the performance of other channels in Google Analytics. Due to the variation in what is tracked between the interfaces, it’s not an accurate measurement to directly compare performance.

If you are looking to measure Facebook campaign performance on its own then we would recommend using the Facebook interface. We would also recommend this if looking for optimisations and Facebook account opportunities.

However, if you are looking to compare Facebook performance to other channels, then we would recommend using Google Analytics. This is because Google Analytics is useful to compare different traffic sources to the website and view the overall consumer journey (this can be done using Google Analytics ‘top conversion paths’).

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