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Discrepancy between conversions on Google Analytics and Facebook advertising reports: VTC vs CTC

Digital Marketing Conversions

A digital customer journey: which channel will get (most of) the credit for a conversion? (Image credit: DigitSix.com)

Have you ever encountered a discrepancy between performance reports by channel and what’s reported by advertising platforms’ reports, for example, ? The former is usually less generous than the latter, and you don’t know who’s telling the truth, right?

Let’s imagine a situation when you have been running promoted posts through Facebook and the outcome has been ten conversions according to the Report (measured through the Facebook Conversion Pixel), four Assisted Conversions according to Google Analytics (Multi-Channel funnel report) and no Direct Conversion (still according to Google Analytics). What measure can be considered more reliable?

It depends on what you are trying to sell. If you want to know what is the best target audience, then go for the Facebook report. If you want to know what is the best channel to generate leads go for the Assisted Conversions report. Differently, if you are offering something that should not require much thinking before a conversion, then focus on the Direct Conversion report – where usually Search Marketing performs much better than , in particular if targeting branded keywords.. a quick win!

The difference is explained by the methodology adopted to identify a conversion: Google Analytics takes into account only CTC (Click-Through-Conversions) while other platforms in their reports also show (or only) VTC (View-Through-Conversions).

offers both options, but CTC (more meaningful for search marketing than for display) are deducted from VTC.

Some advertising platforms (like Adroll) make a clear distinction between the two measurement methods, while others (like Facebook) state it in a more subtle way:

Facebook (then) matches that conversion event against the set of people an ad was served to/or that clicked on an ad so that we can provide you with information that helps you understand the return on investment for your ad spend.“

(source: https://www.facebook.com/help/435189689870514)

However, even on Facebook, you can still compare both methods also on Facebook report through the Attribution Window settings (image above).

Facebook Advertising report: Attribution Window settings

Facebook Advertising Report: Attribution Window settings

 

Another aspect to consider is the time frame. Facebook offer three options: 1, 7 and 28 days, while in Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnel report you have 90 choices, from 1 to 90 days before conversion. Every platform has its options therefore if you don’t synchronise the method, you will get different results.

VTC methodology considers a digital channel like an offline channel (e.g. TV) since it takes into account all conversions completed after someone has seen an ad but has not clicked on it. Some way, it makes sense because a person might discover a brand or a product through a promoted post and still do not take any immediate action (e.g. click, comment, share, etc.) but search for it later through other channels.

Obviously, VTC is more generous towards the platform than CTC, which is a situation that requires the converted user to click on an ad, within a particular period of time. On Google Analytics, Multi-Channel Funnels take into account only CTC.

To make the story short, in a logic sequence, the highest performance regarding Conversion Rate, , , etc. is measured considering VTC, and then CTC (Multi-Channel) and eventually CTC (Direct or last-click).

Digital Conversions: VTC vs CTC

VTC will always include CTC

Digital agencies usually tend to show the best performance in their reports, but despite it might sound obvious to some people, it is always good to ask for a clear “legend” where it’s well explained what is intended by “conversion”.

The methodology applied should always be explicit and come before any attribution model. The best approach, therefore, is to produce different columns to outline the outcome of each methodology applied to determine conversions.

 

New screen for GA Goals set up

New Conversion Goal setup interface on Google Analytics

Many people do not set up Goals on their Analytics account. That’s a shame, because despite not having an website, Goals help them to 1) deep dive into the most challenging side of the analytics world (where the magic rule is learning by doing) and 2) learn more about a website, in a consistent way.

To track Goal , some users limit their efforts to placing the tracking coming from their ads platform. Not bad, but not even comprehensive as it could be setting up GA Goals.

Google Analytics has just refreshed its Conversion Goals setup screen adding some standardised categories that are self-explanatory about what Goals are: good move for newbies.

New screen for GA Goals set up

GA brings more clarity around Goals

After choosing the type of Goal in Step 1 (e.g. create an account or make a payment or whatever you like, see figure 1 above) you might be surprised to find the following four standard categories in Step 2. Nothing magic then, the new interface has just been designed to assist users in creating new Goals.

Describe your Goal...

Describe your Goal…

Finally, on Step 3, you setup your Goal details. For example, if you have chosen Play a video in Step 1, you will end up in events (you need to configure your media player properly in order to send events data to GA).

Set up a Goal corresponding to an event

Set up a Goal corresponding to an event

Look carefully at the last row before the buttons: Verify this Goal. That is a very useful tool to check if something is worth (or is wrong). If your Goal bring 0 despite you expect something you might go back and check something – usually you need to adjust URL’s or Event variables. Pay attention when using RegEx and always test before being sure that everything is ok.

Now, I’d like to express a critique to this new approach. As you all know, GA allows 5 Goals for each of the 4 Goal Sets that make up to 20 Goals in the free GA (well, the premium version doesn’t have any limit but that’s another story).Unfortunately it is not possible anymore to assign Goals to particular Goal Sets as it used to be before the change. Goals are assigned sequentially, making very difficult – or impossible in some cases – to group them in Sets depending on their nature.

If you are tracking transactions (completed), remember to opt for E-commerce tracking – if possible. To setup Ecommerce tracking you need to add some variables just on the page where the transaction is confirmed (usually a thank-you page). It’s fundamental to have a unique ID for each transaction, that might contain one or more products. Some values are optional, others are compulsory. If you are managing Google Analytics Tracking Conversion (GATC) through Google Tag Manager, then you need to use data-layers instead (and the code slightly changes).

Finally, if for some reasons you cannot setup you can still add just Goal value to the transaction page. Just avoid to add both Goal values and Ecommerce revenue or you might end up in doubling your revenues… unfortunately only on GA!