How to use Google Analytics to Effectively Track Your Facebook Ads

Both Facebook and Google offer complex reporting systems which, on the surface, offer a great insight into your ads. However, try matching up the reports and you’ll enter a black hole. This is because, scientifically speaking, the platforms will not marry up.

Facebook and Google use completely different reporting models so using one to back up the results of another is not going to happen. However, that’s not to say they don’t compliment each other in some ways, so don’t ditch one in favour of the other. Read on to see why there are discrepancies and how you can better report the results of your ads.


Firstly, how do the platforms differ when reporting ad results?

Facebook’s reporting

When reporting conversions, Facebook’s default model is converting 1 day after viewing or 28 days after clicking. So, for example, you could see a dress in a carousel ad and on Facebook and click it when using your phone. You decide on this occasion, you’re not going to buy the dress and look elsewhere. However, a week later, you see a Google ad and proceed to buy said dress. As you are within the 28 day click to conversion window, Facebook will credit the original ad with this conversion.


Google reporting

In contrast, Google uses a much more linear process for reporting with a ‘last click’ attribution model. This gives credit to the last ad a user sees before making a purchase and conversion.

So, in the above example, when you clicked the ad that led directly to your purchase a few days after clicking the initial Facebook ad, Google would credit the last ad with the conversion.


How to make sure your Facebook Pixel is firing correctly

Before we delve into how you can use both platforms in conjunction, there are a few things to check.

If you’re seeing inflated conversion results on Facebook Ads Manager which simply don’t correlate to sales on your site, there’s a good chance that it’s been installed incorrectly.

Facebook Pixel conversion page

It’s not uncommon for people to install the pixel conversion event on the wrong page which leads to incorrect conversion figures.

It’s important to remember that Facebook doesn’t automatically know what a conversion is. You have to program this in and ensure, when doing so, it fires on the correct page. For example, if your conversion pixel is on the add to cart page, it will report inflated results, as those users are not always going to follow through and convert.

The pixel must therefore be placed on the page that a customer or subscriber sees directly after converting. This is usually a ‘thank you for your order’ or ‘thank you for subscribing.’ As this is a page that only customers or subscribers will see, Facebook is correctly notified when the conversion is made.

When installed correctly, you’ll be able to see that conversions directly correlate with actual sales on your website.

Remembering that Google and Facebook don’t add up

Another common mistake when reporting conversions is that people assume that Facebook and Google Analytics will marry up. This is not the case, as we touched on earlier.

Google will only report conversions that came from a direct referral. This is even the case when you use URL parameters. If a customer did not convert in a straight line – i.e. Facebook ad > direct conversion, Google will not report it as a conversion.  

Conversely, Facebook is less linear when reporting. This is generally because Facebook ads are viewed by those at the ‘top of the funnel.’ Usually, they are less likely to convert straight away, especially for high ticket items, and Facebook knows this. So the closest Facebook comes to Google’s ‘last click’ attribution model is ‘1 day after clicking.’

So, how do you get to the bottom of it?

Use UTM tags to track your ads.

What is a UTM tag? UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Model (yes, obvious one I know…) which is a code used to track traffic coming to your website from a specific platform or source. So, if you used a UTM on a specific Facebook ad, you’ll be able to track clicks that came specifically from that ad using your UTM.


How do I set one up?

Here’s a simple UTM builder along with a handy article on how exactly to use it.

Once you have created your URL parameter, ad the link to the ‘website URL’ box in the ad creation section. You can also add it to the URL parameters box under where it says ‘tracking.’

Now for the reporting. To form an accurate picture of how your Facebook ads are working, use the ‘goal’ feature in Google Analytics. Here, you will be able to set up specific goals for your ads. Then, when the data has been captured, you’ll have a wealth of useful information on the actions users took after clicking your ad.

To help, here’s a useful guide on how to set up goals in Google Analytics.


To sum up

Don’t simply discredit one platform in favour of the other as both reporting systems have their own benefits. For example, Facebook reports ‘view through’ conversions whereas Google does not. If you solely relied on Google, you’d miss the data showing those users who started the conversion cycle by simply seeing an ad on Facebook.

Be sure to use your UTM parameters so Google Analytics can recognise the original source (i.e. your Facebook ad) and set up some specific goals. When you use both Facebook and Google for reporting, you’ll find that your insights far more useful.

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