Why Google Analytics is the Wrong Tool for Tracking Ad Performance
Attribution. It’s everyone’s favorite topic right now.
Media buying has become harder after Apple’s ATT (App Tracking Transparency) changes, with Facebook’s own reporting becoming wildly inaccurate due to the various restrictions enforced by Apple.
The other source of analytics has been Google Analytics. The question is - can’t we just rely on GA?
Put differently, do we need an attribution tool to get proper data to make our media buying decisions or can we rely on GA for that?
Isn’t Google Analytics enough?
Unfortunately, GA data misses a lot of conversions.
While on some campaigns the error margin is small, in others it’s as high as 100%!
This is a problem as it takes away our ability to adjust budgets on audiences or kill creatives that simply aren’t working.
In the screenshots below, you can see data from 2 accounts. The screenshots show Meta’s own tracking, tracking via GA, and finally, Socioh’s 1st-party pixel.
We’ve highlighted in red where GA tracking was so off that we would have made the wrong decision based purely on GA analytics.
As you can see here, the difference isn’t pronounced in some campaigns but in other campaigns, the reporting via Meta and GA is heavily skewed.
In the next example, the tracking delta is larger.
NOTE: In both these cases, we verified the setup/UTMs and ensured that it was consistent across the campaigns (so the delta cannot be attributed to setup issues).
In this account, you can see that the delta is significant in 4 out of 7 campaigns.
- Meta’s attribution was never accurate, but with CAC rising, it has now become imperative for advertisers to get accurate attribution data to remain profitable.
- GA’s data is incomplete and in many cases, not enough to decode directionally if a campaign needs to be scaled or shut.
- Due to the lack of consistency, it’s hard to know when Meta, and GA are missing data and when the performance is actually poor and needs interventions.
- Finally, beyond the basic tracking, there’s a lot of other valuable data such as the actual number of ATC (Add to Cart) events, the number of touch points for a conversion, new/returning customers per channel and campaign, etc. that is useful for evaluating the health of your ad account. None of that is being captured by GA.
Stay tuned for a follow-up post on what data you need to scale profitably and the best tools to get it.