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Why Doesn’t My Monthly Digital Ad Campaign Report Match My Google Analytics Report?

Match Google Analytics Report

In Google Analytics Guide: How to Understand Reports and Explain to Your Clients, I walked readers through four essential Google Analytics reports, and how to explain them to your web development clients. Here, I want to offer the explanation for why a monthly digital campaign report may not match your Google Analytics report.

This is a question a digital advertiser may ask. The reports an advertiser gets from the digital company (Vici) running the ads will NEVER match the reports from Google Analytics. Why? Because the reports we give you are reporting clicks on the ad as recorded by the ad exchanges’ servers. Google Analytics doesn’t record a visit until a whole lot of things happen first. Here’s a look at what has to happen for Google Analytics to be able to track a visit (a session) from someone who clicks on an ad to come to the advertiser’s website:

click for larger view


As Google explains in this article, when you compare side-by-side clicks from ads and sessions from Google Analytics, you might expect that the numbers will match; however, they often don’t. There are a number of reasons why this can occur.

How Clicks Are Recorded:

When someone clicks on an ad, the click is immediately recorded in the exchange server logs, which are what is reported in a digital company’s Monthly Reports. However…

How Sessions In Google Analytics Are Recorded:

For Google Analytics to be able to record a session, several things happen (as illustrated in the graphic above):

  1. When the click takes place, the browser is pointed to the advertiser’s landing page. Then…
  2. The advertiser’s website responds to this request and starts to transfer data from the web server to the user’s browser. Then…
  3. When the browser starts to download the landing page, there may be a request for several files at the same time, including JavaScript, CSS, images, video, audio, etc. The requests for JavaScript include the Analytics tracking code. Then…
  4. The JavaScript file (ga.js or analytics.js) must first be downloaded and interpreted by the user’s browser. Then…
  5. The user’s browser/device and security settings must support:
  • Cookies
  • JavaScript
  • Images
  1.  If any of the above are disabled, Analytics may not be able to record a session. Then…
  2. The browser sends a separate request to www.google-analytics.com, the Analytics servers. Finally…
  3. A session is recorded in Google Analytics.

Understanding the fundamental difference between ad clicks and website performance is essential to explaining Google Analytics to your clients.

See also:  What If an Advertiser Just Wants to See Traffic from a Specific Ad Campaign? UTM Codes


Leslye Schumacher is a founding partner with Vici Media, Inc., a full-service digital advertising technology company. Leslye’s background in media spans 25 years and includes working for both large and mid-size television, radio and newspaper companies. She is Google Analytics Advanced Certified, a Certified Radio Marketing Consultant and a Certified Sales Talent Analyst, having assessed over 10,000 media salespeople and managers. 

© 2019 Vici Media Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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