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Google Analytics vs. Stats Provided by Publications

Posted on 2013-06-03
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Last Modified: 2016-02-24
I have clients for which I do online advertising. I place ads on publication websites and in e-newsletters. When I provide ad materials to the publication, I always use the Google URL Builder so I can track campaign activity.

The problem is this: More often than not, the stats the publication provides (usually simple click-throughs) are waaaaay higher than the GA campaign metrics. In the most recent case, the publication's stats were 300% higher.

Now, I'm aware of situations in which GA will not track the visit - mainly no javascript or cookies in the client browser. But, I can't believe that would account for a 300% discrepancy.

Has anyone else run into this? What other factors may contribute to the two sets of data being so far apart (other than the publication inflating the numbers)?
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Question by:bassNsnare
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Scott Fell,  EE MVE earned 2000 total points
ID: 39217817
It would help to know the click throughs to put 300% into prospective.  Are we talking 10 vs 30, or 1,000 vs 3,000 or 100,000 vs 300,000?

I know when I look at smarterstats on the server vs google stats google is typically a third "less" to whatever that means.  I think part of it is what each considers views vs visits vs uniques is not apples to apples to begin with.    I do think google does a better job of filtering out spiders where other stats packages probably include them.

Another aspect of course is google counts what is actually served where stats on the server counts what was requested and those two are not the same.

I wouldn't be so concerned if the numbers you are talking about are small.  More importantly, how much money are you spending to get an action that converts to sales.   And are they trying something once or being consistant.  What is the total reach?  It takes a lot of numbers to get a handfull of responses that turn into one sale.
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by:bassNsnare
ID: 39219232
Excellent point about cost of conversion being the better metric. That's a diversion tactic I should use when clients ask about the discrepancy in click throughs. Basically change the conversation to be about what's more important: How much does it cost you to gain a customer?

The numbers are small - roughly 100 vs. 300 to a list of about 8,000. My gut reaction is always to trust Google and not the publication. The publication of course has an incentive to inflate the stats and Google is the industry standard.

I think you hit on my real problem - explaining campaign effectiveness to clients - well enough for me to award you the points. Thanks!
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by:Scott Fell, EE MVE
ID: 39219363
Thanks for the points!  

Managing expectations is key too.  The amount of clicks to the site you are getting seems about right to a little on the higher side.   What might be needed to get to that one sale is 400 visits to the site so the 100 to 300 isn't enough and thus seems like a waste.  A lot will depend on the product/category and offer.

In google you can set a goal which is basically going to one call to action page.  How many visits to the site does it take to get to that goal?  How many call to actions does it take to get a sale?  It is easy enough to get a separate phone number(s) on your site to use that for tracking too.

If you can track what your organic numbers are to get to the goal and compare that to the newsletter, you may have another type of answer.
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