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Conversion numbers not matching

If you are running ads on Google or Facebook, you are likely seeing reports that give you a number of ‘Conversions’.

And quite often, the number of Conversions being reported in Google or Facebook Ads are likely quite different than what you see when you run reports based on the data provided by Attributer.

So in this article, I wanted to outline a couple of different reasons why that might be happening.

Reason 1: Different attribution models

Attributer is a first-touch attribution system, which means that it will remember and pass through information from the lead’s first visit to your site.

So for example, if someone first comes to your website from an Organic Search and then 3 days later comes back to your website from a Facebook Ad, Attributer would pass through Organic Search as the Channel.

However, ad platforms like Google & Facebook are much more generous with how they attribute conversions to themselves.

Facebook Ads (for instance) uses a ‘7 day click, 1 day view’ model by default (you can change it in the settings). This essentially means that if a person clicks your ad and converts within 7 days (regardless of whether it was their first touch or last touch), then Facebook will take credit for the conversion.

Furthermore, if someone is shown your ad in Facebook and then converts within a day (even if they don’t click the ad) then Facebook will take credit for that too.

To illustrate how generous this is, consider this example:

  • A person originally comes to your website from a Google Ad, reads about your product/service, but leaves without completing a form
  • 3 days later they see one of your Facebook Ads (like a retargeting ad for instance) but don’t click it or interact with it in any way
  • 1 day later, they decide they want your product/service, so they do a Google Search for you, click through to your website, and complete your contact form.

In this scenario, Facebook would take credit for the conversion, even though the lead originally found you via your Google Ads and didn’t actually click or interact with your Facebook Ad in any way.

Reason 2: Increasing privacy restrictions

Over the years, there have been a number of changes that have made it harder for Google & Facebook (and other ad networks) to accurately track how many conversions you actually get.

The most significant of these privacy restrictions was iOS14, where Apple introduced the ‘Ask App Not to Track’ functionality that forced apps like Google Chrome, the Facebook app, etc. to ask permission before they could track users. You’ve probably seen one of these before:

If a person selects the ‘Ask App not to Track’ option, then the app is unable to track any user activity.

This is a big deal. Using Facebook as an example, it is estimated that 98.5% of Facebook members use Facebook on their mobile device, yet approximately 90% of people choose the ‘Ask App not to Track’ option, which is to say that Facebook cannot actually track whether the vast majority of people who clicked your ad actually converted or not.

Reason 3: Cookie blocking

Facebook and Google largely rely on third-party cookies to be able to track conversions on your website, but there are a number of scenarios in which users can block third-party cookies from being set (which in turn prevents Facebook & Google from being able to track any conversions that user makes). 

These scenarios include:

  • Cookie Banners – If you have a cookie banner on your website, and a user doesn’t accept cookies, then Facebook, Google, etc cannot track if they convert. It’s estimated that only 32% of US internet users accept cookies. 
  • Privacy modes in browsers – Privacy/Incognito windows in browsers will either block third-party cookies by default, or present an option to block them. So if a user clicks your ad in Privacy/Incognito window, Facebook & Google cannot track if they convert or not.
  • Ad Blockers – Most Ad Blockers will block the conversion tags that Facebook & Google have you place on your site. So if a person has an ad blocker installed, then Facebook & Google cannot track whether they converted or not.

Reason 4: Conversion modelling

As you’ve seen above, Google & Facebook aren’t actually able to track a large portion of the people that click your ads and come to your website.

But instead of admitting that they essentially have no idea how many people converted, they use a technique called ‘conversion modelling’ to basically guess how many conversions you’ve had.

In this technique, they basically say ‘We know 1,000 people clicked your ad. Of the 10% of people we can track, 1% of them converted, therefore your conversion rate is 1%. So if you have 1,000 clicks and a 1% conversion rate, then we think you probably had 10 conversions’. They will then (very confidently) display 10 conversions in your reports, despite this basically just being a guess.

Reason 3: Conversion setup

Technically speaking, a conversion in Facebook or Google Ads (for example) can be anything. These ad platforms simply give you a bit of code and tell you to fire it when a conversion happens.

Now if you are trying to track the number of leads you get from your website, you should be firing this bit of code when someone submits a contact form on your website.

However, that doesn’t always get implemented correctly. For example, we’ve seen conversions set up to fire when someone simply visits the contact page (even if they don’t actually submit the form), or when someone has been on your website for more than 2 minutes (even if they just leave and never submit a form).

So it’s always worth checking how the conversion is actually set up, as it could be giving you incorrect information.

In summary

To summarise, it is perfectly normal to see a difference between the number of conversions being reported in tools like Facebook Ads and how many you see when you run reports using the data provided by Attributer.

But which number should you use?

That’s a decision you need to make for yourself and for your business, but if I was you, I would use the Attributer data. Here’s why:

  • Unlike Google & Facebook Ads, which essentially take credit for any conversion they possibly can, Attributer will give you unbiased information on how a lead first came across your website
  • Unlike the ad platforms, Attributer is not blocked from tracking huge portions of your visitors, so we don’t need to use ‘conversion modelling’ and other trickery to guess how many conversions you really had. If a lead comes through marked as ‘Paid Social’ or ‘Paid Search’ by Attributer, you can be confident that is exactly where that specific lead came from
  • Fundamentally, Attributer writes data into hidden fields and it is captured by your form builder, which means you only see it when someone has genuinely converted into a lead. This means there’s really no room for error in terms of conversion tracking setup, and you can guarantee that you aren’t accidentally tracking people visiting the contact page as a conversion (just as an example of erroneous conversion tracking setup that we’ve seen in the past).

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