Why Your Marketing Reports Don’t Match (And Why They Never Will)

businessman looking at computer and tablet confused about why your marketing reports don't match

We have good news and bad news. Let’s start with the latter: Your marketing reports won’t match — at least not entirely. Now for the good news: That’s not as bad as it sounds.

What you see on your media platform reports is a top-notch result. But then you look at the client’s site analytics data, and it’s completely different. How can that be?

Let’s explore why.

Table of Contents

Site Analytics Versus Media Platform Reports

One of the main reasons you see discrepancies between media platforms and site analytics reports is the attribution system. For instance, Google Analytics operates on the last-click attribution model. Simply put, Google Analytics gives all credit for the goal (i.e, conversion) to the last source that brought the visitor to your website.

Let’s say User A came to your website through a Facebook ad, but didn’t convert. Then, they returned through an organic search (i.e., Google) and converted. In this case, Google Analytics will credit the conversion to Google search, even though Facebook played a crucial role in bringing that user to your website.

Google Ads’ in-built conversion tracking is a bit different. You can choose to give the users a conversion window. So, even if User A clicked a Google Ad, didn’t convert, but returned within the conversion window and converted, Google Ads will credit the conversion to itself. So, what does this mean?

As we discuss in our webinar, “Defend Your 2024 Budget With Data-Driven Decisions,” you can’t just rely on Google Analytics. It may be closest to the truth about leads and conversion, but its attribution model is not always going to pick up everything and value everything.

In addition, search will be potentially overvalued within a Google analytics model. Similarly, impressions from other platforms like TV advertising, print ads, or billboards will not be displayed.

So, marketers should account for these limitations and use multiple attribution models to analyze their data. You can also consider using third-party tracking tools to capture cross-platform conversions for a more comprehensive understanding of the customer journey.

Every (Milli)second Counts: The Problem With Site Latency

User A clicks on your ad. However, they bounce before the page even loads because it takes too long. Now, your media platform report will show an impression since the ad was served and clicked on.

However, the site analytics wouldn’t show any visit because it only registers an interaction when the page is fully loaded. User A is not the only one — other users will also leave your site, resulting in a widening difference in your marketing reports.

Sometimes, it’s not just the loading speed, but also errors and setup mistakes. For instance, if a user clicks on an ad during the site’s maintenance hours and encounters an error, it will show an impression without any visit.

Cookie blockers and ad blockers can also contribute to this issue. The deprecation of third-party tracking cookies across Safari and Google Chrome has thrown larger wrenches in the issue from the perspective of marketers. But they’re not the only stumbling blocks — things as ubiquitous as private browsing sessions, for example, prevent browsers from drawing on data from the cache, which can also impact site latency. So, merely increasing the site loading speed won’t solve this problem.

Out of Sight, (Not) Out of Mind: The Problem With Last-Click Attribution

As we’ve discussed above, last-click attribution can be problematic, as it only gives credit to the last touchpoint in the customer journey. A recent research found that it takes about eight touch points on average for a customer to convert.

Not every customer will buy your product right after clicking on an ad. Most customers — 76% to be precise, according to BrightLocal — will search for reviews. They’ll ask friends or family for suggestions. Plus, they’ll visit your site multiple times before making a purchase decision.

Last-click attribution may work for bottom-of-the-funnel marketing, but it fails to acknowledge the impact of other touchpoints. When you only focus on the last click, you miss out on crucial data that could help improve your marketing strategies at the top or middle of the funnel.

Making a Good Impression: The Problem With Post-Impression Tracking

Post-impression or view-through tracking attributes conversions to an ad that a user may have seen in the past. While site analytics reports don’t register these impressions, media platform reports typically do.

When this happens, the ad could get too much credit for a conversion. It may have played a role, but it wasn’t the only factor. On the contrary, an ad that drove clicks and conversions might not receive any credit as it didn’t leave behind any impression. Again, that’s a reason your marketing reports won’t match.

Strategies for Marketing Reporting Success

Here are a few tips to help you create more accurate marketing reports and better understand the touchpoints that lead to conversions.

Clarify Possible Reasons for Any Gaps Between Reports To Justify Your Results

Gaps exist in marketing reports. You know it; we know it. But other departments — or if you’re a marketing agency, your clients — may not be aware of it. They might question the disparity between your report and the platform’s report.

Prepare to explain the reasons for why this happens. For instance, if it’s due to view-through tracking, clarify the implications of attributing conversions to past ad views. Provide examples and data to support your explanation.

While you’re at it, talk about multi-touch attribution models and how they distribute credit among touchpoints. Coupled with the right marketing research strategies and market analysis tools, it can be just the approach to understanding the customer journey.

Show How Every Stage of the Customer Journey, Including Awareness, Plays Into Your Metrics

Every customer’s journey will have multiple touchpoints. At Goodway Group, we believe that all these touchpoints fit into three outcomes:

  • Exposure: Driving brand exposure in a market.
  • Intent: Capturing consumer interest and informing them about a product or service.
  • Action: Driving activity like clicks and engagement.

Other departments or your clients simply want results. They don’t understand the nitty-gritty of how many ads it takes before a user converts. So, it’s on you to explain to them why you’re measuring a metric and how it fits into the customer journey.

Also, show them the correlation between every stage of the customer journey and how it contributes to achieving their goals.

Look at the Big Picture To Uncover Opportunities for Media Optimization and Improved Efficiency

Marketing reporting is an integral aspect of every business. But at Goodway Group, we don’t automatically relate more data with more insight. In fact, data access or a dashboard solution is just the beginning.

What’s most important is to look at the bigger picture by pulling in any additional tools. Use brand lift or sales lift studies to understand how exposure is leading to intent and leading to a purchase. In today’s changing landscape, it’s also imperative to consider privacy concerns.

Whether you’re doing marketing ROI analysis or marketing performance measurement, looking at the results from one vantage point isn’t enough. You need a thorough look at the consumer journey, including exposure data and media intelligence, to gauge the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. That’s how you’ll find opportunities for media optimization and improved efficiency.

Get a Comprehensive View of Your Marketing Reporting

Times are changing. User behavior is changing. Cookies are going away. The sooner you adapt and look outside your usual channels, the more ahead you’ll be in your marketing reporting.

Get a full view of your marketing performance by integrating multiple data sources, such as website analytics, social media metrics, media spending, offline data, CRM data, etc. In short, a holistic approach is the need of the hour.

Looking for more insights? Check these resources out:

Scott Blessman is the VP of analytics and data insights at Goodway Group. Scott is an analytics expert with over 16 years of industry experience helping brands grow through strategic, actionable insights and a clear understanding of success. He has worked on numerous award-winning campaigns for brands in various industry verticals. Before joining Goodway, Scott worked at organizations such as VMLY&R, DDB and Digitas North America. He has been a featured speaker at events including the MarketsandMarketers Competitive and Market Intelligence Summit and contributed thought leadership to publications such as the ANA.