Attribution methods for Facebook Ads: Google Analytics or Facebook Marketing Manager?

Measuring and improving conversions is the key to success for any marketer or a business owner.

The more you learn about where your conversions come from (and how you get them), the more your campaigns evolve. That’s why any great marketing agency will always deliver reports that show what’s happening with your ads.

The only problem?

Every platform you use to measure your conversions examines things differently.

The results you get from Google Analytics will always be different to Facebook Pixel.

So, what gives?

The simple answer is that different platforms collect data in different ways.

Today, we’re going to look at which attribution model you need to understand your Facebook ads properly.

What is an Attribution Model?

Let’s start with an introduction to attribution models.

Attribution modeling means that you attribute conversions to specific channels. Using a bunch of different models helps you figure out where your conversions actually start.

If you want a good customer journey map (which you do), you need attribution.

When you’re creating ads on Facebook, it’s easy to assume that you should use Facebook Ads as your attribution model. However, that might give you a narrow view of what’s happening. Your customers don’t just interact with your brand on Facebook, after all.

The more information you can gain from your attribution model, the more you can confidently decide where to invest your budget.

So, what’s the difference between Facebook and Google AdWords?

Using Facebook for Ad Attribution

If you’re tracking Facebook conversions, you’ll need a Facebook Pixel.

You install the Facebook pixel on your site using the Facebook ad manager. Facebook has a guide to how the Pixel works here.

You use your ads manager system within Facebook to measure your results from campaigns and track your analytics. In the top left of your Ads manager, click on Custom conversions to track leads coming to your site.

Facebook works using the last-touch attribution model to measure conversions.

This means that the last ad a person views before a conversion gets all the credit. By default, your conversion window sets for one day post-view, and 28 days post-click.

The Problem with Facebook Attribution

Here’s the biggest issue. Facebook isn’t a multi-channel marketing system.

That means that even if your customer clicks on other sites and looks at other ads, the last Facebook ad they saw will get all the credit for the conversion. This can give you a pretty blinkered view of what’s happening.

Facebook doesn’t consider other channels. You can look back over 28 days but purchases always connect to a specific Facebook campaign.

Imagine your user sees a Facebook ad on their mobile, clicks on that ad, but decides not to do anything. Later on, when the customer is back on their laptop, they might see a separate ad on Google, click it, and purchase the item.

Facebook would say that the first ad your user saw caused the purchase. Google analytics, on the other hand, would attribute the purchase to a Google ad.

Understanding the Google Analytics Attribution Model

Google operates a little differently to Facebook analytics.

Google focuses on cookie-based reporting. With Google analytics, you track a lot more than just one channel. Google’s platform demonstrates on-site user behavior and insights into how customers navigate your website.

To get a more holistic view of what’s going on, you can look at multi-channel funnels on Google and check things like top conversion paths, assisted conversions, and path length.

Google’s model comparison tool shows you the last interaction, first interaction, and the time that spanned between your customer seeing something and buying something.

All of this data offers a much better insight into the customer’s path to purchase.

Unfortunately, Google analytics sees desktop and mobile users as different people. This means that you might have some fragmentation if a user sees your ad on a mobile, then buys from a desktop later.

The Difference Between Facebook and Google Attribution

Ultimately, the difference between Facebook and Google attribution models comes down to some simple concepts.

First, the Facebook pixel tracks people across browsers and devices, as long as they’re logged into Facebook. Or you can use Advanced Matching for users that aren’t logged in.

Facebook can therefore tell you if someone clicks on an ad on mobile, then converts on desktop later, and so on.

Google Analytics is a cookie-based solution. It sees mobile and desktop users as separate, even when it’s the same person using different devices.

Facebook is excellent for giving you a cross-device conversion roadmap. However, with Facebook, you only see one platform. Google is better at giving you a comprehensive view of the customer journey on and off your site. However, it doesn’t work across devices.

If a user sees an ad on Facebook, and doesn’t click on the ad, but he’s inspired later to type the exact URL address of your website into a search bar to find you, Google wouldn’t attribute any of the purchase to Facebook.

The data discrepancy here makes it exceedingly difficult for anyone without the right marketing team to track down exactly what’s happening with each conversion.

So, How Do You Attribute Conversions?

So if neither Google analytics nor Facebook pixel gives you the complete picture, what can you do?

There are a few options.

For instance, if you’re examining conversions on a last-click basis, then you can bring the results from Google and Facebook closer together by tracking click conversions from Facebook. You would need to remove view-through or impression conversions. This means that you don’t pay as much attention to what people “look at” on Facebook.

To switch to this attribution mode, go into the Business Manager section for your Facebook ads. Click on the customize conversion column option and adjust so that you only see conversion clicks. This

While you’re adjusting your Facebook strategy, make sure that you pivot your Google analytics too. Counting assisted conversions in Google analytics from the multichannel conversion report will take more external content into account.

Using Assisted conversions, you can see whether your Facebook ads are contributing to your Google organic traffic and searches too. This strategy works best if you’re using a combination of organic traffic and Facebook advertising to gain conversions.

Like most things in business and marketing, there isn’t an exact science to this. It takes some experimentation to figure out the right blend between Facebook insights and Google analytics. However, if you want the most thorough and accurate attribution model, it’s worth using both Facebook and Google in your strategy.

How Does This Contribute to Campaign Optimization?

You might be wondering how all of this information should guide your campaign strategies.

Ultimately, the more information you have, the easier it will be to find the right strategy. Look at your numbers from multiple perspectives. Look at your Google analytics strategy to get a full and more accurate picture of the revenue that comes from all sources (not just Facebook).

If you need a complete source of truth for purchases and on-site information, Google will help most with this. You can use your Facebook analytics to get a better understanding of which campaigns are driving the most success from Facebook.

If your business relies mostly on Facebook ads, then you can use the information you gather from the pixel to decide which direction your campaigns should move in.

Facebook vs. Google Analytics

Ultimately, the decision for today’s businesses isn’t whether they should examine Facebook pixel information or Google analytics data. Usually, you’re going to need to use both tools in different ways. Knowing how Google and Facebook examines conversions will help you to target the right audience and drive conversions more successfully.

When you have multiple different sources of data giving you unique pieces of information, you’ll need to figure out how you can patch what you do know together. A little help from a marketing agency that knows its way around Facebook will help here.

Reach out to the Graygency for advice, guidance, and expertise on tracking the results of your next ad campaign.

Become a client

Interested in working with us or have a question?

Reach out to our team.

Let's Chat
Man talking on the phone