Why paid search numbers often don't match

- Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Pay Per Click (PPC) is an Internet advertising model used on search engines, advertising networks and content sites, in which advertisers pay their host only when their ad is clicked. Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing and Microsoft adCenter are the three largest network operators, and all three operate under a bid-based model.

Why paid search numbers often don't match

If you are using paid search networks (PPC), you will have access to click-through reports provided by your PPC network/vendor. You may find that these numbers don't match with your web analytics reports. This is really painful as you are spending a lot of time and money in PPC. And if the PPC reports don't match with web analytics reports it's a waste of your time and money.

Understand the difference between 'Click' and 'Visit'

PPC vendors, such as Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, and Microsoft adCenter measure clicks and web analytics measure visitors that can accept a cookie. Now they are not going to be the same because cookie blocks, Java Script errors and visitors who simply navigate quickly by clicking on to another page before the web analytics code has loaded to collect data. Because of this, web analytics reports tend to show slightly less visits compared with PPC report.

Wrong Tracking URL's Tracking

URL's are very important in any PPC campaign, as this setup is needed to differentiate between paid search and non-paid search engine visitors (e.g.: http://www.your-domain.com?source=google). Sometimes tracking URL's are forgotten during the PPC campaign setups or simply by assigning incorrect URL's into them, which leads to such inaccuracies in the reports.

Invalid Clicks

Imagine a visitor clicks on your ad several times on purpose in a short period of time, Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, and other PPC vendors can automatically monitor those invalid and fraudulent clicks and adjust the PPC metrics accordingly. But your web analytics tools will count/record this entire invalid and fraudulent click for your PPC campaign.

Re-directing tracking URL's

Sometimes we use third-party tracking systems to track click-throughs to our website, in which all visitors are passed through redirection URL's. The initial click is registered by the vendor company, which then re-directs the visitor to your actual landing pad. The purpose of this is to allow the ad company to track visitors statistic independently. There may be a short delay in the loading of the landing page.

The re-direction URL's may break the tracking parameters, which are added in the landing pads for your own web analytics solution. E.g.: your landing pad link is http://www.your-site.com?source=google&campaign=xyz&keyword=mobile

If the third-party tracking URL is added, it will look like this: http://www.vendor-site.com/?redirect=http://www.your-site.com?source=google&campaign=xyz&keyword=mobile

The problem occurs when the second question mark comes in the link, because you can't have more than one '?' question mark in a URL.

Conversion Code Missing

To track the landing pages, webmasters use Web Analytics/Page Tags, which caputures and provides the visitors data. Java Script Page Tags work well provided Java Script is enabled on the visitor's web browsers. Also problem rises if some pages get missed and those missing tags mean loss of data for those page views.

By taking care of simple mistakes and carefully implementing the PPC campaigns, we can avoid a lot of data loss and errors, but still some things are out of reach and can't be avoided.

Joydeep Deb

Marketing . Innovation . Technology


About the Author
Joydeep Deb

Joydeep Deb is a Senior Digital Marketer and Project Manager with strong experience in Digital Marketing, Lead Generation, Online Brand Management, Marketing Campaigns, Project Management, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), PPC, eMail Marketing, Web Analytics, Web Technologies, Web Design and Development.

With an MBA in Marketing. IIM Calcutta Alumini. Lives in Bangalore, Karnataka - India.

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