Yesterday I was conducting a “Web Analytics Forensics” session with a new client. They posed a common question: The monthly reports on clicks that they were getting from suppliers of their ad buys were off by 10 percent — sometimes even more — compared to their own Google Analytics metrics. The number differences were veering all over the road. Sometimes these vendor reports seemed to overstate traffic, other times the clicks seemed to be understated. When I responded, I was reminded of the reassurances that a friend of mine gives. He’s a pediatrician.
My friend Paul had told me once that the bane of pediatricians everywhere are the late-night calls from parents who are worried about their child’s fever. He doesn’t mind being awakened (well, not much), but he has trouble fully reassuring parents of this fact: Fevers are normal, even healthy. If a child doesn’t run a fever every so often, it’s then that he’d be alarmed!
Don’t take Paul’s word for it. Here is a post in the New York Times a couple of days about on this very subject.
Client concerns about analytics discrepancies are my own profession’s “fever fears.” They can be a distraction from deeper problems. (The doctor in the post mentioned a mom whose child had a fever and abdominal pains. He said his primary concern was the abdominal symptom, but Mom kept steering things back to the fever!)
So the answer to the promise I gave you in the headline is this. For media buy discrepancies, don’t bother trying to resolve them!
Unless you think you are being overcharged for the traffic you’re buying from vendors, in the form of ad clicks or affiliate links, rest assured. I’d only be worried if their numbers were identical to yours. No two systems measure web traffic precisely, or the same way. They are all uniquely flawed.
So instead, focus on what you’re doing with this traffic after it arrives. Are visitors finding what they came for? Are they returning in healthy numbers? And most importantly …
Are they converting?
Usually when I’m called in to consult, the answer to all of these questions appears to be no. Focus your attention, and your boss’s, on these issues. They are the only path to online marketing success.