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Why does Google Analytics not match your financial accounts?

Have you ever compared revenue reports from Google Analytics (GA) to your financial accounts and questioned the inevitable discrepancies?

GA not 100 Image 1Google Analytics sales report (Enhanced Ecommerce)

Google Analytics is not an accounting platform and should not be confused with one.  It’s one of the best tools for analysing trends in marketing activity and user behaviour. For this purpose, 100% accuracy to accounting standards is not required.  A discrepancy threshold of 5% is acceptable; what is important is that your configuration is regularly monitored and maintained to keep under this threshold.


Some reasons why your GA data can have gaps:
  • Your GA implementation is wrong. Roughly 80% of all Google Analytics accounts have configuration issues.  [To learn more, read our revenue and audit blog post]

  • Common errors result in missed transactions (if you have a transactional website)

  • Google Analytics tracks via a javascript snippet on your website, which needs time to load.  It’s possible for a user to exit a page before this tracking code fires.

  • Some users may have disabled Javascript completely, which means the GA snippet will not fire at all.

  • The Google Analytics tracking snippet utilises cookies to maintain tracking across the site, and over multiple visits.  Users may block or delete cookies.

  • Other blocking software may be used, for example Ghostery.

  • Some users may explicitly opt out of being tracked by any analytics platform.

  • Javascript errors.

  • Duplicate or refunded transactions not reflected in Google Analytics.


Ga not 100 Image 2The Google Analytics tracking snippet – is this firing soon enough or is it being blocked?

Despite these potential pitfalls, Google Analytics is still great (some say the best!) at what it does.  It provides a huge volume of actionable data that can optimise your marketing efforts, as long as you look after it. Also bear in mind that these issues apply to all analytics / web tracking packages, not only GA.


The Key to GA health: manage the discrepancies

Yes, Google Analytics may be fuzzy, but you can take control of it and mitigate the risk.

In many organisations there is a lack of ownership of GA health – someone needs to assume responsibility. In many instances, it is assumed to be the IT department’s responsibility, however in many instances this is not appropriate.

Step 1 is making sure that your analytics configuration is correct – and stays correct.  This is not a one time task, it is something that needs to be done regularly. This guide about checking your revenue tracking has more information on keeping your measurement in good health and within acceptable thresholds.


Why will Google Analytics not match another tracking tool?

Alas, GA is not only out of sync with financial accounts, but also with other tracking tools. Most frequently it is because different platforms implement different ways of tracking a user. They have different definitions of sessions, clicks, users or visits – in other words different tools measure differently and sometimes cannot be directly compared.  For example, Facebook Ad clicks will not match Facebook-referred sessions in  Google Analytics for the reasons above.

Other issues like time zones, redirects, attribution models and configuration issues can compound this.

In summary, Google Analytics is not 100% accurate by financial accounting standards, but it’s within acceptable boundaries for the purposes of extracting actionable data and insights. The caveat is that you can’t deploy it and forget about it. Like most other complex and dynamic systems, it requires regular attention to keep accuracy within the 5% threshold.

If you’ve found a problem with your Google Analytics and want it fixed, you suspect you have other issues with your configuration or you just want reassurance that everything is tracking as it should (and you’re tracking everything you should – these aren’t the same thing!) then get in touch with John, our Head of Analytics.  

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