As digital marketers, all of us have faced this situation a lot of times. Every time we discover something unique and we pat our back :)
So, I thought let's jot down all the possible factors which are causing the problem in Clicks and Sessions relationship. I have tried to list all the situations that I have personally faced so far, I might have missed a few. Feel free to add your's in the comment section :)
Let’s take a look at how Clicks and Sessions are so different. The first and foremost thing to understand here is that clicks and sessions are a different metric and they don't happen at the same time!
There are some solid explanations for the same which we will cover in brief here. A simple example could be, You clicking on an Ad and choosing to close the browser before website opens would result in no session and 1 click.
Normally, we hear these questions a lot.
What’s an ideal drop off %?
Well, There is no perfect answer for this but what I have observed is around 15% delta for search campaigns and a little higher for Display and Facebook campaigns. Mobile is sometimes way high and you’ll understand the reasons once you finish this read :)
Is it always true that Clicks are more than Sessions?
No. It’s not true. There will be times when Sessions are higher than clicks. It could be due to the way sessions are configured or URL with GCLID is saved or campaign lifetime angle could be the answer. Again, you’ll understand the reasons once you have finish this read :)
Let's start discovering with the basic use cases first and then we will move to some of the advanced use cases. Broadly this can be divided into 3 major buckets.
1. Implementation and Tagging
2. User/Server side Options
3. Scenarios where Implementation and tracking is in place but a mismatch in numbers.
Let’s start first with the
Implementation and Tagging
1.No Google Analytics code on the website
In this case, Adwords/Facebook will continue reporting clicks whereas Analytics will report 0 sessions as there is no way to track the same on the website.
2. The Ghost of Auto Tagging
Well, this is a very large topic, will write in detail some other time :) for now, let's assume this. The Auto-tagging feature allows you to automatically tag and reports all of your supported metrics on Google analytics without any manual intervention like clicks, cost, CTR, etc…
But, For this feature to work, Auto tagging should be turned on in the AdWords, if you are not using the manual tagging. else, No session will be attributed to the paid campaigns and there will be a discrepancy between clicks and session numbers.
3. Incorrect URL Tagging
This is very rare but it's one of the scariest of all. If you have tagged your URLs incorrectly then the entire reporting will be incorrect.
for example, If you have just copy pasted your facebook campaign URL www.xyz.com?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=CPC&utm_campaign=sale in your email campaigns, then all the resulting sessions will get attributed to the Facebook campaign and not the email campaign.
So you will see higher sessions on Facebook and almost 0 or lower sessions for email campaign depending upon the number of URLs that are tagged incorrectly.
4. Page code is not loaded completely - Server-side latency
This normally happens when the tracking code on the website is not executed properly. If a user visits the website and leaves before the code is executed, then there will be no sessions however, clicks will get recorded on respective platform. Normally a GA code in the header tag will solve this issue
User/Server side issues
1.User not willing to accept certain cookies
This is rare and won't impact the total count of sessions but we should know about this :)
2.URL Redirection on the website
Let's say that website URL has changed from www.flipkart.com/men/tshirts to www.flikart.com/man/tees/ and you are still using the former URL then the GCLID will drop during this redirection and the session will not be attributed to the paid traffic.
This is very commonly observed. The URL redirection would drop the GCLID and the google analytics will attribute the session to Google organic traffic.
3. Loss of GCL Parameters - Server issues
Sometimes, The GCLID doesn't show up in the final URL even if auto-tagging is in place, This happens due to some technical issue on the website. Try and speak with your tech department to resolve this.
Scenarios where Implementation and tracking is in place but a mismatch in numbers.
1. Multiple Clicks with 1 Session
Adwords/Facebook ads reports click whereas Google analytics reports sessions. So, If a user is clicking on your ad 5 times within a 30 min window, without closing his/her browser, both of them would report a different number.
Adwords will report 5 clicks whereas Analytics will report just 1 session as all the visits happened in the 30 min window. Hence more clicks per session :)
2. One Click with Multiple Sessions
This normally happens when the URL along with the GCLID is saved/shared by the users. This would start attributing all the future session to that 1 particular click as users are calling the final URL with the same GCLID and hence more sessions will get attributed to 1 click.
For example, You have seen a great Fossil watch on Shoppers stop ad via Google display and you copied the URL immediately after visiting the website and then shared it with your friend. Now when your friend clicks the ad, His/her session will get attributed to the same click that you had visited as it still contains the GCLID :)
3. Adwords filters invalid clicks, Analytics reports it all!
What's an invalid click? Google defines it as "Clicks on ads that Google considers to be illegitimate, such as unintentional clicks or clicks resulting from malicious software. For example, manual clicks intended to increase your advertising costs or to increase profits for website owners hosting your ads"
In this situation, Your AdWords account would remove the count of such clicks from your reports, whereas Analytics will report all sessions resulted via these clicks even if it's invalid according to Adwords.
4. Campaign lifetime
Ever noticed that your AdWords/facebook campaign which was paused a few months back is still getting sessions in Analytics? Here's why!
Normally the default attribution window on Google analytics is last clicks non-direct 30/60/180 days. and depending on this, your click/campaign will have a lifetime value of 30/60/180 days.
So even if the user is visiting the website directly after 60 days of clicking on the ad, The session will be attributed to the last non-direct click of that campaign which was paused a while back and hence the mismatch in the clicks and session numbers.
5. Deep link setup for Mobile Apps
Now, this is the brand new entrant on the list!
Consider this situation. You are a loyal Flipkart customer. You search on Google and click on a Flipkart ad. Now, Since you are a loyal customer, You already have a Flipkart app. So when you click on the ad, this amazing thing known as Deep links will directly open that link in your App and your journey on the mobile web will end.
What changes for us?
This transition is the redirection that we talked about in the point number 3 and we won't be able to track any session in Analytics but there will be clicks :)
There is a solution to the above situation. I'll talk about the same later in my coming posts.
So that's it on my end!
Find out my 5 tips to master the new Adwords UI.
I hope I was able to point out the reasons for the unhealthy relationship between clicks and sessions. hope you would have enjoyed the read.
Do suggest your queries and suggestions in the comment section. I'd love to improve myself :)