Google Analytics and 3rd party discrepancies

Discrepancies between GroundTruth and Google Analytics reports are standard due to differences in reporting methodologies. GroundTruth does not verify numbers with Google Analytics as it is common to see high discrepancies. The IAB reports discrepancies starting at 10%; read more on their take on mobile discrepancies:

Common root causes of discrepancies include human error, ad serving sequence, reporting, and targeting. Discrepancies between GroundTruth Analytics numbers and Google Analytics numbers are generally attributed to more specific reasons, such as cookies, ad blockers, latency, and filtering methods. 


Sessions vs. clicks

Google Analytics bases their stats around "Sessions" rather than unique clicks, and then drills down into unique sessions and users. The definition of a “session” is proprietary to Google and is ambiguous as well, and the actual attributes aren’t widely known. It’s again unfair to make an actionable comparison between a click and a session. Clicks associated with your ads may be greater than visits for the following reasons:

  • GroundTruth tracks advertising clicks. Google Analytics tracks visits associated with the client's advertising.
  • Google Analytics visits can be as short as one pageview, or last many hours and contain multiple pageviews, events, and transactions. Visits expire after 30 minutes of inactivity, and any subsequent activity would be tracked as a separate visit.
  • A single visitor may click your ads multiple times. When a visitor clicks multiple times within the same visit, GroundTruth records multiple clicks while Google Analytics records the multiple page views as only one visit.
  • A visitor may click on the advertisement, but then stop the page from fully loading by navigating to another address or page or by pressing the browser’s Stop button. In this scenario, the Google Analytics tracking code will not execute and will not send tracking data to Google. However, GroundTruth still registers the click.
  • Server latency may contribute to tracking problems and visitors may navigate away before the Google Analytics tracking code executes.
  • Visitors may have set their preferences to opt out of Google Analytics tracking, but still be targeted and measured by GroundTruth.
  • A known instance is also when you see zero visitation time on Google Analytics as in the example below. A quick way to check for valid traffic is to when Avg Session Duration is low, check to see if Pages/Sessions is >1. If so, sessions are likely valid but not being tracked by Google. 


Google Analytics sample dashboard


DIRECT vs. referral traffic

  • Traffic from GroundTruth may show in Google Analytics as DIRECT traffic. In this case, the SSP has opened an external web browser on the user's mobile device and passed the URL directly to the browser, similar to entering the URL directly into the browser. Any referring URL information is subsequently lost, and traffic appears as DIRECT. 

Limited communication between mobile apps

  • Mobile apps use a technology called a "webview" to display ads, which is unique per application. Therefore, mobile apps cannot share cookie information with each other or with the device's mobile web browser.
  • Each app has its own private space on the device, commonly referred to as a "sandbox" environment. This means one individual, using one device can look like two different people. 
  • From a consumer's point of view, this means that any opt-out preference expressed in one domain (e.g. opt-out cookie or do not track preference in the browser), may not be respected in the other domain.

Verify mobile device tracking

  • Advertisers may see significantly higher bounce rates for mobile devices compared to PC visitors due to a poorly optimized site. Make sure that your mobile visitors can access the content they're looking for, and that they don't have to pinch and zoom to do so.
  • In 2012, ComScore reported that Google Analytics usage drops by 37% on mobile websites as compared to their desktop counterparts, so be sure to verify that Google Analytics tracking is placed on both desktop and mobile properties.
  • Troubleshoot tracking for extra characters & whitespace, customizations errors, incorrect filter setting, multiple instances of tracking snippets, and other scripts on the page.

Why are we noticing high bounce rates?

There are some inherent limitations with attribution tracking for in-app environments. When a user clicks on an ad in a mobile-web environment and it takes the user to the advertiser’s website, the user remains in the mobile-web environment the entire time, so the tracking works well. If the same ad is served in an In-App environment and the user clicks on the ad, one of two things can happen:

  1. It will launch a web-view, which emulates a mobile-web environment within the app, or
  2.  It will take the user out of the In-App environment and launch a web browser

In the first case, if the web-view does not accommodate all the necessary SDK parameters to emulate a website, it can break the tracking. In the second case, if the user is taken out of the In-App environment, it would also break the tracking. As a result, for In-App (90%+ of our traffic), there is a high chance that Google Analytics will not be able to track a user after a click all the way to the website, even though they likely going to the site. 

GroundTruth solution

For more information on how to add 3rd party tags and tracking to your creative and ad group, visit our Setting Up Ad Group Creative(s) guide.


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