Differences in Tracking Between Google Analytics and Google Ads When Attributing the Conversion Action

What does attributing mean in regards to conversions? Different platforms “attribute” or give credit for conversions differently, and it’s important to understand. Facebook Ads, Google Analytics, Google Ads, and LinkedIn all give credit for conversions in different ways. If you’re using an outside platform, let’s say Salesforce or Hubspot, it’s also going to have a different attribution model.

We prefer Google Analytics for our overall tracking of marketing channels for many reasons; not the least of which is the sheer amount of data available, but that’s not today’s topic. Today we’re discussing the differences between Google Analytics and Google Ads.

One would think that Google Analytics and Google Ads would be on the same page since they are both Google products, but, sadly, they’re not even close.

In Google Analytics, we can see that both “goals” and “e-commerce” are conversions.

Goals can be broken down further into different types of goals such as that which is produced from an event action. You can define different kinds of actions that take place on the given site like clicking a button, watching a video, or clicking a button on a form. There are also destination goals. Example: someone has filled out a form and a thank you page fires.

E-commerce is all about transactions (actual sales on the site). The big picture, however, is that goals and e-commerce are all part of conversions.

Now that you understand their relationship, we can talk about the differences between Google Analytics and Google Ads.


Google Analytics counts preconfigured goals once per session. If there are multiple sessions, (meaning someone has visited your site more than once) and they complete a configured goal, it will be counted more than once. Transactions, on the other hand, are counted “many per session.” If someone buys something within a session multiple times, it’s going to count each one.

Google Ads allows you to configure what you would like to count. Goals can be counted once in a session, or each time they happen.

Take ad clicks for example. If you’re running an e-commerce type site, you may want to count every single one, but if you’re running a lead generation site, you might want to count only one. This will depend on your business goals.

Attribution Time

This is an important one. Google Analytics will give credit at the time of the goal completion, regardless of what happened prior. Same for transactions. Credit is given at the time of the transaction.

Google Ads is more confusing. The Google Ads platform gives credit for the last impression preceding the ad click that led to that conversion. If somebody performs an action like clicking on an ad but doesn’t complete a goal or a transaction until several days later, Google Ads will go back and give credit to the day the first click happened or rather the impression preceding that click will be given credit. When looking at the performance of Google Ads, it’s important to look at the conversion windows (which we’ve talked about previously) to see the actual length of the sales cycle.

In short, Google Analytics is going to give credit at the time of the completed goal or transaction. Google Ads it’s going to give credit for the impression prior to the click.

Attribution Source

This is about which marketing channel gets the credit. Google Analytics gives credit for both goals and transactions to the last non-direct. (Any channel that’s not direct.)

Remember, direct is that mystery bucket of unknown traffic. We’ve talked about that before as well if you’d like to learn more about what direct traffic is.

In Google Ads, credit is only given if the user has clicked on an ad.

For example, someone clicks on a Google Ads ad. Google ads is going to give itself credit. However, if they don’t complete the desired action at that time they clicked, and then later they come back via an organic search, Google Analytics is going to give credit to Google search, not to the Google Ads.


Google Analytics has a 72-hour processing window for both goals and transactions before it’s reported, so it can take some time to show up.

Google Ads, however, is reported daily. You should see the update every day, depending on your chosen conversion window.

For Google Analytics, one session can have one goal completion for each configured goal, up to a total of twenty per session. You can have up to 20 goals in Google Analytics.

In Google Ads, if you are using the Google Ads conversion code, and you have multiple codes running, it can affect how conversions are reported.

Simply put, it’s okay to have multiple codes in Google Analytics, but Google Ads, it’s not okay to have multiple codes.

Elevated Marketing Solutions believes in the overall marketing funnel. We start all of our Google Ads goals in Google Analytics and then carry them over to Google Ads.

That might not give us as much credit in Google Ads, but it allows us to look at the overall funnel as much as possible. It also helps when setting up a specific type of goal called an event goal, then carrying that over. It’s not as easy to do in Google Ads since much information is needed in creating that tracking code.


As you can see, attribution is a problematic subject and difficult to explain.
It’s very different with Google Ads versus Google Analytics. Add Facebook, and other marketing platforms and one could get lost quickly.

Contact Elevated Marketing Solutions if you want help and read more blogs regarding conversions here.

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