Which is Better? The Facebook Attribution Tool or Google Analytics

There is a new kid in town when it comes to tracking marketing attribution and we feel it might be better than Google Analytics, but will let you be the judge of that. Although Google Analytics is still a great tool, Facebook has come up with its own attribution tool that opens up new ways of understanding what is working and what is not in marketing.

For digital marketers, data monitoring and tracking attribution are some of the most valuable topics to understand. The process of “attribution” is how a platform is set up to determine ultimately who gets credit for a conversion e.g. form fill, purchase, or phone call. Different platforms give credit in different ways. It’s important to understand how different platforms attribute credit because it tells the story of what is working and what is not. 

In most cases, your client doesn’t see one type of marketing and decides to buy.  In fact your potential client is likely receiving multiple marketing messages from multiple channels such as email, SEO, Facebook ads, Google ads, and more. If they are not perhaps it’s important to understand why you should be doing omnichannel marketing!

Understanding how attribution works for Google Analytics vs. the Facebook Attribution tool is important in diagnosing your marketing funnel to know what is working and what is not. This is the basis of Data-Driven Marketing

Taking an approach to digital marketing that relies on data and allowing that data to determine what to do will be much more informed and effective. Perhaps funds need to be added to an ads account, a different marketing channel needs to be added, audiences need to be refined, or creative messaging needs to be adjusted. Knowing what’s going on right now and being able to interpret that data will guide the next move and produce more productive measurable results.

Up until now, we have firmly believed that Google Analytics was the best way to track marketing attribution but now we see how the new Facebook Attribution tool could help tell a better story about our marketing data.  

Facebook Attribution Tool vs. Google Analytics

So how does Facebook’s attribution tool differ in telling the data story than Google analytics? They differ in many ways that are important to note and understand so that the best-informed digital marketing strategy decisions can be made.

How is Data Tracked?

The Facebook Attribution tool uses people-based attribution. People-based is when tracking is attached to an individual user. So, when someone logs in to his or her Facebook profile, oftentimes across multiple devices, behavior data is tracked across those devices.

The Google Analytics tool uses cookie-based attribution. Cookie-based is when code is placed on a browser that tracks users and collects information about their behavior. With Google Analytics, data gets lost because it’s not typically tracked across different devices. And sometimes people clear their cookies or they opt-out of cookies.


How is Data Attributed?

With the Facebook Attribution tool, there are multiple attribution models. That means that there are many models that can be selected. This allows marketers the ability to assign credit in different ways.

With the Google Analytics tool, by default, credit is given to the last action taken that made the sale, ignoring the other (potentially several), touchpoints that contributed.

Marketing Attribution


Facebook Attribution Tool vs. Facebook Ads Manager

There’s also a difference in data between the Facebook Attribution tool and the Facebook Ads Manager tool. This complicates things because both are tracked through Facebook tools yet provide differing results and value. This complicates the attribution discussion.  Which one is right and accurate? Well, they both can be accurate they just attribute credit differently. 

How is Data Attributed?

The Facebook Attribution tool, again, has multiple attribution models. It’s important to understand the options that can be selected for how data is attributed throughout the conversion process.

The Facebook Ads Manager tool in contrast is set to last-click attribution, by default. All of the conversion credit is given to the last ad that was clicked, meaning that (if set up correctly) the remarketing audience will get the credit. This can make it seem like certain channels aren’t working when rather those valuable touchpoints may be overlooked when it comes to attribution.

How is Conversion Accredited By the Time They See or Click an Ad?

With the Facebook Attribution tool, you can go back and give credit all the way back to 90-days ago when someone had clicked on your ad and/or viewed your ad. This is important because it’s another distinction for when credit can be given (e.g. when an ad is visible and when the conversion happens). Let’s say for instance you have a longer sales cycle and it can take up to 90 days before someone makes a decision.  If you are only viewing attribution with Facebook ads manager you are shortchanging the value of your ads.

With Facebook Ads Manager attribution, the default is 28-day click and 1-day view which can also be misconstruing when looking at the data.  You are assuming someone will convert within 28 days of clicking on the ad or within one day of viewing an ad. This is why being able to give credit as far back as possible is very helpful to understand the true value of your ads. 

How to Setup the Facebook Attribution Tool

There is some setup involved in getting the Facebook attribution tool to show you everything you would like to see. The first step is you need to have added the Facebook base pixel to your website. This pixel code will allow you to set up whether desired actions or conversions are taking place on your website. Without this whether you are using the Facebook Attribution tool or the Facebook Ad Manager you won’t be able to track results. This will take some tech skills and coding to set up which is why oftentimes it is not set up.  Along with the pixel and conversions set up, there are also several items that need to be set up to ensure the data is coming in clean. This includes reviewing the data sources and referring domains as well as adding all of the ad platforms you are currently using. 


Attribution Tool Terms

We have thrown out a lot of terms here so just review, here is what they mean:

  • Events in Facebook Attribution are the same as conversion in Google Analytics. It’s a piece of code that tracks particular actions.
  • Custom Conversion is used when trying to avoid using coding.  A custom conversion can be set up by tracking when a thank you page fires.
  • Offline Events are events that are tracked by third-party tools.  You can connect these third party tools to Facebook’s platform and pump in those results.  A common one is tracking phone call data through tools like CallRail.  While Callrail will flow into the regular Facebook Ads Manager data it is not currently possible to have this flow into the Facebook Attribution tool.  

Facebook Attribution Tool Attribution Models

  • Even Credit – The even credit model is used to consider the full conversion path and give each touchpoint equal credit for a conversion regardless of where it appeared on a conversion path or if it was an impression, click, or visit.
  • First Click First Visit – The first click or visit attribution model gives 100% of the credit for a conversion to the first click or visit that happened on a conversion path.
  • First Touch – The first-touch attribution model gives 100% of the credit for a conversion to the first click or visit that happened in a conversion path. If there was no click or visit, then it will credit the first impression.
  • Last Click or Visit – The last click or visit attribution model gives 100% credit to the last click or visit that happened in a conversion path.
  • Last Touch – The last touch attribution model gives 100% of the credit for a conversion to the last click or visit that happened in a conversion path. If there was no click or visit, then it will credit the last impression.
  • Positional Attribution Model – The positional attribution model gives a specific percentage of the credit for a conversion to the first and last touchpoints in a conversion path, with the remaining credit distributed evenly across all other touchpoints.
  • Time Decay – The time decay attribution model gives an increasing percentage of the credit for a conversion to touchpoints as they get closer in time to the conversion.


Use the tools that are available to measure the data for both organic and paid channels and understand the results to make the most out of marketing dollars.

All in all, whether looking at Google Analytics or the Facebook Attribution tool it’s important to understand that they look at data differently and therefore you should ever expect them to match. Naturally, each platform wants to award themselves credit because they want the ad dollars. So using multiple platforms and understanding how attribution is awarded, it allows marketers to cross-reference the data for a more factual awareness of what’s working and what’s not. All of this data ultimately should drive marketing decisions to move conversions forward.


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