Did you ever run an ad on Facebook and feel like Google Analytics wasn’t reporting the traffic? Did you notice a jump in your direct traffic instead? Here’s why and what you can do to make sure Google Analytics properly tracks traffic from your Facebook ads.
Where’s My Facebook Traffic?
A client of mine recently ran some Facebook ads and was perplexed that there was no big bump in their referral traffic from Facebook. Here’s a screenshot showing a typical day during the campaign.
Referral traffic from Facebook shows up as m.facebook.com (mobile), facebook.com (desktop) and l.facebook.com (link shim traffic from FB). The 24 sessions shown here were much less than expected.
Facebook Traffic Often Shows up at Direct
However, this client was seeing a big bump in their direct traffic. A typical day would have 10-15 direct, but here they were seeing 123. The problem was that Google Analytics was classifying a lot of the Facebook advertising traffic as direct.
In Google Analytics, direct traffic is traffic for which a referrer wasn’t specified. GA gets the referral information from the HTTP header. However, if the HTTP header does not include a referrer field, then GA cannot figure out where the request is coming from.
For many reasons, traffic from Facebook ads often do not include a referrer, and that causes GA to classify the traffic as direct. So, in order to accurately classify traffic coming from Facebook, you need to take a different approach.
You need to tag your Facebook campaigns. Campaign tagging means adding parameters to the end of your landing page URL to identify the source. Google describes it here. When a Facebook user clicks on a link that has been tagged in this way, those parameters are detected by Google Analytics and used to correctly classify the traffic as coming from Facebook.
How do you know what parameters to use for tagging? Luckily, Google provides a convenient URL builder to help you construct a tagged link to your landing page.
Step-by-step: Tagging a Facebook Ad Campaign
Here are the steps you can use to create a Facebook ad that is tagged for tracking in Google Analytics. First, open your Facebook Ads Manager and click Create Ad as you normally would.
For this example, let’s assume that you want to optimize for clicks to your website. So, select that option from Facebook.
Now, Facebook asks you to enter the URL of the landing page where ad clicks should send the visitor. At this point, head over to the Google URL builder and fill out the form provided to add tagging to your landing page.
Enter your landing page URL where it says “Website URL”. Use “facebook” for the “Campaign Source”. In this case, I’m using “cpm” as the “Campaign Medium” because Facebook is going to charge me for impressions, not just clicks. If this were a pay-per-click campaign, I would use “cpc”. Lastly, give your campaign a name where it says “Campaign Name”.
When you click “Submit”, Google will give you an enhanced landing page URL with the parameters properly added for accurate classification by Google Analytics.
This is the URL that you enter into the Facebook ad builder when prompted to “Enter URL to promote”.
Now, complete the creation of your Facebook ad as you normally would. Start the campaign, and observe what happens in Google Analytics.
Facebook Advertising Traffic – Properly Classified
After a few hours, check your Google Analytics. You should start seeing traffic from Facebook classified as “facebook/cpm” or “facebook/cpc”.
Now, if you click through on the “facebook/cpm” row in Google Analytics, you can see the campaign information that you entered in the Google URL builder. Make sure that you select “Campaign” as the Primary Dimension in the Google Analytics report. This will show you the name of your campaign. As you can see below, it shows clicks coming from the “Clicks to Website 1” campaign – which is what we entered into the Google URL builder.