Why is there a difference between Outbrain reporting and Google Analytics?

Discrepancies between Outbrain reporting and Google Analytics reports are normal because of differences in reporting methodologies. That said, both should follow similar trends. The following campaign example indicates some discrepancy between Google Analytics and Outbrain reporting, but the overall trend is similar.

Let's explore some of the reasons for those discrepancies: 
  • Google Analytics site implementation  
    A common reason is not implementing Google Analytics properly on all article pages across the site, especially on newly added sections, leading to some of the Outbrain traffic not getting tracked by Google Analytics.
  • Partial page load
    Visitors may navigate away from the site before the page is fully loaded and Google Analytics tracking code executes, recording the Outbrain traffic.
  • User browser preferences
    Visitors may have set their browser privacy preferences to disable cookies, images, or JavaScript making them non-trackable by Google Analytics. The same goes for users that have installed Google's own opt-out add-on.
  • Google Analytics sessions vs. Outbrain clicks
    There is a distinction between Clicks recorded by Outbrain and Visits/Sessions recorded by Google Analytics. While Outbrain records a Click anytime a user clicks a content recommendation on a publisher site, Google Analytics records a single Session/Visit for all user interactions within a given time frame (which expires after 30 minutes of inactivity). For example, if a user reached the marketer's site through Outbrain twice within that time frame, he or she will be recorded as just one Session/Visit. 
  • Google Analytics sampling preferences 
    Unlike Outbrain, Google Analytics data is generally based on a sampling of all visits to the site, rather than the whole incoming traffic. Google Analytics uses sampling in order to generate reports on very large data sets (over 1m visits). The screenshot below shows how users can know their reports are based on sampling.

  • Time zone differences  
    Outbrain reporting is currently still based on US Eastern Time (UTC -5 hours) for all global markets. If Google Analytics is using a different time zone, the daily reporting might have some differences.
  • Outbrain UTM tag implementation
    Marketers can get a more accurate view of their Outbrain traffic by implementing a UTM tag for their Outbrain campaigns. They can then see their campaign-specific traffic in Google Analytics under "Campaigns" rather than under the more limited "All traffic sources" (showing traffic from paid.outbrain.com).
  • Paid.Outbrain ad scanner checks
    Our ad scanner will crawl every link in our network at least twice a day, and show up in your Google Analytics dashboard as paid.outbrain. These clicks will result in 0 seconds spent on page as they simply crawl the link for suspicious content and fraud.

    For any questions regarding your campaign data in Google Analytics, feel free to reach out to our support team for further assistance. 


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