I opened Google Analytics the other day and saw this.

Clicks_vs_Sessions

Three sessions from AdWords, yet zero clicks on the first line. How am I supposed to report this?!

Desperation

The difference between the amount of clicks and sessions is only one of the delightful discrepancies you will find when comparing data from AdWords to numbers from Analytics.

Clicks

  • measured on ads in AdWords
  • mostly found in Acquisition -> AdWords report
  • immediately recorded to AdWords and then sent to GA

Sessions

  • recorded only after a browser finishes loading a page on your website, loads analytics.js and sends a query to Google’s server
  • more info on sessions available either in my post or in Google’s official help

This image sums up best the difference between a click and a session.

GA_Session_vs_Click

Too many clicks, not enough sessions

Looking at the picture above, you might think it should be easier to have more clicks than sessions. Yes, it is. If you want to know about possible reasons why it could be happening, there is no better place to explore than Google’s help page.

Too many sessions, not enough clicks

It is also possible to have more sessions than clicks. So, why is it the other way around in this case?

It has to do with cookies. Let’s say someone clicks through your AdWords ad and leaves your site. The second time he visits the site by typing its URL into the browser. If that direct visit happened within a certain time window (usually it’s seven days), Analytics will consider AdWords as the source of the second visit.

In other words, the source of the second session should be direct / none, but GA sees it as google / cpc. I have no idea why, but that’s the way it is for now.

There is no way to bypass this discrepancy, just be aware of different tracking methodology when your boss asks you about the difference between sessions and clicks.