November 29, 2016 Adam

Why does my Google Analytics show a lot of US referral traffic from my GoTarget/GoRetarget campaign?

These will all be test clicks and will have a 100% bounce rate and zero time on site.

What are test clicks and why do they happen?

There are several reasons as to why test clicks happen and mostly they are checks and balances in the programmatic infrastructure. Below are some of the test clicks and why they happen.


Ad Preview Clicks from our Preview Server; typically during campaign set-up
Purpose: Verify that the click through to your site is working and the ad is functional. These are filtered on our end because they only exist for test purposes.


Exchange test clicks and test scans
Purpose: Many exchanges will verify that an ad works and will click through to make sure the ad matches the landing page. This is done regularly to catch potential issues throughout the campaign.


Fraud detection services
Purpose: Regularly hit the ad from different devices to ensure it doesn’t contain malware, and potentially track other metrics. These are typically from 3rd-parties we partner with, though there are some general scanners.


External Ad Crawlers and Analytics
Purpose: Collect general metrics about online advertising. A publisher may have a contract to collect data on the ads served on their site, and crawl the ads to ensure the ads do not contain malware, and are from reputable advertisers.

Source: Simpli.Fi

How do I filter out these test clicks?

Test clicks from can be filtered out from Google Analytics by following this guide: Google Analytics Guide

Are any of the booked campaign impressions used for test clicks?


Why does your report show more visitors than Google Analytics?

This discrepancy is caused by several factors:


Visitor browser preferences:
Visitors must have JavaScript, images, and cookies enabled in their browsers in order for Google Analytics to report their visit.


Tracking methods:
There are two main methods of tracking activity: cookie-based and IP + User Agent.

  • Google Analytics is a cookie-based analytics program. As such, it relies on a browser setting the cookie. If cookies are disabled, this type of program will not count the visit. This would exclude, for example, hits from a robot or spider.
  • Ad servers use IP + User Agent tracking. This tracking method typically uses log file analysis. This may report higher numbers than reported by cookie-based tracking because of dynamically assigned IP addresses and spider and robot visits.

1st party vs. 3rd party cookies:
Even among cookie-based tracking solutions, there is a difference between 1st party and 3rd party cookies. Because 3rd party cookies are set by a source other than the website being visited, they’re often blocked by browsers and security software. Google Analytics uses 1st party cookies.


Reporting Limits:
Google Analytics limits a site visit per user to one time every 30 minutes. Ad servers, by comparison, would not filter such behavior, but would recognize the fact that it is a unique visitor (using a cookie) coming to the page more than once. So impressions would be counted separately from unique impressions. Google would simply filter the multiple impressions out and give the unique impression.


Comparing Apples to Oranges – Clicks vs. Visits:
There is an important distinction between clicks recorded by the ad server and the visits recorded by Google Analytics. The clicks column in a campaign report refers to how many time the advertisement was clicked by visitors while visits in a Google report indicates the number of unique sessions initiated by visitors.

  • A visitor may click an ad multiple times. When one person clicks on one advertisement multiple times in the same session, the ad server will record multiple clicks while Google Analytics recognizes the separate pageviews as one visit. This is a common behavior among visitors engaging in comparison shopping.
  • A user may click on an ad, and then later, during a different session, return directly to the site through a bookmark. The referral information from the original visit will be retained in this case, so the one click will result in multiple visits.

Partial Page Load:
A visitor may click on an advertisement, but prevent the page from fully loading by navigating to another page or by pressing their browser’s Stop button. In this case, Google Analytics’ tracking code is unable to execute and send tracking data to the Google servers. However, the ad servers will still register a click.


Other Reasons Causing Discrepancies between G. Analytics and the Ad Server:

  • 3rd party images: Some browsers give users the option to disable images that are requested from domains other than the current page. Disabling such images will prevent data from being sent to Google Analytics.
  • Filters/settings: Many web analytics solutions provide data filters. Differences in the way that filters are applied, or creating different filtering altogether, can drastically affect the data in your reports.
  • Time zone differences: If your web analytics solutions group data using different time zones, your daily or hourly data will be affected.
  • Caching: Google Analytics directly calls Google’s servers each time a page is visited, even if the page has been cached. Other analytics solutions may not record an additional visit if the page is pulled from a user’s or server’s cache.

Data compiled from various online sources including Google Analytics Help Section and iMarc Digital Solutions.

From an article by Ali Diallo