Finding a discrepancy between reports can be frustrating with any type of data, however, when it comes to high-value events like conversions, those feelings can be intensified. In Google’s ad serving and reporting platform, Campaign Manager 360 (CM360), Floodlight discrepancies can happen when comparing conversion counts with an outside source, and the very nature of the discrepancy may seem daunting as we rely on Floodlights to measure digital marketing campaign success.
That said, there are a few simple guidelines that Support Analysts like myself have come to use in order to get to the root of these issues quickly. In this blog, we’ll briefly review how Floodlights work, look at the most common types of errors and Floodlight discrepancies in CM360 and go in-depth on how to use CM360’s Reporting and attribution module to pinpoint and potentially resolve these issues.
A FLOODLIGHT REFRESHER
Floodlight activities are used to track specific events that you find valuable on your website. These events correspond to user actions, such as sales conversions, landing page visits, or form downloads. When a user performs a Floodlight-related activity, the Floodlight tag fires and generates a Floodlight Impression. In CM360 reporting, Floodlight Impressions indicate the number of times a Floodlight tag fires in a given period. Floodlight Impressions are useful because they allow us to quickly see if a particular Floodlight tag recently fired.
Attributed vs Unattributed Conversions
Before a Floodlight impression can be counted as a conversion, CM360 evaluates each Floodlight Impression to see if the user who triggered the Floodlight tag to fire interacted with that CM360 advertiser’s ads within the specified lookback window (or how long a user is tracked). If not, that impression registers as an Unattributed Conversion. If yes, the Floodlight Impression is registered as an Attributed Conversion. Conversion data is updated every six hours in CM360 reporting so you can expect a lag between the tag firing and a conversion showing up in a dashboard or report.
REPORTING TO THE RESCUE
When the Numbers Don’t Align
With so many factors going into a discrepancy it can be hard to know where to start looking when the numbers aren’t adding up. One of the most powerful tools for isolating common Floodlight discrepancies is CM360’s Floodlight Basic report. Properly configured, the Floodlight Basic report can highlight important insights about the root causes of many conversion variances.
Setting up Your Floodlight Basic Report
To run the Floodlight Basic report, navigate to Reporting and Attribution and proceed as follows: REPORT BUILDER tab > OFFLINE REPORT > NEW OFFLINE REPORT > drag down to Floodlight
After the steps above, you’ll be in the Floodlight report interface. Create a name for your report, set the date range, and select Basic in the Report template. Be sure to note that the date range in the Floodlight basic report can only go back 60 days prior to the current date.
Moving on, select the Floodlight configuration (the advertiser) and then filter by any specific dimensions you want to narrow your focus to (like activities or campaigns).
When you set up this portion of the report, I recommend checking the Unattributed conversions box in order to include all Floodlight impressions. In the Dimensions, select the Conversion Referrer dimension that indicates the URL where the conversion event occurred. This serves as an additional check to let you know that your Floodlight is implemented on the correct page of the advertiser’s site.
Once the report is configured to your needs, click Save and Run.
Interpreting the Results
Your results may come in totally expected or they might be entirely unexpected. Here are a few common examples and checks where the report may come in handy:
CM360 recorded fewer attributed conversions than internal/3P reports.
- Check the total number of attributed and unattributed conversions. Does the total more closely align with your internal reports?
- Evaluate conversion numbers by date. Are there gaps or unexplained drop-offs in Floodlight activity? This could point to an implementation issue.
CM360 showing more conversions when compared to outside reports
- Review the URLs recorded in the Conversion Referrer column. Does it show the tag firing on the expected URL?
The Floodlight does not appear to be firing at all.
- If the tags are implemented on the site, do a quick look at the source code of the page where the tag is implemented. This can often reveal any issues with the tag formatting. Do the tags match the tag preview for the activity in CM?
- If the Floodlights are implemented in Google Tag Manager (GTM) or another tag management solution, check the triggers for the respective tags to ensure that the rules work and will fire the tag on the expected behavior, or if the GTM conversion linker is set up.
A Trusted Approach Towards Resolution
There will always be a variety of factors that play into Floodlight issues, however, when diagnosing these errors and conversion discrepancies, it’s a good idea to be grounded in the fundamentals and start with these simple reporting tips. By using these concepts as the trusted foundation for your diagnostic approach, along with CM360’s Reporting and Attribution functions, you will be better equipped with some of the most powerful troubleshooting tools for resolving any potential Floodlight issue. For additional help with your Floodlight activities or other CM360 capabilities, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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