Analytics processes have come a long way towards making recruitment marketing more effective and efficient, giving recruiters the insights they need in order to understand their efforts and replicate what works. But wait—what happens when your various analytics seem to be telling a different story? Let’s say, according to Facebook, a particular ad was clicked 2,000 times, but your Google Analytics account asserts that it resulted in only 1,500 sessions. Or, maybe your Google Ads is showing you different conversion rates for a particular ad than Google Analytics, giving you mixed signals about how effective your organic vs. paid search results have been. What gives?
As it happens, this is a pretty common occurrence when tracking analytics from various sources—different platforms often present small disagreements in their numbers, and it can be hard for advertisers to feel like they’ve gained a complete understanding of their recruitment marketing-related web traffic. But what, exactly, does this mean for recruiters? Should you throw up your arms and give up on tracking clicks and conversion rates? Of course not! Once you understand the differences in the metrics being tracked and the methods used for tracking, these differences can be become not just understandable, but actually enlightening.
Clicks vs. Sessions
Okay, let’s say you’ve got a sponsored post on Instagram promoting your employer brand, with a link back to your careers page, where you have a UTM parameter inserted to aid conversion tracking. Instagram tells you that you’ve gotten X number of clicks, while Google Analytics lists a slightly lower number of sessions. The first thing to note here is that a session is not the same thing as a click. Though you might expect these numbers to correspond quite closely, it is actually possible (by Google’s definition) for multiple clicks to be counted as part of the same session—provided they are less than thirty minutes apart. Why? Because if a user sees your ad, clicks the link, navigates to your site, leaves to look something up on Wikipedia, and then clicks the link again a few minutes later to return, those two clicks aren’t equivalent to two clicks from two unique users.
In addition to a crucial difference in clicks vs. sessions as metrics, you may have noticed that Google Analytics doesn’t always show the same conversion numbers and sources as some of your other analytics platforms might. There are a handful for reasons for this, but most of them boil down to the discretion of the respective platforms. With Google Ads, for instance, any conversion that involves multiple clicks is attributed to the sponsored search result, regardless of whether it was the first or last click in the candidate’s journey. In that exact same circumstance, Google Analytics might attribute the conversion to an organic search result if the user had clicked on one in addition to clicking on a sponsored result.
This speaks to a particular difference between these two different Google platforms, but it also speaks to the complexity of the candidate’s journey more generally. Though tracking the sources of your conversions is an important way to understand how applicants are finding your business and making the decision to apply for a job, it’s also rarely a simple matter of a user seeing an ad and then sending a resume. Your ideal candidate might encounter your ads and posts numerous times across multiple channels before interacting with them in any way—and after that it could take any number of clicks or other actions before that candidate finally takes the plunge. If your data doesn't all say the same thing here, it might be a signal that your candidates are taking circuitous journeys to your application page. This isn’t a bad thing by any means, but it’s important to know.
Putting It All Together
Hopefully, thus far we’ve given some useful insights into what might appear as discrepancies in your various recruitment marketing metrics. Does this mean that you can just go back to not worrying about these discrepancies—or is there some latent value here for recruiters? I.e., can these differences actually help you to arrive at actionable insights. Arguably, yes. To give a slightly trivial example, if you find that you have way more clicks than sessions, it might be because users are navigating to your site and then immediately navigating away from it due to slow load times, or because they’re encountering a term or concept they need to look up, or they’re confused about the information that’s being presented to them. In any of these cases, you might need to examine your application flows and landing pages to better optimize them from a UX perspective.
This is just one example of an area where seeming discrepancies can actually be productive. Google Analytics will never really be able to tell you these things directly, but it might at least point you in the right direction. In this way, understanding the difference between a click and session, say, becomes just another way to be smarter and savvier about your recruitment marketing operations. The more knowledge about your analytics platforms you have, the more effectively you can spread your employer brand, attract candidates, and win over new applicants. When it comes time to refine your strategies, you can make thoughtful, well-informed decisions.