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I set up a small site a while back and I've never used Adwords before so I thought I'd give it a spin. Basically the problem is that on a given day Google might report that I have had my ad clicked 50 times. However when I look at my web logs I only see 14 requests to "/" (which is where I have the campaign pointed to) and only 2 of those requests has google.com as the referrer. Why might this be? I would expect to see closer to 50 requests to "/" with google.com as the referrer.

I already read https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/2375399

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One of the reasons could be that you site is not accessible. I.e. people click (and it's counted), but the page is not loaded.

  • That's possible, however the backend app server error log and the nginx server error log are empty. Making me skeptical this is the issue. – John Aug 9 '18 at 1:20
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All campaigns should expect some drop off. There is a similar question here about stats compared to Google Analytics: Discrepancies between visits recorded in analytics and clicks reported in AdWords You won't have many of the issues described there for JavaScript disabled or the GA tracker not being included. But there are still some potential causes:

  • Some users manage to click and then back out after the time it was tracked but before it hits your server.

  • Website downtime is another case in which ads will send tracked visitors that never reach your site.

  • A third possibility is the potential of fraud. Both the advertising network and any sites on which the ads appear have incentive to artificially increase clicks for which you pay. See How can I prevent invalid clicks on my AdWords campaigns?

14/50 (72%) drop off is very high. Most campaigns should expect a 10%-20% between clicks measured through the advertiser compared to server log stats.

Google has a document that can help you with this problem entitled How can you help prevent invalid traffic? It has a bunch of details about tracking and reporting that are important for understanding traffic you never received.

Ultimately you can:

  • Complain to Google. This page has instructions for requesting an invalid traffic investigation.
  • Stop using Google AdWords.
  • Accept the high drop of rate and adjust the amount you are willing to pay per click accordingly.
  • Move to a cost per action (CPA) bidding model.

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