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Ad Blockers: The Key to Your Missing Web Analytics Data

Dog And Fence

If you haven’t dealt with inconsistencies between revenue and order totals reported by your web analytics platform and the numbers reported by your eCommerce transaction platform, you probably will eventually.
There are many possible causes for these inconsistencies. Some of the most common are:

  • Incorrect transaction tracking implementation
  • Incorrect web analytics filtering configuration
  • Transactions that get manually modified or voided in the eCommerce platform

The above issues can be resolved by identifying the issue and fixing the root cause.
However, there is another cause that is frequently overlooked…

Ad Blockers and Privacy Protection Software

If you rely on client-side data collection methods for your web analytics, then you are losing a percentage of your web analytics data. Ad blockers and other privacy protection software account for a growing percentage of the missing traffic/transactions in companies’ web analytics data.
With the open nature of the web comes an inherent lack of control. It isn’t possible to fully control the delivery or execution of code within the browsers that are accessing our sites. The code and instructions that we deliver to the browsers are more often considered suggestions rather than guaranteed commands. These suggestions can be overruled by the user’s browser, added privacy software, or a proxy server between the user and the open internet.

Ad Blocker Adoption is a Growing Issue

Most popular ad blocking tools either block web analytics tracking by default or provide an easy way to enable that blocking. Reliable data concerning the usage of the various tools available is difficult to pin down. However, a recent study indicated that two of the five most popular ad blocking tools are configured to block Google Analytics tracking by default.
Some of the available ad blocking tools will also block some tag management platforms. This will result in incomplete data being sent to other data platforms as well.

What You Should Do About It

The most important thing is to be aware of the issue. If you’re still seeing inconsistencies after investigating the other possible causes, then users of ad blockers may account for any remaining variations. In many cases, simply understanding this variance and accepting that your web analytics platform data is not going to be 100% comparable to your transaction platform data is enough. For most businesses, the typical accuracy is sufficient to support decision-making and site optimization.
After understanding the current variance, make sure to also track the size of the variance over time. At some point, it may reach a level that demands a change in your tracking systems.
If there is a legitimate need for improved accuracy in your web analytics data, there are other paths to get there. However, these alternatives will come at the cost of added complexity. These alternatives generally involve augmenting the typical client-side data collection with additional server-side data collection. This server-side data collection will not be negatively impacted by ad blockers or other privacy tools.

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