Direct vs. Facebook Traffic in Google Analytics + UTM Tracking

How can I track my Facebook Ad results? UTM Tags will help you understand your analytics and adjust accordingly to get better results

The answer is in Google Analytics 

If you are testing out Facebook ads to increase sponsored/organic traffic to your website and increase purchases, you will need to become familiar with UTM and Google Analytics to get reliable tracking. We thought it would be helpful to break this down for those of you who are still unsure whether you are doing things right. Identifying where your traffic is coming from and how your ad spend is affecting that will help your confidence in running your own Facebook ads. Some of our clients were able to successfully set up their own Facebook ad campaigns but were never quite sure whether they were delivering the right traffic that produced the best return on ad spend.

In this article, we are going to have a look at a 3 month period to show you where your direct traffic and Facebook sponsored traffic are correlated. You will also learn a few strategies in how to create proper tracking URLs (UTM tags are not as scary as they sound!) and use them in your Facebook campaigns to improve your ad results.


Alright, so let’s dig into Google Analytics. We are going to have a look at the Source/Medium on the “All Traffic” page in the “Acquisition” tab of our GA account.  You can see the Facebook line in orange and the direct traffic in green. Looking at a 3 month period, Facebook (orange line) brings in around nearly 60% of traffic through Facebook ads, while around 20% comes from direct traffic (the green line). Facebook ads were running full speed in the month of April and as the Facebook traffic increased, so did the direct traffic. Now moving into May, the client nearly paused all ad spend, leaving only one small Facebook campaign running. It’s pretty clear that direct traffic drastically decreases as Facebook traffic decreases. These two are directly correlated. Notice how in the month of June, Facebook ad spend increased. When the month of June hit we turned the ads back on. The direct traffic jumps again! So I’m sure you’re asking, “why would Facebook traffic and direct traffic be correlated? Let’s sort this out.

Why Are They Correlated?

One reason this correlation happens may have to do with viewers’ dislike of the Facebook browser. When people use Facebook on their mobiles, they may not like the usability of the Facebook browser. As someone engages on the Facebook app and clicks on an ad, Facebook opens the destination URL in Facebook’s own browser. People can then either copy the link or open in Safari if they prefer to view the landing page on a more preferable browser. This will then be counted as direct traffic to the website, except if you put in your UTM source medium (Facebook) in the URL. This is why it’s important to tag your landing page URLs correctly. Setting up URL parameters will ensure that all traffic that comes to your site through Facebook advertising will be accounted for accurately.


Creating Proper URL Tracking

If the URL has the UTM tag attached to it, it will come through properly tagged as Facebook source traffic. As you build your individual ads, you will need to make sure that you specify the URL parameters in the ‘Tracking’ section. The formatting you should use is:


Facebook has made this very simple, as they have a section where you can build your URL Parameter for each ad. As you build the URL Parameter on Facebook, you will be able to incorporate dynamic parameters. A dynamic parameter will incorporate the specific value you desire for that section, like your campaign name. This makes the whole process fairly simple and accurate for your analytics tracking. 


If the URL has the UTM tag attached to it, it will come through properly tagged as Facebook source traffic. This is vital for determining how your ad campaigns affect your website traffic. As you learn more about UTM tags and get familiar with using them, you can take advantage of all the benefits of tracking your campaign results. Whether you use Facebook’s helpful parameter generator or create your own, this is a very practical way to track your traffic sources and we hope it helps you in your digital marketing journey.