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How Do Sessions Appear in Analytics From Paused Ad Campaigns?

How do sessions appear in Analytics for paused ad campaigns?

This is a very common question that comes up, particularly when a prominent to large volume campaign in Adwords is either paused or deleted. The concern is that ad you no longer want to be showing are still being clicked on and costing money you do not want to spend. How could someone possibly be clicking on ads that are no longer visible?

The simple answer is that you are not being charged and your ads are not showing. The minute you turn off a campaign, it will immediately stop showing in the search results. The reason this happens is a result of the way Google Analytics and Google AdWords track campaigns. When a user clicks a Google ad, that user is assigned a unique click ID or gclid value. If you look at your URL after clicking through an ad it will look something like this:

Everything that appears after the “gclid” in the URL is a unique identifier for that click and is associated with that campaign. Analytics will use that ID to associate a session with a particular campaign, regardless of whether it is currently running in AdWords or not. While this is normally pretty accurate, there are multiple occasions that can come up that result in sessions being attributed to a campaign that has been paused or deleted. Here are a few scenarios in which a session can be generated in Analytics for a campaign that is inactive in Google AdWords.

  • Same user revisits site via Direct
  • User bookmarks page and returns after clearing history
  • User shares link with gclid attached
  • URL with gclid picked up by Google Bot

If you see this occurring in your account, more than likely it is nothing to worry about. These “residual” sessions will eventually die off and until then they are free visits to your site. If it is a frequent issue, it will be important to check that the final scenario is not true in which a page has been indexed with the gclid attached. If that is the case you will need to block these pages using a robot.txt file.

For more information on this topic, visit the Google support page here:

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