Google Ads School: Introduction to Conversion Tracking

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Google Ad conversions are essential for anyone who wants PPC advertising profit, not just in the short-term, but for ongoing success. Conversion tracking allows you to optimise your Google Ads account based on the data collected. Think of it like we can take a peek behind the Google Ads ‘curtain’ and see what actually happens after the prospect lands on to your website.

Conversion tracking isn’t always set up properly, in my experience, but you should make yours a priority!

As a consultant for Google, I have had the chance to optimize more than 300 accounts for my clients, helping them find their best prospects. I have a view on what a good Google Ads account should look like. In this post, I will share what conversion tracking is and which conversions you should be tracking (both on your website, and beyond!)

What is Conversion Tracking?

First things first, we have to decide what a conversion means to you and your marketing funnel.

A conversion is the valuable action that we want people to take on your website; a good example would be ‘get in contact’ (B2B), request a demo (B2B), or a direct sales purchase (B2C).

Now we have defined a conversion, the next step is to measure how often it has been performed, and if the click came from an ad.

How to Set up Conversion Tracking?

Set up conversion tracking by generating a tag on the relevant part of our website (called a conversion action). Imagine the tag as a counter on your website, counting up the conversions as they happen.

Check out more on conversion actions here.

When the prospect clicks on our ad, Google will capture the unique gclid (Google Click Identifier) that’s used for tracking every Google Ads click. This ID will be what transfers the conversion information (form submission) and relates it to the advert.

This means that you will be able to see this conversion reported on every level – which keyword, ad, adgroup and campaign lead to the conversion. Here’s where the magic happens – over time, we will be able to exclude keywords and ads that don’t perform, or don’t meet our ROI expectations.

Going even further, with enough data and a longer time frame, we can see which devices, locations, and even times are working better to generate conversions.

Even if we don’t intend to use an automated bidding strategy, conversions are the numbers we want to base our decisions and adjustments on.

Tracking Options: Website or Google Analytics?

Before setting up conversions, we have to decide if we want the tracking to happen through our website or through Google Analytics.

If we choose to track through our own website, and implement the code into the backend there (ideally through using Google Tag Manager) there are both pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Data loss avoided: we won’t lose any data if the last click on a prospect’s conversion path came in through an organic click. We are still able to connect the first click to the conversion.
  • Track Views: you can track views through to conversions (not just clicks!) This means you track conversions where the ad was only seen, even if it was not clicked by the prospect.

Cons:

  • Access to page backend: you will need to implement the tracking code directly into the backend of our webpage, and ideally you would need continued access to it, which can be tricky if someone in a different team or agency ‘owns’ your website (and are protective over it!) Note: if done by Google Tag Manager, this only has to happen once though.
  • Making changes takes longer: changes are easier and faster when done through Google Analytics, vs. the website method.

Before you start, make sure that you’re using a Google Ads account that has edit permission for the Analytics property, and Administrative access for the Google Ads account(s).

Which Conversions You Should Track

Website Conversions

First question to ask yourself: what is your goal with your website?

Here are two common examples. If you are…

  • a real estate agent it will most likely be ‘warm’ prospects looking to buy property,
  • an eCommerce store, you will want direct website purchases.

After defining your goal, take a critical look at your website and decide if this action is easy for a prospect visiting your website for the first time to find and do.

In the case of the real estate agent, I would advise you to have a contact button prominently on the top right-hand corner of your website. With Google Tag Manager, we can track clicks on clickable phone numbers, email addresses, form submissions, or anything you decide makes sense.

About form submissions: if “send”/”submit” buttons are the cupcake, then the “Thank you” page is the cherry on top.

After submitting the form, often the form URL stays the same (with a thank you message displayed within the form); however, if the URL changes after a successful submission, then you need to track the thank you page to ensure that the prospect followed through and their data was recorded.

Phone Call Conversions

In some businesses , filling out forms is not common practice. For example, a dentist will mostly receive phone calls, but it is important for us to track those regardless.

We can track the call extension and click on a (clickable) phone number on the website. Be aware that Google will display and connect through a Google forwarding number, a randomly assigned number which changes every time, but allows the tracking miracle to happen.

Be warned, some prospects and businesses will not like this – after all, if their real number is not displayed on the screen, you can’t save their number in your contacts. Having said that, if tracking phone conversions is your most valuable action, you have to track them and this is the only way that’s possible.

A good rule of thumb: if 25% of your contacts come in over the phone, it’s essential to measure which ads and keywords were generating them.

Summary

When all this is set up, sit back and wait for the numbers roll in. After a couple of weeks, depending on your overall volume, you should have some solid indicators of which ads and keywords work best for you. In your Google Ads account, add the following columns: conversions, cost/conversions and conversion rate.

Finally, if you are interested in selecting and keywords for better Ads campaigns, then read my other post: “Keyword School for Google Ads”. With these two posts combined, you will be in a better position to optimize your ads campaigns.

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