Understanding Conversion Tracking in Google AdWords

Conversion Tracking in Google AdWordsDo you know how customers find your website? Do you know what terms they use on Google to find your site, click on your ads and buy your products? Do you know how each of the terms that you buy perform against each other with regard to bringing in the most qualified visitors that complete the actions you desire? If you do not know what terms drive your sales through Paid Search, you may as well throw in the towel right now because you are throwing good money at bad.

Conversion tracking in Google AdWords allows you to see when visitors to your site, that originate by clicking on a Google AdWords ad, complete a secondary action such as a newsletter sign up, complete a sale, or fill out a web form. By gaining some insight into what people are doing on your site once they arrive, and at what rate, will allow you to better optimize your paid search campaigns. This can save you a ton of money in the long run.

By tracking these actions, or “conversions,” in Google AdWords, you’ll have a clear understanding about which ads, keywords and campaigns help feed your bottom line. This will help you invest more wisely in the best ones based on your goals, and ultimately boost your return on investment (ROI).

Let’s Look at an Example…

Let’s save you have a website selling auto parts, and when customers complete their orders online, they reach your “Thank You” page that shows their order confirmation number, order details and links out to your social media pages.

As a marketer, you want to see which of your keywords – “catalytic converter” or “buy a new catalytic converter”, brings in more purchases. Both terms take visitors to the same landing page on your site, so you set up conversion tracking to see which one brings in a more qualified visitor who has a higher likelihood to convert into a sale. First, you get a single code snippet from AdWords that contains HTML and JavaScript. You then paste that code in the HTML of your “Thank You” page.

Once the code has been verified, you start to see that customers who click on your ad with “buy a new catalytic converter” buy much more often. Meanwhile, you see that many more people click on the ad with “catalytic converter” as a keyword, but none of them make a purchase. It should now be clear that people who search on more general terms such as “catalytic converter” are probably looking for more information and not yet ready to buy. Your goal in spending money to advertise is to narrow down your investment to only those terms that lead to a sale, so you decide to stop investing in the “catalytic converter” keyword and put more money towards the “buy a new catalytic converter” keyword, resulting in even more purchases and a better return on your investment. Sounds simple enough, right? Not so fast. Set up is critical to gaining valuable and actionable insights into how your advertising is truly performing. One wrong move and you can kiss your budget goodbye!

How to Set Up Conversions

A conversion is a customer action that has value to your business, such as purchase, downloading an app, visiting a website, filling out a form or signing a contract. Measuring conversions can be extremely important for your business if you’re trying to understand what terms relate the strongest to your goal of turning visitors into customers and boost your ROI. However, you must set up your conversion counting in such a way that is meaningful to whatever it is you are trying to measure. Setting up the wrong way may lead to false conclusions and bad decisions that have a negative impact on your sales in the long run. Let’s look at what options are available when counting conversions.

Counting Conversions in Google AdWords

There are two important conversion tracking metrics: conversions and converted clicks. While both methods are available for view at any time in conversion reporting, how you choose to set up your conversion tracking in the first place and how you optimize to conversions can have a significant impact on your bottom line. Consistency and a clear understanding can be the difference between success and failure when it comes to optimize your budget to its full potential to bring in the most amount of sales for your fixed budget.

  • Conversions
    For each conversion action, you can choose to count “all” or “unique” conversions. The “Conversions” column of your reports will display all conversions within your chosen conversion window, according to your selected counting method. The “All” setting is useful for counting all instances of sales, while “Unique” is used to count only one conversion when the same person generates multiple leads (example: one person fills out multiple forms requesting to be contacted about one of your services).       All conversions is the method most advertisers use when they are tracking sales or ecommerce transactions.
  • Converted clicks
    The “Converted clicks” column shows you the number of AdWords ad clicks resulting in one or more conversions within your chosen conversion window. You can consider this option as counting the number of visitors that convert instead of how many times they do. This method is used more for lead generation campaigns instead of sales.  You probably don’t care how many times a person fills out a web form. You just want to know how many people did.

Security and Privacy

When it comes to getting a true count of conversions for your AdWords campaigns, it is important to keep in mind that Google’s security standards are strict. Only pages containing the Google conversion code are tracked. Google uses data encryption and secure servers to pass information about site visitors.

Privacy is of the utmost importance when tracking is in play. Google protect your customers’ privacy by ensuring the following:

  • Conversion Tracking cookies persist for a limited time only.
  • Conversions aren’t isolated: This means that you can’t match conversion data to specific customers, just see overall data for ads and keywords.
  • Conversion Tracking includes the option to notify customers about cookies: During the setup process, we’ll help you create a notification box for your website that lets your customers know they’re being tracked. This is known as the Google Site Stats box, which appears on your conversion page — the page customers see after they complete a conversion. This notification appears only for customers who’ve been referred by Google to your site. When customers click on it, Google tells them that they don’t have to accept the conversion cookie if they don’t want to and reminds them that none of their personal information is being recorded or used in any way. Customers will also have an opportunity to provide feedback about your website.
  • Promote a clear privacy policy: If you don’t use the Google Sites Stats box, we ask that you review your website’s privacy policy to make sure it discloses your use of tracking technology.

Many people today choose to increase their privacy and omit themselves from being tracked, even if you are paying to bring them to your site. As a result, you will never know what these visitors do on your site, or if they make a purchase and become a customer. All you will know is that they clicked and that you were charged for their click. The good news is that the number of people who protect their own privacy as compared to the total number of site visitors you receive through AdWords is negligible. You will still arrive at approximately the same patterns and insights that will lead you to better investments.

Conversion tracking in Google AdWords is an essential step you should take when advertising through paid search. Knowing what terms and ad copy variations convert into sales or targeted actions, such as newsletter sign ups, can and will help you make smarter decisions, spend less money and increase your bottom line. Make sure you set up your conversions correctly from the start, count your leads the same way in the manner that is most meaningful to your business. Optimize constantly based on learnings from conversion reporting and watch your ROI shoot through the roof!


(Concepts & content courtesy of Google Support)