When you set up Google Ads conversion tracking, it tells you if you are making money from your Google Ads—or wasting it.
If you are guessing whether your Google Ads are making you money, then you likely don’t have conversion tracking set up. If that’s the case, you’re in luck because this post will show you how.
What is Google Ads Conversion Tracking?
A conversion is any action you want people to take on your website. For example, on an e-commerce site, you want people to buy something; on a lead generation site, you want a customer to connect with you through form completions, phone clicks, or email clicks on the website.
Google Ads conversion tracking tells you if any of those things happened from your Ads.
The real power or Google Ads Conversion Tracking
Google Ads provides powerful conversion tracking on many different levels across your account, campaign, and ad group, including:
The whole account
A specific campaign
An ad group
In other words, conversion tracking is versatile enough to allow you to see your data from a big picture level, right down to a detailed, granular level.
Four Types of Google Ads Conversion Tracking
Google Ads has four different types of conversion tracking that allow for multiple conditions:
App, for those that sell apps
Import conversions from other applications like Google Analytics’
Let’s go through the pros and cons and discuss how to set each up each of these.
Before we choose one, let’s navigate to Conversion Tracking in your Google Ads account:
The first step to setting up Google Ads conversion tracking
To create a Google Ads conversion, log into your Google Ads account, and in the top navigation click on the ‘wrench’ icon which is ‘Tools’.
On the dropdown menu, click ‘Conversions.’
A screen opens with your existing conversions. If you are using ‘Smart Mode,’ you will see a bunch of ‘Google-made’ conversions, but we know from the ‘Smart Mode’ training video these are weak conversions.
To get conversions that are customized to your business, we’ll need to make our own.
To make your conversions, click the blue ‘+’ (plus sign) and the screen with the four conversion methods will open.
Google Ads Conversion Tracking: Phone Calls
There are three types of phone conversions you can use in Google Ads:
Calls from ads using call extensions or call-only ads.
Calls from a phone number on your website.
Clicks on your phone number from your mobile website.
You can choose one or all of them for your business.
Calls from ads using call extensions or call-only ads
This is the easiest call conversion to set up. Your phone number shows in the ad just like the image below. When mobile users click on the phone number, they call your business directly, bypassing your website completely. That’s why we need a separate conversion tracking for calls.
To begin, navigate to Call Conversions (Tools & Settings > Measurement > Conversions). Click ‘New Conversion’ in blue.
Click the ‘Phone Calls’ box, and a menu opens to choose the source of your call conversion. Check ‘Calls from ads using call extensions or call-only ads’ and then ‘continue.’
You will be taken to a conversion action that needs to be completed. The default settings should work well, except the last item: ‘Attribution model’. Attribution is a very inexact science, so businesses large and small grapple with it.
Google recommends ‘Data-Driven,’ because it calculates the contribution of each interaction with your ads. However, we are tracking single phone calls, so my preference is to change the attribution to ‘Last Click,’ which gives all the conversion credit to the ad the user clicked.
Finally click, ‘Create and Continue’.
Google will confirm that the conversion has been successfully created. Click ‘Done’.
Turn On Call Tracking
The final step is to ‘turn on’ Call Reporting in your Google Ads Account settings.
In the left menu of your Google Ads account, click ‘Settings’.
Open ‘call reporting’.
Click ‘Get detailed information about calls you’ve received,’ which will enable your call reporting.
Click ‘Save’ in the bottom right.
You can now consider your call conversions set up and complete. If you wish to go deeper with call tracking in Google ads, we can quickly look at the other call conversion options:
Calls from phone numbers on your website
The thing to note here is that Google makes this conversion tracking look and sound very easy. Google uses dynamically generated phone numbers, which means the phone number that appears on your website changes each time a new user clicks your ad through to your website. But these call conversions will require you to put code directly into the html code of your website. If you are not familiar with HTML, it is likely best to involve your website developer or webmaster in these conversions.
Calls to a phone number on your website or your mobile website has a similar screen to the set up we looked at with call extensions. The difference is you must input your phone information here.
You will then be presented with your website code installation options. This is the part where your developer or webmaster should take over. Have them install the code on your website.
Google Ads Conversion Tracking: Import from Google Analytics (GA4)
One of the most efficient conversion tracking methods is to import conversions from your GA4 (Google Analytics 4) account.
Advantages of Importing Conversions from GA4
Looking at all your conversions in one application, such as GA4, enables easy comparison of different traffic sources. For example, the screenshot below compares the performance of multiple traffic sources without having to toggle between screens or applications.
Check these before you try to import from GA4 to your Ads account
Before you import your conversions from Google Analytics to Google Ads, two things must be done:
Link your Google Ads and Google Analytics accounts (do this in Analytics).
Make sure to have configured your conversions in Google Analytics.
How to link your GA4 and Google Ads accounts
From your Google Analytics 4 account, click the Admin button in the bottom left.
In the right panel, scroll down to ‘Google Ads Links’ and follow the prompts.
Have conversions configured in Google Analytics
If you have not configured your Analytics conversions, follow the instructions here. [Link to conversion tracking post]
Open your Google Ads account and go to the conversion menu, which is in the Tools section (the Tools icon looks like a wrench). From here, select Conversions > the ‘+’ (plus sign) > Import Square.
From the import options that appear, select ‘Google Analytics 4 properties’ and then check the website button. Click ‘Continue’ on the left.
You will see all of your Google Analytics 4 goals listed. Check the boxes beside each one you want to import.
Check the ‘import and continue’ button. That’s it!
Your conversions will be tracking in Google ads!
In this video, we’ll talk about Conversion Tracking using the Website Conversion method. This tracking method is more technical than others because you must load a piece of code on your website. That code must be placed where the conversion happens. For this reason, I suggest reaching out to your developer or webmaster to properly insert the code.
To begin, let’s go to the Add Conversion page. This time, we will click on ‘Website Conversions,’ The New Conversion Action screen will open.
First, we choose a conversion category from the dropdown list. For this example, I will choose ‘Submit lead form’. As you can see, it automatically populates the conversion name.
I recommend giving your conversion a value of $1.00, because it keeps the math simple when doing analysis later.
I generally leave the rest of the default settings in place and click ‘Create and Continue’ here in the bottom left.
This is where the technical fun begins. You must get some code installed on your website pages where the conversions happen. In fact, you must place this code on the website pages within the HTML code precisely where the conversion is triggered.
There are three methods you can use to install the code on your website:
Do it yourself: Google will provide the code in a downloadable format, and you insert to your website’s HTML. I only recommend this if you are comfortable with inserting code into your website.
Email: Use the email form provided by the tag to send the tag to a web developer for insertion to your website.
Use Google Tag Manger: This is a free product from Google that inserts tags on websites.
Select the method you wish to use and then follow the instructions.
Once the code is inserted on your site, it will begin tracking your conversions.
When Google recommends you raise your budget remember you have other options.
At some point in your Google Ads campaign, you will likely get a recommendation from Google to ‘raise your budget.’ Google sends this message when, under your current budget, your ads stop showing before the end of the day and your are missing opportunities.
In my experience, following the ‘raise your budget’ recommendation can work well, even if you only raise the budget a portion of what Google suggests.
It’s hard to raise your budget
But let’s face it: if you have a modest advertising budget raising a campaign budget might be a bridge too far. So what then? Don’t worry, there are several alternatives you can try.
Do nothing – leave your budget alone and let the campaign run
There is always the option to do nothing and leave your budget as it is. After all, it may be all you can afford. Remember, a Google recommendation is just that. You are not required to follow it.
Work the cost side of the equation
Your budget is how much money you are making available, but that is only one side of the equation. The other side is where you incur costs, keywords, locations, etc. Taking a closer look at these elements may help you find the money pits—high cost items that are not delivering corresponding conversions—so you can save money instead of spending more.
Is broad match too broad – Look for the ‘Money Pit’ keywords
‘Money pit’ keywords are high cost, low conversion keywords. You can find them in your Search Keywords report (under keywords) and sort from highest to lowest cost. Your most expensive keyword should be returning conversions / leads.
Video: How to navigate the Search Terms Report:
Check the match type for the keyword. If it is phrase or broad match, head over to the Search Terms report [link to case study / demo] (also under keywords) and see what search terms the keyword is generating. Terms that are related to your business and have sufficient volume you may choose to convert them to positive keywords. You may find some new keywords that will have a lower CPC (Cost Per Click) than the search keyword.
Consider if some related terms should be deployed as new keywords to trigger your ads.
Determine if the expensive (money pit) keyword is worth keeping based on its cost, its conversions, and if it pulls search terms related to your business.
I have seen cases where broad match keywords find lots of search terms that get turned into keywords. If you can convert enough of these search terms into keywords, pause the original keyword and use phrase or exact match on the new keywords.
The video below is a case study on taking actions from the Search Terms Report.
Negative keywords are budget positives
Negative keywords tell Google when not to show your ads. Search terms unrelated to your business should be converted to negative keywords. If you find search terms unrelated to your business, convert them to negative keywords within the search terms report, or add negative keywords directly to the campaign list as in the video below:
Location Location Location…. Maybe not
Location sells real estate, but it may not be working for your campaign. Is there a high cost, low conversion location in your campaign? Check and remove if necessary.
Examine your location settings. Is there a location consuming money but not returning sales? If so, consider removing that location.
Which devices are converting… and which ones aren’t?
Check your results by device types. Is there a device type that’s lagging in performance and perhaps not as valuable as the others? Consider a negative bid adjustment.
Check your bidding & bid adjustments
Is your bid too high?
Check your bid adjustments. If you have applied bid adjustments, consider their results.
Bid adjustments can be helpful in getting your ads to show more frequently, but it’s important to make sure they are generating value. Examine your bid adjustments across devices, locations, hours, and days to ensure they are working.
Consider all your options to before you raise your budget
The next time Google suggests you raise your budget, consider your alternatives. They may just work better for you than following Google’s suggestion.
My clients are often surprised to find out I will not work with more than one of the same type of business in the same city.
What Works for You Won’t Get Used Against You
This is an issue I feel very strongly about, and there’s a solid reason behind it: What has worked really well for you can easily work against you, especially when it’s the same person managing both sides.
One per industry rational – I know your profitable keywords & messages
When I’m managing a client’s Google Ads account, I discover the most profitable keywords, marketing messages and website strategies for their type of business.
While larger agencies can assign competing accounts to different team members and might keep the data separate and not share information, I run an owner-operated business with a team of one: me. I can’t compartmentalize competing accounts, and since I don’t want to use the same information to go against what’s working for one loyal client to benefit another, I refuse to work with competing businesses.
How it all started
This policy started with two dentists in Denver, Colorado. I had been working with one dentist there for more than a year, and we had seen a lot of success through his Google Ads account, when a second dentist in that city called to ask if I could manage his Google Ads account as well.
I quickly realized that all the ideas I was going to implement on the second dentist’s account were things I had done successfully with the first dentist. This didn’t sit right with me, because I would literally be using everything I had learned about the first dentist against him.
A few days after I emailed the second dentist to let him know why I could not work with him, the first dentist reached out and told me the two of them are friends, and that they exchange information all the time. He was okay with me working with the second dentist.
Your competitive edge is for you and your business
Most of the time however, it does not work out like this. Competing businesses want to know they have an edge over each other, and not sharing their Google Ads manager is a key part of this.
Loyal to my Clients
Since then, I have refused to work with anyone in the same industry as any of my existing clients. I am passionate about getting the right keywords, ads and website pages to work cohesively to increase sales and conversions for my clients. But I’m even more passionate about staying loyal to my clients, and not using their information against them.
So, you can rest assured that if Bird’s Eye Marketing manages your Google Advertising account, I will not work for your competitors. You will be the only one.
Google and Facebook are two of the most powerful digital advertising platforms available to businesses. Both reach huge population segments and operate on a ‘pay per click’ basis, where advertisers only pay when the user clicks on their advertisement. If the user doesn’t click, the advertiser doesn’t pay.
I manage the Google and Facebook Advertising accounts for several customers, and I have seen both platforms succeed and fail. Here’s my take on what works and what doesn’t, based on the data I’ve seen from my customers’ campaigns.
Buyers and Browsers
Which is better, Facebook or Google? I’m asked this question almost weekly.
My response, in a nutshell, is ‘it depends.’
Facebook is exceptionally good at finding browsers—those who are considering different ways to resolve a problem or obtain a desired outcome.
Google is exceptionally good at finding buyers—those who have decided they want to apply a specific solution to resolve a problem or obtain a desired outcome. The buyers have determined how much money and time they will apply to achieve their outcome.
Just so we are clear in my definition; there are two states of mind; those who:
Are considering different solutions; and,
Have decided on a specific solution and budget.
Attracting a browser to your website is a good thing. They may subscribe to your mailing list, bookmark your page, or otherwise engage with your site. Email marketing is very powerful and is a very high-converting traffic source. The caveat is that the business must be committed to continuous email content generation that nurtures the email list toward purchase.
Attracting buyers is also good because they may choose to give you their money. Buyers tend to search with specific intentions. For example, they may search for an apartment in Westboro (neighbourhood), rather than an apartment in the City of Ottawa, which contains the Westboro neighbourhood.
Best of Both Worlds: Use Both Google and Facebook Advertising
In a perfect world, businesses would have the resources to advertise on both Facebook and Google. Facebook would pull the masses and generate email signups, while Google would bring the buyers to your door.
For a few of my customers, advertising on both platforms was possible, which allowed me to determine how well these platforms worked together. Here’s one example one of my customers experienced:
While the building was under construction, the advertising objective was to build an email subscription list to target potential residents when the building opened. A secondary objective aimed to get subscribers to make a phone call or submit an email to a member of the leasing team immediately.
For the email subscription goal to be considered complete, a subscriber had to provide their name and email address.
For the contact request, there was considerably more commitment required on the part of the subscriber. The Subscriber needed to fill out a form with their name, phone number, email and desired suite type. Plus, there was the expectation the person would spend time on the phone speaking with the leasing agent.
Facebook ads were tracked in Google Analytics using UTM codes. Google Ads were tracked in Google Analytics with Auto Tagging turned on.
We advertised on both Facebook and Google. Spending slightly more on Google search advertising, and the geographic targeting was the same for each.
Facebook excelled at getting the email signups. Google excelled at getting the contact requests—remember it’s harder to get contact requests than email signups.
In October 2019, Hintonburg Connection opened and began accepting live viewings with a leasing agent. The email list signup was disabled, and the primary advertising objective was to get people to book an appointment with a leasing representative to view the model suite.
We kept the spend and geo targeting the same for both Facebook and Google Search advertising. The results were stunning:
Google’s performance at generating sales leads was significantly stronger. The cost per sales lead was 35% lower than Facebook.
Other observations of Facebook versus Google
Facebook brought a higher volume of website visitors that Google.
Facebook brought more new users to the website than Google.
Facebook had a higher bounce rate (percentage of people who viewed landing page and left the site) than Google.
Application of the Experience
When it was time for Colonnade’s next apartment building opening, 1960 Scott Street, we applied our experience. During the pre opening phase of gathering email subscribers we spent more heavily on Facebook. And then as we switched to actively leasing units, we applied more spend to Google Search Ads.
Dental Office Stopped Facebook Advertising
A small dental office I work with was doing both Google search ads and Facebook ads. After six months, they stopped the Facebook ads because their cost per lead was too high (form completion was $108, versus Google Search at $59).
They too experienced high traffic volumes and bounce rates.
Getting the Word Out Quickly on Facebook
Another customer used Facebook to announce a new product. Their goal was to reach as many people as quickly as possible about the new product. Facebook reached far more people much faster than Google.
Facebook Advertising worked better on softer commitments like email signups
My experience advertising with Google search and Facebook has shown me that Facebook is particularly good at reaching a lot of people quickly. It’s good at driving traffic to your website and getting people to make small commitments, like subscribing to an email list.
In short: Facebook advertising generates a lot of traffic and small commitments, but results in very few leads or sales.
Why Facebook excels at smaller user commitments
Typically, Facebook users leisurely scroll through their feeds to see what friends are doing, and to relax. They click on ads that intrigue them, but most are not in the mood to do a lot of thinking and analyzing, or especially to make large commitments, such as committing time to go to a leasing office or make a purchase.
If the Facebook user has an interest, they will complete a quick mailing list form, because that fits with their relaxed mood.
Google Search Advertising works better on the ‘Money Commitments’
It’s been my experience with customers advertising on both Facebook and Google that Google brings in the money. The user is typically ‘Googling a problem’ because they are looking for a solution. In this way, they are in the mood to listen, especially when a seller has the solution to their problem. And when they find the solution, they’re more willing to make that bigger commitment or purchase.
Is Google Search Advertising Better than Facebook Ads?
These two platforms are built for different objectives. In my opinion, Facebook excels at softer commitments like email signups and getting large volumes of people to your website quickly. Google search is made to get buyers to find you. It excels at getting people who are actively searching and ready to buy your product or service to your website.
The key for small- and medium-sized businesses with restrictive budgets is to make it clear what they want users to do after they land on their website.
Why decline so many Facebook advertising request
Unfortunately, many businesses lack the resources to advertise on both Facebook and Google. Their budgets force them to choose one over the other. In order for a Facebook advertising campaign to be successful, a business needs to have the email or content marketing in place or be willing to build it. That’s a significant commitment, which can be difficult on a small budget. In my experience, those who want Facebook advertising but don’t have an email infrastructure will struggle.
Google Ads settings can give your campaigns a lot of power and significantly improve performance—or they can completely derail your campaign and get very expensive very quick.
Some of these settings are ‘set and forget,’ so we tend not to think about them unless there’s a problem.
Here are a few examples I’ve seen where incorrect settings sucked daily budgets into oblivion:
Spending $200 in an hour on clicks from Albania when the target geography was Ottawa, Canada.
Exhausting your daily budget during the day, when your target market shops in evenings and nights.
Not knowing if your advertising is getting any results at all.
Showing your ads on the wrong network.
It’s easy to take these settings for granted; they’re not things we look at every day in our busy lives. We often assume they’re correct and working until we notice something wrong.
Occasionally, it’s a good idea to give your Google Ads settings a check, if for no other reason than to make sure they’re not sucking money out of your daily budget.
Locations where your ads are showing
You could have an incredibly compelling ad, but if it’s showing in the wrong location, it’s useless. One of my customers couldn’t understand why their daily budget was consistently exhausted before noon. It turned our their ads were running in Albania. They were spending about $50/day (for 50 days!) on ads that weren’t even reaching their target market!
The fix was simple: Go into ‘Campaign Settings’ and set location to the customer’s targeted geography—in this case, Ontario, Canada. Once this was done, their budget lasted all day, and they were getting lots more sales.
How to check your locations:
Go to the campaign you want to check.
On the right menu, click ‘Settings.’
Click locations. If there are corrections to be made, click the pencil and follow the prompts.
Days and Hours Your Ads Can Run
Running ads 24 hours a day can get expensive, especially if most of your clicks come in the evening and your budget is exhausted during the day.
One E-commerce customer was getting very few sales, until we changed the hours of their ads to evening and middle of the night—that’s when their target market liked to shop. Run your ads when your customers most likely to be looking for you.
How to set your Days and Hours
Select your Campaign.
On the side menu, click ‘Ad Schedule.’ The days of the week and the times your ads are showing will appear.
Select the pencil below that chart and then pick your days and times to your ads to appear.
Networks Where Your Ads are Showing
Google offers lots of networks: Search, display, video, Gmail, etc. Make sure you are on the network you want. I’ve seen many accounts showing ads on the display network because the account owners inadvertently clicked Search Network with Display Select. Make sure the network(s) of your choice are what you have turned on.
How to set up your networks
Select your campaign.
On the right menu, select ‘Settings.’
Google Ads Conversion Tracking
Make sure you have Conversion Tracking set up. Conversions are what you want people to do on your website: Buy something, complete a form, sign up for your email list, etc. If you don’t have conversion tracking properly implemented, it’s like driving without a rear view mirror. You simply don’t know if your advertising is working, or at least which half of your advertising is working.
Google Ads Quality Score measures your relevance on a one to ten scale. Ignoring it can be a costly mistake. Andrew, one of my customers learned that the hard way.
More Money but No Relevance
The first time Andrew called me; he was frustrated with his Google Ads Account. There were few clicks, and no sales. Every time he did a search, he found his ad near the bottom of the Google listings.
Andrew claimed he had raised his click bid to from $2 to $5, but never got near the top of the listings. Then his real frustration came out. “I don’t know what’s wrong with Google, I’m offering $5 bucks a click and my competitor (a friend of Andrew’s) is only offering $3 a click.” Exacerbated, he added, “He’s always at the top of the page, and I’m at the bottom. I’m willing to pay more!”
By now I was knowingly nodding my head; Andrew had forgotten about Relevancy—one of the most important components of Google Ads.
The Real Value of Relevance
Relevance is the usefulness of your ad relative to the user’s search. Andrew’s ad was very general, while his competitor’s ad mentioned the product users were searching for and provided key differentiating features and a call to action.
When it comes to relevance, remember that Google only gets paid when your ad is clicked. So, if 100 people see your ad but no one clicks, Google won’t make a cent.
Simply put, the competitor’s ad was more relevant than Andrew’s ad, so Google believed it would get more clicks if it were higher in the listings. More relevant ads will often find themselves above higher paying competitive ads because more clicks mean more money for Google.
Google Ads Quality Score
To help guide us toward more relevant ads, Google provides us with a ‘Quality Score’ for each of our keywords. The Quality Score is Google’s opinion on how well your keyword matches what’s in your ad and what’s on your landing page. You’re given a one to ten rating, 1 meaning poor quality and 10 meaning very high quality.
Andrew had a Quality Score of two, poor. By working on his quality score components Andrew’s reached scores between 7 and 10, reduced his cost per click 20%, rose to higher ad listing positions, and received a lot more sales.
Quality Score has three components:
Ad Relevance—How closely the keyword relates to your advertisement.
Landing Page Experience—How useful your landing page is relative to the keyword.
Expected CTR (Click Through Rate)—How likely users are to click on your ad when shown with the keyword.
All three components, especially ‘Expected CTR,’ use historical data. This means that as your clicks increase, your quality score will likely begin to improve too.
How to Keep Ads Relevant to Your Keywords
The best way to maintain relevance is to keep your keywords grouped by specific themes. If you have a group of keywords that have a common theme, put them together in an Ad Group. For example, a home renovation company might group keywords by type of renovation: basement, kitchen, bathroom, etc. All the basement related keywords go in basement, kitchen related keywords go in kitchen, etc.
All the ads for the basement ad group will contain the word ‘basement,’ kitchen ad group ads will contain the word ‘kitchen,’ etc.
By using the ad group name in the ad, the ad becomes relevant to user searches.
Each ad group sends the user to pages related to the keyword in the ad group. The basements ad group goes to a basement landing page, kitchens to a kitchens page, etc.
This is the trickiest Quality Score component because it relies heavily on how many clicks your ad is getting. It uses Click History.
Troubleshooting A Low Quality Score
If your quality score is below five, it’s a good idea to look deeper at relevance. Each Quality Score component consists of three ratings: Below Average, Average, and Above Average. A low quality score probably means one or two of these components is ‘Below Average.’
Here’s how to improve a below average rating in each component:
Ad Relevance: Make sure the keyword is in the first or second headline of the ad.
Landing Page Experience: See how well the promise made in the ad is fulfilled on the landing page.
Expected CTR: This is the toughest one because Google is pretty vague on what it means. It’s been my experience that if I can get the Landing Page Experience and Ad Relevance to Average or Above Average, the Expected CTR slowly follows.
If your keywords are grouped by theme, and you use the theme name in your ads, you will increase your ad relevance. Check your landing page for the keyword or variations of it. These simple tactics will help keep your ads relevant and higher in the listings.