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
- A keyword
- An ad
- By device
- By location
- And more.
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
- Phone calls
- 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’.
- Click, Account.
- 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.
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.
Here’s an article to help you set up your conversion tracking.
It’s easy to take Google Ads settings for granted, but a quick check can save you a lot of money and significantly improve performance.
When it comes to Google Ads bidding, there are a lot of decisions to make. The first one is whether to manage your account manually or choose from a multitude of automated bidding options.
While automated bidding is designed to make your life easier, it’s important to select the option that will work best for you—that is, the one that will best meet your goals and objectives.
The chart below provides a summary how to direct your bidding according to your business goal:
(Users buy, complete form, etc.)
(Bring people to your site)
(Show Your ads, but traffic & conversions are secondary)
||Target CPA (A)
Average pay for conversion
||Target Search Page Location (A)
|Target ROAS (A)
||Maximize Clicks (A)
||Target Outranking Share (A)
|Maximize Conversions (A)
(A) Identifies an automated bidding type
I have tried all these, and my favourite by far is the manual option (Manual Cost Per Click). Although time consuming, it gives you full control over your bidding and it’s easy to make changes without major disruptions. There’s more about manual bidding further down this post under ‘CPC Bidding’
Now let’s have a look at the automated options.
Google Ads Automated Bidding
With automated bidding, you don’t have to set your individual keyword or ad group bids. But you also surrender various degrees of control in terms of how much you bid, at what times, and even how much you spend. That said, when done properly, this option works well for most.
How Automated Bidding Works
It’s said that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. That’s the premise that drives automated bidding. Google Ads uses ‘Machine Learning’ to track statistical models of past performance to predict future performance, and automates your bids based on this data. For example, users from some locations using mobile devices might be more likely to click on ads at a certain time of day.
Google uses something called auction time signals to predict the likelihood of someone clicking your ad. Machine Learning allows Google to assimilate a lot of variables very quickly to determine when you should bid high, low or not at all. These variables include:
- Time of Day
- Operating System
- Remarketing lists
Why I don’t use automated bidding all the time
Automated bidding relies on historical performance. If you don’t have any history (as with a new account) it probably won’t work very well at first. It can take some time for Machine Learning to gather enough data to perform well.
Define Your Objectives
For automated bidding to work well for you, you need to know what you want it to do. What is most important? Conversions? Increased website traffic? Impressions?
You need to define your objectives in specific terms. For example:
- I want X sales lead per month and my budget is Y
- My budget is A and I need 25 sales
- I want 10,000 people to see my message each week
- I want an ROI of 200%
The key here is to choose which objective is most important for your business. That’s right, you can only select one. And while this is a struggle for many business owners, the automated bidding process won’t work with more than one objective.
Smart Bidding Strategy
This is Google’s name for a group of bidding types that encourage users to take an action on a website. For example:
- Making a purchase
- Completing a form
- Sending an email (click email link)
- Clicking on a phone number
- Signing up for an email list
Conversion Tracking required
To make any bidding work, you will need to have Google Ads ‘Conversion Tracking’ established. To set up conversion tracking, follow these instructions: https://birdseyemarketing.com/2019/04/google-ads-conversion-tracking/.
Choosing your automated bidding type
Here’s a summary of the different bidding types available:
Smart Bidding Strategies – When You Users to Take Action
(Cost per Acquisition)
(Return on Ad Spend)
||Achieve your desired cost per acquisition
||Achieve your desired return on ad spend
||Spend your budget to gain as many conversions as possible.
||Automatically adjusts manual bids based on likelihood of user clicking
Target CPA (Cost Per Acquisition)
This bidding type tries to get as many conversions within your CPA as possible. Be careful not to set bid limits too low, because it could exclude you from auctions. It’s best to allow Google to set your bids.
Target ROAS (Return On Ad Spend)
This option automatically sets bids based on your target return on ad spend; it will try to get as many conversions as possible within that ROAS.
There are two important requirements associated with this option:
- Your campaign must have a minimum of 15 conversions in the past 30 days; and
- You must set values for the conversions you want.
This option will get the most conversions within your budget as possible, and it tries to spend your entire budget. This campaign can’t be part of a shared budget.
If you have a target ROI (such as 2%), you’re best to use Target CPA or Target ROAS.
This option works with manual bidding to raise or lower your bids for clicks that seem ‘likely’ to convert.
Bids are constrained by your max CPC (CPA bidding is not constrained by max CPC).
CPC (Cost Per Click) Bidding Strategies — Driving traffic to your website
CPC strategies seek out ways to drive traffic to your website. You will get a lot of visitors, but not all of them will take an action.
There are two types of CPC strategies: Manual CPC and Maximize Clicks. Let’s have a look at each.
You set the maximum amount you will spend for a click. There are tools available to help with this, including:
- Bid simulator – Explores ‘what if’ scenarios (for example: how many more impressions or clicks can you expect by setting your bid ten cents higher)
- Keyword Planner – Estimates traffic and bids
- First Page Bid Estimates – Determines what you need to bid to make first page
This is a good bid type for those who consistently spend their daily budget. Maximize clicks will take a more discerning approach using auction time signals to move bids up or down based on the likelihood of the user clicking your ad. This is also a good bid type for those who don’t have time to monitor their bids and are willing to let Google update automatically.
DO NOT USE MAXIMIZE CLICKS WHEN:
- You need to maintain a specific position or cost per conversion, or
- You can’t set individual bids.
Impression Bidding – Focusing on Your Message.
Impression Bidding types are for businesses that want to reach a lot people quickly. They are most beneficial on Google’s Display Network where image ads do very well.
|Target Search Page Location
||Target outranking Share
||Cost per thousand impressions (CPM)
||Cost per thousand Viewable Impressions (M)
|Gets ads to top of page
||Choose a domain you want to outrank
||YouTube & Display
Pay per 1,000 impressions
|Awareness, not necessarily click traffic.
Summary: When To use Automated Bidding
In summary, there are three things you need to determine before diving into automated bidding:
- Decide which advertising goal is most important to you: Action, Traffic, or Visibility.
- Track your advertising performance by setting up conversion tracking.
- Determine how much time you can dedicate to Google Ads. If you have the time, start with manual bidding to build up historical performance statistics before trying automated bidding.