The Different Ways to Track AdWords Conversions

The Different Ways to Track AdWords Conversions

By David Bird

I love getting quick wins for my new customers. Often, one of the quickest and simplest ways I can do this is by improving the way they track conversions from their Google AdWords campaigns.

When starting out with a new customer I find that many use the Java script “conversion code” that AdWords provides to track their conversion.  This code is pasted onto the conversion page such as the order confirmation or “Thank You” page.

Many customers are surprised to learn an alternative way to track AdWords Conversions – Import Goals from their Google Analytics account.

Let’s look at both AdWords Conversion Code and Importing Google Analytics approach to tracking conversions.

AdWords Conversion Code onto Conversion Web Page

With this popular conversion tracking method you take a java script “conversion code” that’s found in your AdWords account and paste it into the html code for your conversion web pages. These pages might be the order confirmation page of an ecommerce site, or the Thank You page that appears after a visitor completes a lead generation form.

Here’s an example of the AdWords conversion code:

AdWords Conversion Code Sample.

Installing the AdWords Code… Easy For Techies, Hard for many….

The instructions to place the code sound simple: “Copy the tag box and paste it between the body tagson the page you would like to track”. If you understand what atag is, it’s probably easy for you to load the code.  If you don’t, know what a body tag is, have someone who does install the code on your conversion page.  (Atag is part of the your website’s HTML code)

The benefits of Using AdWords Conversion Code

AdWords tracks every visit to the page with the embedded Java script and reports it as conversions that appear in your reports. It appears to be very simple.

Beware the pitfalls of Misplacing the Code

The AdWords Conversion code only goes on the web page where you know a conversion has happened; the “thank page” or order confirmation page.

I’ve seen several businesses misplace the code on their website.  Here are a couple of horror stories that caused huge over spending on AdWords advertising:

One client had embedded the code on their landing page, so AdWords counted every click to that landing page as a conversion, even if the visitor never did anything on that page to truly “convert”.

Another client placed the code on a form page instead of the associated thank you page. So AdWords tracked visits to the form page, instead of form completions (leads).

As a result of misplacing the AdWords code, both companies had a false and inflated belief their AdWords were performing extraordinarily well. So they couldn’t optimize their advertising spending.

The Circumstance When I Deploy the AdWords Conversion Data

As a general rule, I prefer to import Google Analytics goals into Google AdWords.  It’s easier to compare Adwords performance to Social Media, Organic Search (SEO), Direct Traffic, Email, etc…. more on that later.

Ecommerce conversion tracking is the exception simply because I have not seen a Google Analytics Enhanced Ecommerce tracking that is trustworthy.  Ecommerce is very complex and with so many different platforms out there (Shopify, Magento, Woo Commerce (WordPress), even Wix) I just haven’t seen one work.

The most common challenge with Enhanced Ecommerce has been transactions being attributed to “Direct” traffic instead of AdWords.  Or worse, the transactions do not even show up.

I have started suggesting my customers avoid the complexities of Google’s Enhanced Ecommerce and just install the AdWords Conversion code on their conversion page.

Importing Goals from Google Analytics

Ace - Pixabay blickpixel

An easier and more powerful way to track your AdWords conversions is to import one or two goals from your Google Analytics account into your Google AdWords account. It’s the method I recommend to all my customers. I’ve written step-by-step instructions for how to set up goals in Google Analytics.

Here are the advantages of this approach:

Little Risk of Putting Code on the Wrong Page

AdWords is great for tracking traditional conversions, where someone fills out a form, or click a link and is presented with another web page.

But there are other types of conversions you might want to track — like when someone clicks an email or phone number link, etc.

This was the case for one of my customers who was a contractor. We learned that most of their conversions were coming from phone calls – people clicking the phone number link on the website to call the office and make an appointment for an estimate.

Now here’s the catch. When people click these kinds of links they don’t go to another page with a different URL, so AdWords can’t track and report them.

But Google Analytics can. Google Analytics lets you configure a variety of “events” that you want considered as conversions and then setup goals for these events. When you then import these event goals to your Google AdWords account you get much more complete and accurate AdWords performance data, because Google Analytics tracks all the different types of conversions your AdWords campaigns generate.

This gives you much greater insight into how your leads are really being generated, and your best sources for leads.

Compare All Your Traffic Sources against Each Other in One Place

Google Analytics tracks the origin of all traffic to your website: search engines, emails, referrals, direct —and yes AdWords too. AdWords traffic appears in your Google Analytics reports as “Paid Search”.

Google Analytics then identifies conversions from each of these traffic sources for you. See Figure 2, the far right column “Request Contact… (Goal 3 Value). This means you can easily compare the performance of all your traffic sources in one report instead of having to toggle between multiple applications and reports.

Figure 2 – Google Analytics Traffic Report shows performance of all traffic sources including Google AdWords (Paid Search)

Google Analytics default channel comparison

Now you can easily see how AdWords conversions compare to other traffic sources like social media, SEO, email, and even other advertising like Facebook, and online publications.

Beware the pitfall

Many of us have multiple goals in Google Analytics. For example I’ve seen many accounts were an email subscription and a purchase is both defined as conversions.

If you import both these goals into Google AdWords, then create an ad that allows a visitor to both purchase an item and sign-up for your newsletter, Google Analytics will count two conversions from the same visit — which can cause some confusion. You could end up with a conversion rate higher than 100%.

Look closely at the screenshot below from one of my customer’s Google AdWords account. Notice the circled data that shows there are more conversions than clicks and a 124% conversion rate. That means there were more conversions than people clicking through to the website.

Google AdWords conversions as displayed in Google Analytics

Conversion confusion was making this customer’s AdWords data irrelevant and misleading them into believing they were doing well. But they weren’t actually selling a lot of products despite paying thousands for Google advertising.

I strongly recommend that you have only one goal / conversion definition in Google AdWords — usually a revenue goal such as an order confirmation or a lead form thank you.

For the customer in this example, I removed the email subscription goal from their AdWords account. They were still able to see email subscription conversions from AdWords in their Google Analytics account, but it eliminated the confusion and misleading data in AdWords.

Conclusion: Ecommerce Tracking Is Imperfect

In a perfect world, all AdWords conversions would be tracked by importing goals from Google Analytics.  Since we don’t live in a perfect world:

  • Ecommerce websites I will grudgingly use the AdWords Code on the order confirmation page
  • Lead Generation and not for profit sites I import conversions from Google Analytics.

Hopefully one day the world will be more perfect for ecommerce websites.