Conversion tracking is Google Ads functionality that records what happens after a user interacts with your ads and performs an action. An action could be purchasing a product, signing up for a newsletter, calling your business or downloading an app. If a customer completes an action you have defined as important, this is called a conversion.
Once conversion tracking is set up, you can see data on conversions in the Google Ads interact at the campaigns, ad groups, ads and keyword level.
Why conversion tracking is important
Conversion tracking allows advertisers to see the keywords, ads, ad groups and campaigns are most effective at generating the desired customer activity. It allows you to:
- Calculate return on investment (ROI) and make wiser decisions about allocating your budget.
- Use Smart Bidding strategies (e.g. Maximise Conversions, target CPA and target ROAS) that automatically manage bidding and placements.
- See how many customers are interacting with your ads on one device or browser but converting on another.
How Conversion tracking works
To use conversion tracking starts, you must first define a conversion action in your Google Ads account. A conversion action is someone performing a specific task on your site, e.g. making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter. Conversion tracking can be used to track several kinds of action:
These are purchases, sign-ups and other actions that customers complete on your website.
These can be calls placed directly from your ads, calls to a number on your website or clicks on a phone number on a mobile.
App installs and in-app actions
Installs of your Android or iOS mobile apps and purchases or other activity within those apps.
This is customer activity which begins online but finishes offline. For example, when a customer clicks an ad and submits an enquiry form online, and later makes an offline purchase.
These are actions that are tracked when users interact with an ad that is specific to a physical location or shop.
The conversion tracking process
The conversion tracking process works slightly differently for each conversion source. These are:
You add a code snippet (a Google Tag) to your website or mobile app code. When a customer clicks on your advert on Google Search or a Google Display Network site or views your video ad, a small file (known as a cookie) is temporarily placed on their computer or mobile device. When they do the conversion action, Google’s system recognises the cookie and records a conversion.
Tracking without tag
Tracking some types of conversion events does not require a tag. For example, to track phone calls uses a Google forwarding number to track when a call comes from an ad. This allows tracking details such as call duration, call start and end times and the caller’s area code.
No tracking code is needed to track App downloads, in-app purchases from Google Play and local actions, as these will automatically be recorded as conversions.
When defining a conversion action in your Google ads account, there are a number of options which need to be set.
Before they make a purchase (or other conversion action), customers may interact with several ads from an advertiser. Attribution models define how much credit each interaction gets for your conversions. Attribution models can better understand the performance of your advertising and can and allow you to optimise across conversion journeys.
The most commonly used attribution model is ‘last click’ basis which assigns all the credit for a conversion to the last-clicked ad and keyword. However, last click ignores all other ad interactions. Attribution models give you control over the credit each ad interaction is assigned for your conversions. Benefits:
- Reach customers at the beginning of their purchase cycle and identify opportunities to advertise to customers earlier on their path to conversion.
- Optimise your bidding based on a better understanding of your ads’ performance.
Attribution model options
Google Ads offers several attribution models:
- Last click. All credit for the conversion is awarded to the last-clicked ad and corresponding keyword.
- First click. All credit for the conversion is awarded to the first-clicked ad and corresponding keyword.
- Linear. This model distributes credit for a conversion equally across all ad interactions on the path.
- Time decay. This model assigns more credit to ad interactions closer to the conversion. The credit is assigned using a 7-day half-life i.e. an ad interaction eight days before a conversion gets half the credit of an interaction one day before.
- Position-based. This model gives 40% of the credit to the first and last ad interactions and the remaining 20% is spread across the other interactions on the path.
- Data-driven. This model distributes credit based on past data for this conversion action. This model is the default attribution model for most conversion actions.
Conversion values enable you to measure the effectivness of your ad campaigns. By assigning values to conversions, you can understand the value that is generated and not just the number of transactions. You will also be able to understand the return on investment of your advertising efforts.
The conversion value options are:
- Same value for each conversion. For example, if you track leads, then you could enter the average value from each lead.
- Different values for each conversion. If you sell products at different prices, you can give each of them a different value, e.g. the sale value of the item.
- No value. This is not recommended for most advertisers as a value helps you measure the impact of your ads.
For any conversion action, you can count every conversion that occurs after an interaction or only one conversion. The options available are:
- Every conversion. This setting counts every conversion that occurs after an ad interaction. This is the best choice if you want if every sale brings value to your business.
- One conversion. This setting counts only one conversion per ad click. This is a good choice if you are tracking leads, as only one lead is likely to be generated per ad click.
Click through conversion window
Sometimes the conversion happens within a day, but conversions can be occur up to 90 days after the click. Defining your conversion window govern how these conversions are recorded. Your choice of the time between impression and conversion affects the values seen in your account. For example:
- Comparing performance. When comparing recent performance with past performance, your recent performance may not look as good as some people who clicked your ad have not converted yet.
- No bid simulator estimates. If your customers take a long time to convert, conversion estimates may not be available in the bid simulator.
Using tools like Google Analytics will inform you as to how long, on average, your customers take to convert.
There are three types of conversion for which conversion windows can be defined:
- Click-through conversion window. Conversions can happen days after a person interacts with your ad.
- Engaged-view conversion window. Select how long to track conversions after a video engagement
- View-through conversion window. A person may see your ad and not interact with it, then convert later. This is called a view-through conversion.