Google Conversion Tracking Fundamentals
WHY CONVERSION TRACKING IS SO IMPORTANT
When you create a website, it should be with a specific purpose in mind. Usually that purpose is to sell either your services or your products.
After you have spent time, money and effort on a new website then ideally you want to know if it actually fulfils the purpose that it was designed for and whether it needs further improvement.
This can be analysed using conversion tracking and is especially important if you are continuing to spend time, money and effort on digital marketing to send traffic to your website.
Here we focus on the options and methodology rather than the technical implementation as there can be many ways to implement the code depending on your own bespoke circumstances.
WHAT ACTIONS TO TRACK
When visitors reach your website, what is it that you want them to do?
You need to identify and decide which actions matter to you and that you want more of.
Start by looking through the website and listing every possible action, for example:
- Add to basket
- Online purchase
- Free sample request
- Online quote
- Submit an enquiry form
- Initiate live chat
- Telephone call
- Newsletter sign up
- Create an account
- Valuable page visited (eg. contact us page)
- Time spent on site
- Number of pages visited
Then you need to separate your list into macro and micro goals because every action has a level of importance attached to it.
Macro goals are the main goals that are key to your business and will be used to measure your website performance and marketing performance.
For a lead generation company this is usually a phone call lead or an enquiry form submission.
For an eCommerce business this is usually a sale of a product and the revenue generated.
Micro goals are the other valuable actions that may eventually lead to a macro goal. These could be viewed as valuable signals that will help you optimise to gain more macro goals.
For example, newsletter signups aren’t the end goal but the more you attain the more people you can keep in contact with that may lead to a future sale.
You also need to identify how each action can be tracked for example a specific page is viewed (eg. a thank you page) or an event that occurs (eg. a button click).
TRACK CONVERSION VALUES / REVENUE
You can record a value for each conversion action that you track.
This is crucial for an eCommerce business because you need to know how much revenue your sales are getting you.
Making 1000 sales a month for a product that costs £2 will have a very different impact to your business than 1000 sales for a £500 product. You need to measure the value of your sales, not just the volume.
Lead generation businesses may find it more difficult to assign a value because not every lead turns into a sale and the monetary transaction may occur much later on. However, there is a way you can estimate the value of each conversion if you have historical data.
For example, if on average it takes you 20 form submissions to make a sale of £500 then you can estimate that each form submission is approx worth £25 to your business.
DUPLICATION – ONE VS MANY
Before adding any tracking code, you need to think about how you want to interpret the data that you capture.
If somebody converts multiple times then you need to decide whether you want to count them all as only one conversion duplicated multiple times or count each conversion as a separate conversion.
Lead Gen Scenario:
A user clicks on your ad and reaches your website. They submit a contact form to ask about your pricing. They then submit another contact form to asking about your availability.
In this scenario, you have not received multiple opportunities so you should only count this as “one”.
A user clicks on your ad and reaches your website. They browse your products and purchases something. Before leaving your website they see something else they want to buy and runs through the checkout process again.
In this case, each purchase adds value so each conversion should be counted. Therefore, use “many”.
User journeys are often complex with multiple touch points. You need to decide how you want to credit those touch points by choosing an attribution model.
User Journey Scenario:
On Monday, a user is researching on their mobile phone and clicks on your ad but does not make a purchase.
On Tuesday, that same user is browsing on their tablet and clicks on another ad to do more research but again does not purchase.
On Wednesday, while they are on a desktop computer, they click on another ad and finally decide to purchase.
In this scenario, how do you want to attribute the conversion? Do you consider this a sale from Wednesday on a desktop computer (ie. last-click attribution)?
But if those previous clicks didn’t occur then there might not have been a click on Wednesday that gained the sale.
Choose an attribution model:
As a general rule, Google recommends the following priority order:
- Data driven – if you have enough conversion data to be eligible then Google strongly recommends using this.
- Position-based – the first click starts the journey and the last click closes the deal so these are deemed the most valuable touch points.
- Time decay – more credit is given the closer it is to the last click that the conversion.
- Linear – each touch point along the journey is given equal credit
- First-click – the first click is given all the credit for bringing that customer to you. Without this, the remainder of the journey wouldn’t happen
- Last-click – the last click is given all the credit. Traditionally this has been the industry default and matches more closely to your back end sales data but is not optimal for optimising performance.
For a deeper explanation of what these are, here is a post I wrote called Better PPC with Google Attribution Modelling.
At the very least, use Google Analytics. It’s free and provides a lot of information about how visitors reach your site and what they are doing when they get there.
You need to create a Google Analytics account and place some code onto every page of your website. Then in the Google Analytics interface, create the goals by choosing a goal page URL or setting up event tracking.
The goals you create in Google Analytics can be imported into Google Ads.so that you do not have to duplicate creating these in Google Ads. Just make sure you link the accounts together.
GOOGLE ADS – GLOBAL SITE TAG
If you do not have access to Analytics then you could generate tags to be placed on your website.
The Google Ads code has changed in recent times. Previously, you just had to place the conversion code snippet on your goal page. Now you need to place a global site tag on every page of the website and also a separate event code on the goal page that you want tracked.
GOOGLE TAG MANAGER
Each time you want a piece of code adding to the website, you will need to create the goal, generate the code, and send it to your web developer to implement.
Sometimes we come across issues where the developers take several weeks to action this or charge additional fees for developer time each time you need a code added or amended.
Google Tag Manager is a free tool where you only need the developer to place a container code once, then all other tracking codes can be created within the Tag Manager interface.
This means you can set up whatever tags you want, whenever you want without waiting for the developer or paying extra fees.
No coding experience is required and you can provide access to your digital marketing agency to set up the tags that they want to track.
You can also, test the tags are firing correctly before publishing changes to your website..
Each change you publish creates a new version so that you can always roll back to a previous version if ever you needed to. Without this, the alternative is that you change the actual code itself and if it goes wrong then you need to change it all back again manually to exactly what it was before.
It’s free and the benefits are endless so definitely consider using Tag Manager.
TRACK OFFLINE CONVERSIONS
If your website generates leads that may not all turn into true conversions or not until a later stage then it is still possible to track these. This is especially pertinent for loan providers, mortgage lenders, law firms, etc.
If you are a loans provider, not everybody who applies for the loan will eventually take out the loan. Some will change their mind, some may fail the credit check.
So if you want to track true conversions rather than leads then this requires just a little more work.
Whenever somebody clicks on one of your ads, a Google Click ID (GCLID) is generated to identify that click. You need to set up your website to capture these GCLIDs and if one of your leads eventually turns into a sale, you need to upload that GCLID information back into Google Ads. This will then tell you which keyword, ad, device, day, etc drove that conversion so that you can optimise accordingly.
For more information, Rick wrote an article about Using GCLID & Imported Conversions to Track Offline Sales.
TRACK PHONE CALLS
Another form of offline tracking is when somebody calls your telephone number to make an enquiry or purchase instead of conducting the transaction online.
If receiving phone calls adds value to your business then it only makes sense to track which parts of your marketing strategy are driving those phone calls.
Google Call Extensions
These are the phone numbers or call buttons that appear with your ad (see image below)
Google Call-Only Ads
These ads appear on mobile devices and when clicked will call your phone number instead of sending the user to your website (see image below).
Some consider this technique to be a little bit brute force because you are only giving the user the option to call you.
Some users will like it and some won’t. If they don’t like it then they will either not click on your call-only ad or hang up when they realise it starts calling rather than directing to your website.
It might still be worth testing and can work very well in certain industries, such as, emergency plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, etc.
Google Call Forwarding
For Call Extensions and Call Only Ads, Google can supply a call forwarding number (in some countries).
This allows Google to record that a call has occurred and that it was driven by PPC, whilst passing the caller through to your actual phone number.
Google Website Call Forwarding
Google can also place a call forwarding number on your website
This requires a snippet of code that will dynamically change your phone number to the Google forwarding number if a visitor reaches your website via a paid click.
This means that if somebody calls you after they have reached your website, you will still know that it was driven by your PPC marketing efforts.
Google call forwarding is limited to only Google Ads traffic though, so if you get a call that isn’t from Google Ads then you won’t know which other channel it may have come from (such as organic, referral, social, direct, or any other)
Another limitation is that you do not know what the call is about so you cannot ascertain the quality:
If you get 10 calls enquiring about your services then you have the potential to make more sales.
But, if you get 10 calls from people selling you toner and complaints then the marketing spend is not well spent.
Google’s solution for this is to allow you to count calls as conversions only if they exceed a specified length of time, for example, if a call lasts for longer than 60 seconds then you can assume that it must have been a reasonably worthwhile conversation.
3rd Party Call Tracking Software
If you wanted better accuracy then you could employ more sophisticated call tracking software at an additional cost.
The phone number on your website will dynamically change based on the traffic source so you can measure phone call performance across all channels.
Post Call Rating is another key feature where you can rate the call after it has happened so that you can identify the good leads. Once you import this data into Google Ads, you will be able to optimise to drive more of these valuable calls.
Call recording is also usually included as standard so you can use this to help monitor your own call quality for staff training purposes.
There are plenty of providers to choose from but the big ones are Infinity and ResponseTap.
If you are using other platforms (such as Bing Ads, Facebook, AdRoll, etc.) then make sure you implement their tracking too (ideally using Google Tag Manager).
WHAT TO DO WITH THE DATA
Having accurate conversion tracking on your website opens up many possibilities:
- You can optimise your PPC campaigns for better performance.
- Reallocate budgets to the parts of the campaign that are working well.
- Adopt automated bidding strategies to target with better precision than manual bidding is capable of.
- Target new audiences that are similar to your existing converting leads.
- Remarket ads to loyal customers to cross-sell complementary products.
Being able to track performance is one of the key benefits of digital marketing so we should take full advantage of this. You cannot improve performance if you cannot see what is working and what is not.
In traditional advertising (such as TV, radio, magazines, billboards, etc.) you may notice a general surge in enquiries but won’t know exactly who or how many were a direct impact from your marketing spend.
I still come across so many businesses that don’t fully understand tracking and what options are available. A tracking audit is the first thing we do when we begin working with a new client so that we can reduce your wasted marketing spend and optimise for better quality traffic.
If you would like help ensuring your tracking is set up correctly and optimised for the best possible PPC performance then please get in touch for a free audit.