Using GCLID & Imported Conversions to Track Offline Sales

Many clients often struggle with true end to end conversion reporting. Their websites drive good leads yet sales are completed offline, they cannot see which campaigns, keywords or ads drive the true sales. In many cases AdWords will only track information to an Online lead point, yet the Offline sales are the ultimate conversion point!

Frustrated with PPC

Image a client that drives 100’s of leads but only a handful of them turn into offline sales, we know which keywords & ads are driving the leads but we don’t know which keywords & ads are driving the SALES.

Optimising to a lead could ultimately reduce sales as potentially we exclude the wrong keywords, we just don’t know!

Image a client that sells cars: users arrive at the site, view a range of cars and submit an enquiry. The client goes through all the leads, contacts each customer and sells to only one.. 99 of the leads could come from the keyword “used car” with a Cost Per Lead of £0.05 yet 1 lead could come from the keyword “Used Ford Focus” with a Cost Per Lead of £5.

We would naturally see the £5 versus the £0.05 and pause that expensive keyword, thus making the account much more efficient.

In reality however that 1 lead could have been the one that drove the sale and we would have lost the best performing keyword!

We need to know which keywords are driving Sales Offline not just Leads Online

 Which Choice PPC

Don’t worry, there is a way to do this: we can use GCLID combined with Imported Conversions to track the offline sales.

Firstly what is the GCLID:

The GCLID (Google Click Identifier) is a unique tracking parameter used by Google to pass information back and forth between Google AdWords and Google Analytics. If you enable URL auto tagging in Google AdWords, Google will append a unique ?gclid parameter to your destination URLs, do a search on Google, right click a PPC ad, then “copy link address” (or similar) and paste it into a text editor, you will see along with all the normal information a long GCLIDXXXXXXX entry. This GCLID information is extremely useful as it tells Analytics what account, keyword, campaign, ad etc.. the click came from.

What are the Imported Conversions:

Imported Conversions are a way for you to report conversion information to AdWords from external sources, they allow you to upload a spreadsheet containing GCLID’s that can be matched to keyword, ad and campaign data giving you end to end imported conversion data.

Holy Grail of PPC

GCLID combined with Imported Conversions is the Holy Grail for tracking offline sales

So how do we use these to track sales?

In simple terms you need to capture the relevant GCLID information and feed it back into the AdWords account using Imported Conversions. This will then show you the sales data within AdWords itself but combined with keyword, campaign, ad etc. this will then allow you to optimise the account to its fullest – a Sales point. 

Step 1 – Setup your Sales conversion point in AdWords:

You’ll need to create a new conversion action for each kind of offline conversion that you’d like to measure, such as “lead qualified” or a “deal won”. You can measure as many offline conversion actions as you want to.

Here’s how to create a new offline conversion action:

  1. Sign in to your AdWords account.
  2. Click on the Tools tab and select Conversions from the drop-down menu.
  3. Click the + Conversion
  4. Select the “Import” option.
  5. Enter a name for the conversion action that you’re creating. (It’s important that you remember the exact name and spelling because you’ll need to enter this name later, when you upload your offline conversion information.) Click on Done.
  6. Click on Value. Select whether each conversion has the same value, varying values (for example, purchases of products with different prices) or select “Don’t assign a value” if you’d prefer not to count one. If you choose varying values, you’ll need to follow these instructions to track transaction-specific values. Click on Done.
  7. Click on Count. Select whether to count every or one conversion per ad click. “Every” is best for sales; “one” is best for leads. Click on Done.
  8. Click Conversion window. Select a conversion window (how long after an ad click or ad impression you want to track conversions) for this conversion action. The window can be as short as one week or as long as 90 days. Click on Done.
  9. Click on Category. Select the category that best applies to your conversion. For purchases, pick “Purchase/Sale”. Your choice here is used simply to segment your conversion reports. You can always change it later. Click on Done.
  10. Click on Save and continue.

 Step 2 – Track the GCLID information:

Make sure you have “Auto Tagging” enabled in your AdWords account, otherwise AdWords will not append GCLID information to your URLS

  1. Update the code on each of your web pages to capture and store the GCLID information in a cookie.
  2. When a user submits a lead form the GCLID information must be recorded in your CMS as a separate field alongside all the other standard user information. – “Modify your site’s prospect lead information submission page – usually, a lead submission form – to read the GCLID from the cookie and pass it along to your lead management system, along with the lead’s contact information.”
  3. Make sure this information ends up in your CMS so that each lead now has its own unique GCLID stored alongside the normal customer information

 Step 3 – Extract your Sales GCLID’s:

  1. Now that we have all the leads combined with a GCLID, periodically (weekly or monthly) extract all the GCLID’s from your CMS that converted into sales
  2. You now have your list of Sales GCLID’s

Step 4 – Setup your GCLID / Import Conversions template:

You now need to get these GCLID’s back into AdWords using the Import Conversions template. There are two ways that you can import your data in to AdWords: by uploading it as a CSV or Excel file, or by transmitting the data to our API. We are going to cover using a CSV/Excel file.

  1. Download the conversion upload template from AdWords (download:Excel or CSV).
    1. Make sure that you remove the rows that begin with “Parameters” and “Google Click ID”, otherwise your import will fail.
    2. Make sure that your data doesn’t include additional columns or any personal information.
  2. Once you’ve downloaded and saved the template, update the “TimeZone” value in the “parameters” row of this file so that it reflects your AdWords account’s time zone. (You can see what time zone your account is set to by signing in to your account and checking the footer.)
    1. To set your account’s time zone, enter your GMT offset by indicating + or – and then the 4 digit time difference. (For example, New York’s offset is -0500, and Berlin’s is +0100). If you use Greenwich Mean Time, then simply enter +0000.
  3. Next add a new row for each offline conversion, filling in the columns as follows:
    1. Google Click ID: The GCLID that led to the offline conversion.
    2. Conversion Name: The name of the conversion action (for example, “lead qualified” or “contract signed”). It’s important that you use the exact same spelling and capitalisation that you did when you created this conversion action in your AdWords account.
    3. Conversion Value: (optional field) A number representing the value that you place on the conversion. It could reflect a currency value, or you could simply choose to enter relative values between 0 and 10 (negative numbers are not accepted).
    4. Conversion Currency: (optional field) The currency in which your conversion value is provided. You’ll use this if you report conversion values in more than one currency, or have multiple accounts that are billed in different currencies.
    5. Conversion Time: The date and time that the conversion occurred. Here’s a list of acceptable date formats (e.g. MM/dd/yyyy HH:mm:ss):
  4. You should now have a CSV or Excel file that contains all your Sales GCLID’s with the right information above

 Step 5 – Import your Sales GCLID’s into AdWords:

To import your offline conversions to AdWords, you’ll need to upload your file into your AdWords account. (Bear in mind, imported conversions can’t be removed once they’re imported.)

  1. In AdWords, click the Tools tab, and select Conversions. If you’re using a manager account, navigate to the upload page by clicking on Conversions.
  2. Click on the Upload
  3. Click on Browse to locate the template that you’ve filled in and saved with your offline conversions information.
  4. Click on the Upload
  5. A yellow box will appear, reminding you that uploading the report will immediately update your account. (Bear in mind that there’s no “undo” option after this point.)
  6. Click on Yes, I understand to start adding new conversions to your account.

If you’ve done all of Step 4 correctly then there should be no issues with the imported file.. if you do get errors then the help file that’s generated along with the import tool will tell you where you’ve gone wrong, simply edit and re-upload

AdWords will now match all of those Sales GCLID’s to the campaign, keyword, ad etc.. (this usually takes 24 hrs)

Success at PPC

Congratulations you now have offline sales data reported in AdWords.

Segmenting your data by conversion name in AdWords will then allow you to optimise your account to sales rather than just leads. This will give you or the client even more success with AdWords.

Written by Rick Tobin Managing Director at Circus PPC Agency


Rick Tobin
Managing Director

Over 20 years dedicated PPC experience working with some of the world's biggest brands.

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