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6.4 Analytics and conversion tracking

How to use Google Analytics and Adwords Conversion Tracking

If you use Google AdWords, you may be aware that AdWords itself can track conversions that occur after the user clicks your ad. Here too a “conversion” doesn’t have to be a purchase; it could be a visitor signing up for an email newsletter or filling in an enquiry form for more information – whatever you decide is significant for your site and your business. It is, however, less sophisticated than using Analytics. When users click on your AdWords ad on or selected Google Network sites, a temporary cookie is placed on their computer. You add a snippet of code to the thank-you or confirmation page that users see after they complete your desired conversion, whatever it may be. This confirmation page code interacts with the cookie, and the conversion is recorded. If you want to track multiple conversions, you’ll need a confirmation page and a snippet of code for each one.

You can choose between two counting methods for each conversion action you’re tracking. “All conversions” counts all the conversions that happen after an ad click, so that if, for example, a user arrives via an AdWords ad and buys three items on your site in separate transactions, this is counted as three conversions. “Unique conversions” counts each type of conversion only once, so that if a user fills in two separate enquiry forms for information and signs up for a newsletter, this is counted as one enquiry conversion and one sign-up conversion. You can choose to use a different counting method depending on the type of conversion action – typically you might choose “all conversions” for sales, where you want to track the actual number of sales you get from AdWords-led visits, and “unique conversions” for enquiries, where you’re not interested in the total number of enquiries as much as in the number of people who make enquiries, or you want to know not the total number of leads but whether or not a certain kind of lead has resulted.

How to set up conversion tracking in Google Analytics

To use conversion tracking in AdWords, you first need to generate the required code snippet for each confirmation page.


1. Create conversion

Sign in to your AdWords account. Switch to the Tools tab, and select Conversions from the drop-down menu. In the “Conversion actions” tab, click the “+Conversion” button.


2. Supply name and source

From the Source menu, select where the conversion will occur – here we’ll assume it’s “Webpage”. In the “Conversion name” field, enter a name for the conversion you want to track – for example “newsletter sign-up” or “footwear purchase”.

3. Choose category

Select the most appropriate Conversion Category – Purchase/Sale, sign-up, Lead, View of a key page (for example your Contacts page) or Other. Note, though, that what you select here has no impact on how conversions are recorded.

4. Track conversion time

From the Conversion Window menu, select how long after an ad click you want to track conversions for this conversion action. You can choose anything from a week to 90 days – longer periods are ideal if your conversion funnel involves several steps and users tend to visit the site several times before converting. The default is 30 days.

5. Select what conversions to track

From the Count menu, choose whether to count all conversions or unique conversions for this conversion action, as explained above.

6. Set conversion value

In the Conversion Value field, choose whether each of these conversions has the same value, varying values or you’d prefer not to count a value. If you’re selling different products at different prices, you can set up a tracker to record the prices in your shopping cart, but this is an advanced option that requires some expertise and varies according to different e-commerce platforms. When it’s set up correctly, though, any conversion value statistic, such as total conversion value and cost per click, will reflect the actual revenue from the products you’ve sold instead of a fixed value.

7. Final touches

To finish, decide whether you want to put a Google Sites Stats notification on the page to notify visitors that you’re using conversion tracking. Skip the advanced options for now, and click “Save and continue”.


You’ll now be asked whether you make changes to your site code yourself. If you answer yes, the required code will appear in a new window. Copy it and paste it into the code of the appropriate confirmation page on your site. If someone else controls the site code, enter their e-mail address and the code snippet will be sent to them.

Once tracking is up and running, you can see information about your conversions from your AdWords account’s Campaigns tab at the Ad Group, Ads and Keywords levels. A Conversions column displays the count for each conversion you’re tracking (counted using whichever method you’ve chosen for each one, “all conversions” or “unique conversions”), and a Converted Clicks column displays the number of AdWords ads that led to any conversions (regardless of the value of those conversions – there’s no distinction between high-value conversions such as multiple purchases and low-value conversions such as a single newsletter sign-up). Other columns include Conversion Rate (the percentage of ad clicks that resulted in conversions) and Cost per Conversion (how much you spent on clicks divided by total conversions).

Advanced options include iOS app tracking (but only for ads served in mobile apps through the Display Network) and View-Through Conversions, which tracks when a person sees your ad but doesn’t click it, yet visits your site later and completes a conversion – in other words, they might have been influenced by your ad to return and convert later. You can set this to track for a specific period in between the view and the conversion, from 1 to 30 days, or a custom amount.

Even sticking to the basic reporting, however, you can determine which ads, keywords and campaigns bring in business, and compare how much. For example, say you find that visitors who click on your ad with “buy designer jeans” as a keyword buy a lot of jeans. Meanwhile, you see that a few people click on the ad with “blue jeans” as a keyword but none of them make a purchase. Both ads are bringing traffic to your site but the latter is leading to conversions, so you know which is delivering a better return on your investment.

Once you’ve been tracking conversions for some time and enough data has been collected, you can use Search Funnels to find more detail such as how much time elapsed between the first time a user clicked on your ad and when they completed the conversion, and how many times they saw your ad before converting.

How to import Analytics goals and transactions

Linking makes it possible to view Analytics site engagement metrics alongside your AdWords performance data, giving you a more detailed picture of what visitors are doing on your site.

The metrics available include Bounce Rate, Average Session Duration and Pages per Session, which can indicate whether visitors coming from AdWords campaigns are finding what they expected on the site. The Percentage of New Sessions metric can help you assess how effective your campaigns and ad groups are at attracting new visitors.

Even more usefully for our present purposes, you can import your Google Analytics Goals and transaction information into AdWords Conversion Tracking. This is useful because Analytics can handle different types of conversions, such as Events (playing an embedded video, for example) that don’t result in the appearance of a confirmation page and hence can’t be tracked in AdWords.

To begin importing Analytics Goals, first make sure your Analytics and AdWords accounts are linked. You’ll also need to have enabled data sharing in your Analytics account (see section 4.1 of the ‘Getting Started with Google Analytics’ playbook) and auto-tagging in your AdWords account. Finally, each type of Analytics Goal or transaction won’t appear in AdWords reports unless it has received active traffic from an AdWords ad at some point.

How to import your goals

1.       In your AdWords account, open the Conversions page.

2.       In the Conversion Tracking table, click “Import from Google Analytics”.

3.       From the list, select the Goals or transactions that you want to import, then click Import at the bottom of the table.

AdWords Conversion Tracking starts importing the data from your Analytics account from that day onwards, and won’t import any earlier data. Note that it may take up to two days for AdWords to import your Analytics data.

When you import Analytics Goals, you can choose whether they’re counted in AdWords on an “all conversions” or “unique conversions” basis. If you import the same Goals into different AdWords accounts, you can choose a different counting method for each account.

Your imported Analytics Goals appear alongside the conversion data in your Conversions page and AdWords reports within two days. Imported Goals have the same names as in Analytics, with the name of the View in parentheses after this. For example, an Analytics Goal named “Sign Ups” located in a view called “Master View” is named “Sign Ups (Master View)” in AdWords Conversion Tracking. The name can’t be changed in AdWords, only in Analytics.

If you’re not seeing all the extra Analytics data you expected in AdWords, you might need to add new data columns to your AdWords reports. In your AdWords account, click the Campaigns or Ad Groups tab, as relevant, then click the Columns button and select “Customize columns” from the drop-down menu. Look for Google Analytics in the left-hand column, and click this to see the available metrics. Click Add for each column you want to add, and click the Apply button to finish.

Finally, be aware that Analytics and AdWords count some things differently, so there might be discrepancies in their data. For example, Analytics counts sessions while AdWords counts clicks, so if a user finds your site by clicking on an ad, bookmarks it and later returns to the site via the bookmark, AdWords records this as one click but Analytics counts it as two sessions. There can also be a time lag in importing data from Analytics into AdWords.

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