When advertising through Google Ads, it helps to get as much data as possible about the results that are generated. And although it’s an evolving and imperfect science, there are several tools and mechanisms that can give you useful data. For starters, you can configure specific actions and events you’d like to track as conversions on the Conversions page in your Google Ads account. Find it by clicking on the Tools & Settings icon, and then looking in the Measurement column.

Why do conversion tracking?

If you don’t have methods for tracking results, you’ll have no basis for making decisions about how to go forward and improve. Conversion tracking allows you to see the settings, features, places, and patterns that are most successful — and least successful. For example, you could look at a time period of data (such as the last week, the last 30 days, or year-to-date) to see conversion rates and costs by:

  • Campaign
  • Ad group
  • Ad creative
  • Keyword
  • Audience
  • Ad extension
  • Locations
  • Device type
  • Days of the week
  • Hours of the day

If you find that certain keywords or locations have been more successful, you can increase your bids to be more aggressive for those keywords or locations (by bid adjustment for locations). You can also decrease your bids for the least successful areas.

Besides using conversion data to compare options and components of your account, you can also adopt a Smart Bidding strategy to let Google take over the bidding on an auction-by-auction basis. This allows you to set the amount you’d like to pay for a conversion and lets Google use machine learning to analyze the likelihood of a conversion in each auction. The system will then attempt to achieve conversions at the cost you specify (Target CPA), or simply get as many conversions as possible for your budget (Maximize Conversions).

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What types of actions can be tracked with conversion tracking?

Here are the different types of actions that can be tracked with Google’s conversion tracking feature:

  • Website actions – including purchases, newsletter signups, quote requests, page views, and more
  • Phone calls – calls made directly from your ad (via a call button) or calls to a phone number on your website
  • App installs and in-app actions – this includes both Android and IOS mobile devices
  • Local actions – actions that are counted whenever people interact with an ad that’s specific to a physical location or store
  • Other types, including offline – through integration with CRM systems, or by using the conversions import feature in Google Ads, conversions can be reported from other actions, such as offline sales that happen in-person or over the phone.

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How does conversion tracking work? (The mechanics)

Conversion tracking works in different ways depending on the type and source of the conversion. One of the most common and traditional methods of conversion tracking involves a simple “thank-you-page” approach. In this method, a website visitor arrives at a page that says “thank you” after they complete a desired action, such as making a purchase or submitting a form. Views of the thank you page are configured as a conversion since they only happen if a visitor takes the desired action.

Here is a list of some conversion tracking methods and short descriptions of how they technically work.

Website conversion tracking

There are three primary ways that website conversion tracking can work: Integrated tracking code (such as the Google Global Site Tag), URL Tagging, and server-side tagging.

Phone calls from ads

Phone call conversions that occur from people tapping the call button on a Google ad do not require any coding or technical setup. They only need to be added and defined in the Conversions panel of Google Ads. A Google call forwarding number is used for tracking in this case, which allows for data collection such as: the start time of the call, the end time of the call, the phone number called, and an audio recording of the call.

Phone calls from websites

Tracking call conversions from a phone number on your website requires some technical setup work, including placing a code on the website. With this method, Google will dynamically substitute a forwarding number in place of your normal business phone number so that the call can be tracked and attributed to an ad click. Just like with phone calls from ads, data can be collected through the Google forwarding number, such as start time of the call, end time of the call, and phone number called. (An audio recording of the call is not available with phone calls from websites at this time.)

App download conversions

App download conversions are tracked automatically from Android devices. For IOS devices, a third-party app tracking provider may be needed.

Local action conversions

Local action conversions happen automatically by Google identifying users who click on specific ads and then visit the associated physical location as detected by Google Maps. (Customer must be opted into location history in their account settings.)

CRM + Offline conversions

Other types of conversions, including offline conversions can be reported to Google Ads through the conversions import feature or through CRM systems.