How to Set Up Google Ads Conversion Tracking.

One question I get asked all the time is, ‘how do I set up conversion tracking in Google Ads? The good news is, you don't need a degree in computer science or even any basic programming knowledge to get this right – just follow the advice outlined in this guide.

Table of Contents

Why You Need to Track Google Ads Conversions

How to setup Google Ads conversion tracking

First – let’s talk about why you absolutely, 100%, should be tracking your conversions.

At its core, you need to track conversions through Google Adwords to ensure that you are getting a return on your ad spend (ROAS): otherwise, you could be pouring money into an ineffective campaign month after month.

On a more detailed level, tracking each conversion allows you to tweak and perfect your Google Ads strategy. Are specific keywords performing better than others? Focus on those. Is a particular call to action seeing greater traction than others? Devote your resources to that.

Without tracking, you cannot know what is working and what is failing.

What types of conversions you can track

What types of conversions you can track

Before you can ask Google to track and report on your conversions, you need to define what it is you want to measure.

You have the choice between four conversion types:

Website Actions

You can pretty much track any interaction on your website. Common website actions you may want to track are:

  • Button click conversion tracking (think someone clicking an ‘add to cart’ button)
  • Form submission conversion tracking (think contact form submissions, newsletter subscribers etc).
  • eCommerce conversion tracking ( sales and revenue)

Phone Calls

Phone call tracking can be handled within the Google Ads platform for calls that are direct to a phone number listed on your website, calls that come directly from an advert, and those that originate from a click-to-call button on your mobile pages.

You can also manually import the data from a spreadsheet if you are collecting the necessary information.

App Installs

App installs are clearly only relevant statistics if you have an app for your visitors to download. If your app includes additional functionality that a user needs to pay for, then this can also be tracked using the platform.

Imported/Offline and Local Conversions

If your digital advertising does not lead immediately to your required next action but instead is the launchpad for your new subscriber or user to enter your sales funnel, then this can still be valuable information regarding the efficacy of your campaign.

You can import information into the Google Ads platform – so, for example, if you have a spreadsheet of where your offline end users find you, then you can upload that sheet and add it to the calculations. Various customer relationship management tools (CRMs) can also be set up to communicate with Google Adwords – Salesforce has a direct link, and third parties like Hubspot and Zapier allow for relatively easy automatic synchronisation for other CRMs.

Step 1: Creating a Conversion Action in Google Ads Manager

Now that you know what types of conversions you can track, let’s run through how to create a website conversion action in Google Ads manager.

To do this, follow these steps:

  1. In Google Ads, click on ‘Tools & Settings’ in the top menu bar.
  2. Under ‘Measurement’, click on ‘Conversions’.
  3. In the summary, click on ‘New Conversion Action’.
  4. Select ‘Website’ and enter your domain.
  5. Click ‘scan’ – this will crawl your website and determine if you have a Google tag.
Creating a Conversion Action in Google Ads Manager

From there, you will be able to set up your conversions. You can do this manually by telling the system that a specific button click, form submission or link follow is a conversion, or you can set it automatically so that a URL load is a conversion.

In this latter method, you might choose a ‘Thank You’ type page, indicating that a user has subscribed, purchased or downloaded without worrying about the manual set-up.

For the sake of this example, let’s do it manually. To do so, click on “add a conversion action manually”.

The next screen requires you to add all the necessary details for that specific conversion action.

Goal and Action Optimisation

To organise and segment your conversion actions you need to select a Goal Category, including sales (e.g. purchase, add to basket), lead (e.g. submit lead form, book appointment) and other (e.g. page view) categories.

This is purely for organisational purposes and won’t impact campaign performance at all. You can change the category at any time.

Primary or Secondary?

Next, you must add whether you want your conversion to be ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’. 

Primary or Secondary Google ads conversion

Primary conversions will be tracked under the ‘conversions’ column in Google Ads reports and used for bidding on Adwords. 

For example, if you’re campaign is using an automated bidding strategy such as ‘maximise conversion’ or ‘target CPA’ bidding it is the primary conversion Google will optimise for. 

Secondary conversions are only for your reference and are reported under the ‘all conversions’ column in Google Ad reports. However, they won’t drive any signals for Google to optimise for – so it is vital to choose your conversion type carefully.

Selecting the option is easy – click on ‘tools’ in Google Ads, then ‘conversions’, choose the conversion you want to edit, and under ‘edit goal’, choose either primary or secondary from the drop-down menu.

Attribution Models in Google Ads

When you set up your conversion, you can select how Google Ads attributes it to an interaction.

The options are:

  • Last click – the final interaction is given all credit
  • First click – the first advert click is given the credit
  • Linear – credit is shared across all interactions
  • Time decay – the closer to the conversion that interaction happened, the more credit awarded
  • Position-based – 40% of the credit goes to each of the first and last clicks, with the remainder split evenly over intervening interactions
  • Data-driven – Uses your historical and existing data to share credit among interactions

For example,  a user sees an ad after searching on Google, clicks on it but leaves the website after perusing the content. The next day, that person types in the website’s URL directly into the browser and adds a product to cart, without actually buying it.  A week later, an ad pops up on Facebook, leading that person to buy the product. 

Under the last click attribution model, the Google ad wouldn’t receive any credit for the sale. Whereas under the position-based attribution model, it would receive 40% of the credit. 

Deciding which attribution model to choose depends on a couple of factors, such as the type of conversion, the product/service and the complexity of the customer journey. 

Step 2: How to Add Google Ads Conversion Tracking Code to the Website

How to Add Google Ads Conversion Tracking Code to the Website

Every time you create a conversion in the previous step, you are allocated a Google Tag – this needs to be added to your website to finish the process. You have two options to add the tracking snippet to your site:

  • Manually place the snippet into the head section of your website
  • Add the conversion snippet using Google Tag Manager.

Website code

If you decide to install the snippet yourself you need to have access to your website’s code. Go to the website edit page, open up your conversion page (‘thank you for ordering, for example) and between the two <head> tags at the top, paste in your Google Tag for that conversion.

On a WordPress site, you need to go to your settings and configuration page, then under the ‘Page Header and Footer’ menu, add your tracking code to the section ‘Code to be added to the Head section of every page. 

For Shopify sites, go to your settings page and select the checkout option. Then, under ‘order status’, you can go to the additional scripts box – copy your tracking code into this text box, and whenever a visitor gets to the order status page, it is tracked as a conversion. 

Google Tag Manager 

If you choose to add your conversion snippet using Google Tag Manager, follow these steps:

  1. In Tag Manager, navigate through ‘New Tag’ > ‘Tag Configuration’ > ‘Google Ads Conversion Tracking’.
  2. Head over to your Google Ads account and find the ‘Conversions Actions’ table (under ‘Tools and Settings’ > ‘Measurement: Conversions’).
  3. Select the name of your required conversion and expand the ‘Tag setup’ tab.
  4. Choose ‘Use Google Tag Manager’ and copy the Conversion ID and Conversion Label.
  5. Return to Tag Manager and fill in the Conversion ID and Label fields with the info you’ve copied. 
  6. Choose an appropriate trigger (e.g the thank you page view; a button click etc) and save.
  7. Preview your work and then hit publish.
Google ads conversion tracking via Google Tag Manager 

Alternative: Import Google Analytics Goals Into Google Ads

If you have already set up your goals (aka conversions) in Google Analytics, you should consider the benefits of importing that information into your Google Ads dashboard. This is an easy and quick way to measure how your online presence is performing.

 To do so, you need to link your two accounts (Google Analytics and Google Ads). Make sure that you change the auto-tagging setting to ‘enabled’. This ensures that you get complete reports on your goals and ad performance.

When set up correctly, you can go to:

  1. Google Ads account
  2. Click on Tools> Conversions
  3. Click the import option.
  4. Select Google Analytics.
  5. Choose the goals you want to import.

It is essential to note some key differences between how Ads and Analytics track your conversions. The two systems use different methods of attributing the conversion. So, for example, if someone clicks on your advert one day and then visits your site through organic search on another day to convert, Google Ads will credit the conversion to the advert click. In contrast, Google Analytics will credit the organic search.

This can lead to a discrepancy between the two platforms, compounded by the fact that it takes longer for Analytics data to be updated. As long as you have set up the link between the two platforms correctly, you should be able to reconcile the data discrepancies by delving more deeply into the information.

What Next?

If you have any questions about setting up your Google Ads conversion tracking, or if you would rather let an expert handle it for you, then get in touch with me.

As a Gold Coast-based digital marketing consultant and an incredible pedigree in helping worldwide clients manage and optimise their ads, I can definitely help you set up your Google Ads conversion tracking for you.

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Louisa Ingelheim

Louisa is a leading digital marketing consultant with over a decade of experience in Google Ads management, Facebook Ads management, and (technical) SEO.

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