Conversion tracking is vital for Google Ads success because it offers transparency about what elements in Google Ads are leading to conversions, i.e. what’s working and what isn’t, what to improve and what to remove. This visibility allows for constant improvement and concomitant increase in profit. In essence, it’s the difference between a profitable Google Ads campaign or one where you are throwing money away.
For this article we will discuss lead generation campaigns and assume that a website is the destination for your ads.
Here is what we’ll learn:
- What is a conversion?
- What is conversion tracking?
- Why track conversions?
- How do we track conversions?
- What to do if you can’t track conversions?
- Tracking enquiries, leads and sales with CRMs and spreadsheets
Firstly, let’s define a conversion.
What is a conversion?
A conversion is any valuable action that takes place on a website. Form submissions and phone calls are key examples of conversions on a website for lead gen and we usually call these enquiries.
An example of a conversion path is when a prospect searches on Google, sees your ad, clicks on it, visits the page and then calls the website number or submits a form, resulting in an enquiry for the business. These conversions can be tracked and reported in Google Ads and Google Analytics and indeed in CRM systems (Customer Relationship Management Systems) like HubSpot, Salesforce and Zoho. This is distinct to a conversion from an enquiry to a sale by the business owner or a sales team and that will come later.
Other examples of conversions are email address link clicks and booking a service via a booking system.
What is conversion tracking?
Conversion tracking is a system provided by Google and other providers that allows you to see when prospects enquired about your service after clicking on a Google ad. When a prospect submits a form or calls a phone number these actions are known as conversions.
But, why track conversions with conversion tracking? There are several important reasons, let’s take a look.
Why track conversions?
As a Google Ads consultancy, Espan Digital tracks everything we can so that we have the visibility of which Google Ads elements are resulting in conversions and driving profit for the business. Also, for Espan, it’s important to demonstrate to clients how the campaigns are performing and so that we can track ROI and demonstrate our value. With us, it’s all about the return you are getting from your Google Ads spend. In terms of lead generation there is little else that matters when it comes down to it.
If you know which elements in Google Ads convert then these elements can be optimised and improved, and vice versa, poor performing elements can be adjusted, paused or removed. This applies at many levels in Google Ads, from keyword bidding to blocking poor performing search terms with negative keywords to knowing which messaging in ads works best. We often ask, which elements had the highest volume of conversions, the lowest cost per enquiry (CPA) and highest conversion rates? Every element contributes to the overall performance and the goal of optimisation of these elements is to push the things that work best, eliminate high cost or poor performing elements, and regularly test new elements, for example adding new ads to out-compete the existing winning ads.
Optimal budget allocation is made easy when you know which campaigns convert well and are within your target cost per conversion.
Without conversions being reported you cannot answer questions such as “how much can I afford to spend on a conversion and still achieve my profit goals?”.
The conversion buzz and high morale marketing teams
One important thing for me about tracking conversions is that it’s a buzz when the conversions roll in. I recently calculated as part of the annual ROI calculations for clients, that every enquiry into one client’s website is worth an additional £1000 to their turnover.
Who doesn’t want a Google Ads specialist or indeed any member of your marketing team who gets a buzz every time a conversion occurs. This keeps motivation and morale high, and in turn results in increases to your bottom line. Don’t underestimate the power of conversion buzz and the client-agency relationship that enables this; Trust the specialists to put conversion tracking in place and your business will reap the benefits.
Data-driven decision making
Conversion tracking enables data-driven decisions. It’s less than ideal to rely on guesswork, estimations or assumptions; concrete data interpreted by an experienced Google Ads specialist always wins the day.
So, now we know why it’s important to track conversions, how do we track them?
How do we track conversions?
There are several methods to track conversions and several tools including the Google Ads system itself, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and Google Tag Manager, which is a way to deploy tracking codes onto the website. We will also discuss phone call tracking, for example CallRail is a popular platform.
Let’s look at each of these methods.
Google Analytics 4 and Google Tag Manager
GA4 is Google’s website and app Analytics system and is a way to measure and understand user behaviour on a website, for example which pages were visited, how long people spent on the website and how they engaged with the website. GA4 also measures conversions. GA4 is built around website events like pageviews, scrolls, clicks and so on. An event such as a pageview of a form’s thank you page after you submit a form is important to us here. This is one method to track forms. When a conversion is measured in this way, the GA4 conversion can be imported into Google Ads and therefore you know which keyword resulted in that conversion. Great!
Google Tag Manager allows you to deploy the GA4 code onto a website from a centralised platform and in basic terms a ‘container’ of code is placed into the website into which other codes can be injected to get the tracking working. With Tag Manager you can very easily track things like clicks on email addresses and phone numbers (if you are not using a third-party call tracking system like CallRail).
Google Ads conversion tracking and the Google Tag
An alternative and superior method of tracking form submissions is by using Google Ads conversion tracking, the most recent development is the Google Tag which is viewed by Google as “one tag to rule them all”. The Google Tag uses a single Tag ID that fires to Google products including Google Ads and Google Analytics 4.
Google explains that “The Google tag is a single tag that you can add to your website to use a variety of Google products and services. Instead of managing multiple tags for different Google product accounts, you can use the Google tag across your entire website and connect the tag to multiple destinations.
The Google tag lets you send data from your website to linked Google product destinations to help you measure the effectiveness of your website and ads. The Google tag is currently only accessible and configurable from Google Ads and Google Analytics 4.”
So, instead of using multiple tags to measure different Google products, you can now use the Google Tag to consolidate those tags into one tag.
You can set up the Google Tag in Google Ads and Google Analytics 4.
Where can you find the Google Tag?
In the Google Ads web interface go to Tools > Google tag as shown below.
Setting up the Google Tag and conversion
Once set up, it looks like the image below – the Google Tag has an ID and this is firing into Google Ads. You can change various settings in the “Admin” tab top right.
For a form submission where there is a thank you page you can set up a pageview event to trigger a conversion. You can find conversions in the Google Ads interface at Goals > Conversions and then click + New conversion action. See below:
Then choose Website so that you can track a pageview event. You can then scan the website for potential pages to track. See below:
Then scan the website and choose + Add conversion action as seen in the image below.
Then select the Conversion goal = Page view and Event type = Page load and enter the URL of your form thank you page, i.e. the page that loads after a form submission. You can click “See more settings” to finalise the conversion configuration. See image below.
Finally, you need to add the Google Tag in Google Tag Manager to add it to your website – the tag type will be the Google Tag and you need to enter the Google Tag ID which is available in Google Ads from when we first set up the Google Tag in the first step of this process above. The trigger is All Pages, so it fires on every page.
Phone call tracking
Systems like CallRail can be utilised to track phone calls from the website and send that conversion into Google Ads. It’s an inexpensive but reliable solution that pays for itself.
How does call tracking work?
Your normal phone number will be on your website and when CallRail is installed, it swaps that normal number with a tracking number drawn from a pool of numbers that is assigned to your CallRail account. You can use local numbers as well as freephone numbers etc. Each website visitor sees a different number from the pool and when they call it the system knows several things about the call, including the traffic source of the phone call. The Google Ads/ CallRail integration facilitates the phone call conversion being sent into Google Ads, just like a form submission conversion. Call tracking is useful, and these days AI developments mean that you can do some clever phone call analysis, such as searching all phone calls for a keyword and identify sentiment, and the latter could be useful to help identify where your call handlers could improve.
If you receive most of your enquiries via the phone, then it’s important to track phone calls. CallRail and other systems track calls from all traffic sources and can be integrated into Google Analytics, so you know which channels deliver the most phone calls. This data is also available in CallRail.
What to do if you can’t track conversions?
We’ve seen several booking systems that are not commercially fit for purpose as little thought has gone into tracking and feeding the traffic source back into Google Ads and GA4. When looking at booking systems it’s important to ask these questions. Avoid systems that you cannot track at all costs otherwise you are working blindfolded and undoubtedly wasting money and advertising will be less effective when measurement can only be done on aggregate and with estimation and educated guesses.
Tracking enquiries, leads and sales with CRMs and spreadsheets
Now the enquiries are rolling in, and they are being tracked in Google Ads and Google Analytics, there needs to be a way for the business to track the enquiries/qualified leads in either a CRM (Customer Relationship Management System) or at least in a Google Sheet or Excel spreadsheet. Examples of CRMs are Salesforce, Zoho and HubSpot. Google Ads can feed enquiries and related information into CRM systems and vice versa. For example, when a form submission comes via Google Ads, it can be pushed into a CRM as a lead pre-populated with name, phone number etc. as well as an identifier called a Google Click Identifier or GCLID and when the lead turns into new business, the GCLID allows seamless tracking from ad click to eventually the invoice value recorded against that lead/account being pushed back into Google Ads, so you know which keyword etc. led to that transaction value and this helps to optimise the account. We will discuss how a business may effectively track and administer leads in another article.
We’ve looked at the importance of tracking conversions when using Google Ads and I hope I have convinced you that this is fundamental to the success of Google Ads.
We track conversions as it is vital for Google Ads optimisation, allows data-driven decision making and also drives a high-morale team who get a buzz when the conversions roll in.
For lead generation, the main sources of conversions are form submissions and phone calls and we looked at the different ways that these can be tracked. We discussed tracking conversions with Google Analytics and the Google Tag, and phone calls with systems like CallRail.
Look for booking systems etc that can track conversions and their traffic source.
If you take one thing away from this article, it’s perilous to not track conversions in Google Ads, and you will be throwing money away. Ensure your Google Ads agency is tracking conversions for you.