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Brad Geddes's Theories on Marketing The Complete AdWords Audit Part 2: Measurement

The Complete AdWords Audit Part 2: Measurement

This is a continuation of the AdWords Audit Series. You can see previous posts here: Introduction and Part 1: Goal setting.

Once you’ve set your goals as discussed in the previous post, you have to find a way to measure them. If you can’t measure your goals, there is no way of telling if you’re reaching them and which parts of your campaigns are profitable and which parts aren’t.

In this post I’ll go into measurement best practices, which will mostly be based on AdWords conversion tracking and Google Analytics. You may use another analytics tool, and there are many great tools out there, but when it comes to integration with AdWords, Google Analytics has some unique features:

To enjoy all these features, your AdWords and Analytics accounts need to be linked, which has recently been made a lot easier. You’ll need administrator rights to link accounts, and this guide from Google will show you how to link accounts. So even if you use another Analytics tool, it’s worth installing Google Analytics alongside as it’s free and you get the extra features mentioned above.

If you want to learn more about how AdWords and Analytics work together (and how their reports are different) I’d recommend watching the Combined Power of AdWords and Analytics webinar.

How to check your current conversion tracking

To check how the account is currently tracking conversions, go to the Tools and Analysis menu and click on Conversions.

This will show you which conversions AdWords is tracking and the values and conversion pages for these conversions. In the example below of an e-commerce website, we see just 1 conversion being tracked (Sale) and that no activity has been recorded within the last 30 days:


So in this case we need to investigate if the conversion script is still placed correctly on the thank you page after a sale or maybe the account just didn’t generate any sales during the last 30 days.

Tracking the variable revenue seems to be working correctly as the value of the sales divided by the number of conversions (AdWords only shows many-per-click in this view, which often inflates the number of conversions) comes close to the average order value.

This advertiser is not tracking any other conversions with AdWords and as discussed in the previous post about goal setting, it’s very probable that there are other valuable actions on the website a visitor could perform. These actions should be valued and tracked as well.

So when looking at this view, check for the following:

  • Does the list of conversions look complete to you, including macro as well as micro conversions? Visit the website to get an idea of the valuable actions visitors could perform.
  • Does every conversion have a value that corresponds as closely as possible with the (eventual) revenue it’s generating? In case of e-commerce sales this revenue should come directly from the shopping cart system.
  • In the Webpages tab: do you see a complete list of the correct thank you pages corresponding to the conversions?
  • Make sure there are no goals imported from Analytics that are also tracked by AdWords conversion tracking, this will mess up your conversion data.
  • In the Advanced tab (after selecting a specific conversion): are the view-through conversion settings as you want them to be? This is only relevant if you use image or rich media ads on the Display Network and want to somehow value view-through conversions. For example, you may want to lower the conversion window (do you remember which banners you saw 3 weeks ago?) and enable search de-duplication. By the way: Google Analytics goals aren’t compatible with view-through conversion reporting, so if you want to see these conversions, you’ll need to install AdWords conversion tracking.

In the sections below, I will discuss how each conversion type could best be measured in your account.
You can find details on how to set up conversion tracking in AdWords in this guide from Google.

Need for cross-account conversion tracking?

In case you have a MCC (My Client Center) with multiple accounts all advertising for the same website and/or trying to achieve the same goals, it is recommended to use the cross-account conversion tracking Google released in late August 2013.

One of the main benefits is that you’ll more accurately track the generated conversions. The drawback of account-specific conversion tracking is that you’ll risk to count the same conversion more than once when a user clicks on ads from different accounts before converting. Each account will count this conversion as long as it happened within 30 days after the click (or another conversion window if this was customized).

So if this applies to your situation, learn more about cross-account conversion tracking and how to set it up.

Determine your conversion window

Until September 23 2013, the conversion window of AdWords was 30 days and this couldn’t be changed. But now you can set your conversion counting window from 7 to 90 days after a click.

So you definitely want to think about how many days after the last AdWords click you still want to count conversions. This could be 30 days and then you don’t have to change anything. But if it’s shorter or longer than that, you can easily change your conversion window.
Of course, you could question what role an ad click 90 days ago played in a purchase made today, but that’s actually an attribution issue I’ll touch upon later in this post.

To find out what window to choose, Google recommends to check out your search funnels time lag report, which is a good place to get this data from.

You could also take a look at Google’s Customer Journey to Online Purchase and look up your industry and country (if it’s one of the 7 countries in the list). It doesn’t show you the average number of days before a purchase, but it does show interesting multi-channel statistics and what percentage of revenue comes from purchases made in more than one day. For example, for CPG in the US this is only 20%, but for Retail it’s 50%.

Measuring a fixed (assigned) value conversion with AdWords conversion tracking

For all non e-commerce conversions that result in a thank you page (like filling in a form) you can simply create an AdWords conversion script and enter the assigned value into the Conversion value field and place the resulting snippet on the thank you page after the conversion.

Measuring variable e-commerce revenue with AdWords conversion tracking

This is similar to tracking fixed value conversions, with one important difference. You’ll need to edit the code snippet afterwards as described in the ‘Track transaction-specific values’ part by inserting the variable from your shopping cart system to get the revenue into AdWords.

If you don’t know what this variable looks like, contact your shopping cart provider and ask what variable is used for the total cost of goods (excluding taxes and shipping).

Measuring app downloads

If you have an app and consider downloads of this app as one of your goals, you can easily track these downloads as conversions in AdWords. Just choose App download as Source when creating a new conversion. You can track downloads of Android and iOS apps:

  • Android Apps: just choose Android as mobile platform and fill in the Package name, which is the part of the Google Play URL right after and before &. In the case of WhatsApp ( the package name would be: com.whatsapp. Save and you’re done. No need for scripts.
  • iOS Apps: this is a bit more work than Android Apps. After choosing iOS as mobile platform you’ll be given a snippet that needs to be installed in the app. Instructions on how to do this can be found the conversion tracking for iOS guide. Unfortunately, Google currently only tracks iOS app downloads driven by ads served in mobile apps (so no downloads from search or regular GDN campaigns). Hopefully these will be tracked as well in the near future.

Measuring Events with Google Analytics

Not all conversions lead to a thank you page. For example downloads, outbound links, likes, shares, clicking on ‘add to cart’ (but not checking out), live chat and video plays could be valuable actions you’ll want to track. AdWords conversion tracking can’t help you track these kind of interactions, but Google Analytics event tracking can. The good news is Google recently launched Auto-Event Tracking with Google Tag Manager, which means you no longer have to add custom JavaScript code to your website to track these events. To learn all about how this works and how to set it up read Justin Cutroni’s thorough walkthrough.

If you use such events as goals you can import these goals into AdWords and then you’ll measure these special clicks as conversions.

Measuring the quality of your leads

If the goal of your campaigns is to generate leads it is important to realize that leads have no intrinsic value. Of course your leads have an average value you’re probably using to calculate your CPA. But the percentage of these leads that actually converts to customers differs per marketing channel, keyword and practically every possible segment you can think of.

glengarry-leads-are-goldHow does he know the Glengarry leads are gold?

Using the average value will lead you to undervalue some marketing channels and keywords and to overvalue others which hurts your eventual profit.

Until September 2013 lead-gen websites had to use a process similar to the one described in How to measure ROI for lead-gen websites to tie the sales resulting from their leads back to the online source.

And this is still a great way to track the value of your leads, especially from your non-AdWords campaigns.

But now you can track offline conversions within AdWords. Using the Click ID as primary key, you have the possibility to import offline sales back into AdWords. It requires some implementation and additional steps to set up, but it’s an absolute must-have. Not just for lead generators but for any advertiser who wants to incorporate what happens offline (like returns) into AdWords.

Measuring phone calls

There are a couple of ways for tracking phone calls resulting from your AdWords campaigns:

  • Call Extensions with Google forwarding numbers. At the moment of writing this is only available for advertisers in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany. This is how it works: Google automatically generates unique phone numbers that are displayed with your ads. If a potential customer calls this phone number, AdWords will route the call to your business phone number. You’ll then be able to see detailed reports about calls generated from your ads. You can set a minimum call duration to make a phone call count as a conversion. If phone calls are important for your business you should absolutely set this up for your campaigns.
  • Call Extensions without Google forwarding numbers. If you’re not advertising in one of the countries that supports forwarding numbers you can still see how often mobile users clicked on the phone number in your call extensions by using the Segment -> Click type menu in the AdWords UI. Then look for the following click type: Mobile clicks-to-call (although with these clicks, we have no way of knowing how long the call lasted and what happened after the call).
    To learn all about how call tracking works in AdWords and how to make sense of the call reports (which has been made easier now phone call conversions are added to regular conversions) I can highly recommend reading Demystifying Call Tracking In AdWords by Frederick Vallaeys.
  • Third party call tracking solutions. A lot of potential customers will only call your business after having visited your website. As AdWords call extensions only track phone calls from phone numbers in the ad, they don’t help you track calls to phone numbers on your website. Call tracking vendors can help you measure these calls as well. If your campaigns generate a lot of phone calls it may be a worthy investment to use such call tracking software. You can find vendors in this comparison sheet and in the Google Analytics Application Gallery.
  • Phone calls from your mobile website. In this case AdWords can measure these calls, provided users click on your phone number with their mobile device. You can find how to set this up in the conversion tracking set-up guide by folding out the ‘Track conversions on a mobile site with a phone number’ part.
  • You can find even more inventive ways to measure phone calls in 5 Ways To Track Phone Calls Generated From PPC Clicks by Brad Geddes.

Besides the possibilities mentioned above, we can expect Google to provide us more insight in phone call conversions as part of Estimated Total Conversions: “In addition to cross-device conversions, both phone calls and store visits will be included as part of Estimated Total Conversions in the coming months.”

Measuring in-store conversions

If your website isn’t the only place where you sell your products or services, you have the additional challenge of measuring the impact of your online campaigns on the sales in your physical stores or offices.

First off, you could try out Google Offers to create coupons users can redeem in your store(s).

Another way to get an idea about online users coming to your stores is by using location extensions and look at the ‘Get direction’ click type by segmenting by click type or by going to the Dimensions tab and change the view to Free clicks (yes, these get direction clicks are free). Free clicks can also include interactions with video and image ads.

Another (high tech) way of tying online to offline behavior is using the Google Analytics Measurement Protocol (part of Universal Analytics). Justin Cutroni wrote two articles that I highly recommend to get a better idea about the possibilities with Universal Analytics: Universal Analytics: The Next Generation of Google Analytics and How Universal Analytics will Drive Strategic Marketing.

And as always, Avinash Kaushik shares great tips for measuring the offline impact of your online channels in Multichannel Analytics: Tracking Offline Conversions. 7 Best Practices, Bonus Tips. The 7 best practices mentioned are:

  • Track your online store locator, directions, other direct offline dimensions.
  • Use unique 800 (toll free) numbers on the website.
  • Use unique coupons, offers, promotions online.
  • Marry / mine online and offline data.
  • Leverage onexit online surveys (or Point Of Sale surveys).
  • Conduct controlled experiments.
  • Primary research baby!

Tracking the offline impact of your online campaigns is probably one of the hardest things to do in online marketing, but hopefully you’re now better equipped to do so.

And as mentioned earlier in this post, we can also expect Google to include store visits as part of Estimated Total Conversions in the coming months.

Not to forget, it works both ways: if you’re advertising on tv, radio, in newspapers or any other offline marketing channels, this also impacts your online results (especially direct traffic and searches for your brand), so you should also track the online impact of your offline campaigns.

Attribution Modeling

The only use for last click attribution now is to get you fired. Avoid it.
Avinash Kaushik

Well, that statement might be a bit bold, but at least it forces you to seriously question last click attribution, which is still used by many advertisers. Actually, according to an Econsultancy & Adobe report, only 54% of businesses carry out any form of attribution, of whom 28% only use last click.

And that isn’t necessarily bad, as Siddharth Shah lays out in Attribution: Busting The Myths, especially if you’re primarily doing search.

But the more (paid) channels you are using to generate conversions on your website, the greater your attribution problem is.

To get a quick feel for you attribution problem you can take a look at the Multi-Channel Conversion Visualizer in Google Analytics. To see this go to: Conversions -> Multi-Channel Funnels -> Overview and select your most important (paid) traffic sources. If it looks like this:


You have less of an attribution problem compared to this situation:


But even in the first the scenario, the very least you should do is to ignore the last branded search click (paid or organic) and give credit to the keyword(s) or channel(s) that preceded this click.

There is no one perfect answer to how you should divide credit for the conversions amongst your online marketing channels. But last-click probably isn’t it and neither is first-click. So if you’re still valuing your channels based on one of these models now is the time to read this great guide by Avinash Kaushik: Multi-Channel Attribution Modeling: The Good, Bad and Ugly Models including the valuable follow up comments by Brian Clifton. As he says: “The more you think about attribution modeling, the more complicated it becomes.” But it needs to be done if you want to make smarter decisions about how much to invest in each of your channels and keywords.

Measurement: Your Audit Checklist

checkboxAre all defined macro and micro conversions tracked correctly with AdWords Conversion tracking?
checkboxIn case of conversions without a thank you page: have you set up event tracking, used them as goals and imported these into AdWords?
checkboxAre AdWords and Google Analytics properly linked (including auto tagging and engagement columns in AdWords)?
checkboxIn case of multiple accounts in a MCC advertising for the same website and/or goals: is cross-account conversion tracking installed?
checkboxDoes the AdWords conversion window make sense considering the buying behavior of your customers? Check time lag reports or research on customer journeys to gain insights.
checkboxDo the view-through conversion settings make sense?
checkboxIn case of lead generation: do you have a system in place to track the quality of your leads by source, channel or keyword (type)? For AdWords this can be done by importing offline conversions.
checkboxIn case phone calls are valuable to your business: do you have system in place to track the phone calls generated by your campaigns?
checkboxIn case you have brick-and-mortar business locations: do you use Google Offers, location extensions and other ways to gauge the offline impact of your online campaigns?
checkboxDo you have an attribution model in place that looks beyond the last (or first) click and ignores the last branded search click?

This is a guest post by Wijnand Meijer, Paid Search Strategist at iProspect|Netsociety, an online media agency based in Amsterdam. He created his first AdWords campaigns in 2006 and is currently helping advertisers and coworkers alike to get their Paid Search to the next level.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily bgTheory. If you would like to write for Certified Knowledge, please let us know.

No Comments

  1. Nils Rooijmans
    January 23, 2015 at 9:12 am · Reply

    Hi Wijnand,

    to put it in the Glengarry context: “YES, you’ve got my Attention now” and i’m for ready some Action.

    Regarding the latter: have you seen cases in which the Estimated Total Conversion metric has been used successfully to improve performance? If so, how?

    thanks again for this amazing post and your response.

  2. Wijnand Meijer
    January 31, 2015 at 7:29 am · Reply

    Hi Nils,

    thanks, great to hear! I’m a big fan of Estimated Total Conversions, especially to help you value mobile clicks better.
    On a last click basis, mobile usually underperforms heavily. Including cross-device conversions (and calls, apps and in-store conversions) greatly increases the performance of mobile devices, and rightly so.

    However, Google needs quite some conversion volume before they can give these estimates, but when they can, they’re 95% significant so you should definitely use them.

  3. Vijay Bhabhor
    August 17, 2016 at 1:36 am · Reply

    Hi Wijnand Meijer,

    Where is the first part of Adwords Audit? I would like to learn more on advance, Is there any course or training available on Adwords?

    I am looking for advance training, where I can improve my clients conversions.

    Thank you

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