AdWords Conversion Tracking – What’s the best option?

The two most common ways to track conversions on your website into Google AdWords are to use the dedicated AdWords conversion tracking or import conversions from Google Analytics. But which option is best? And what are the differences?

Using either of these options will give you insights into the performance of your campaigns. You’ll be able to see what’s working and not working when it comes to people converting on your website. In most cases I recommend importing conversions from Google Analytics into AdWords. If you already have goals configured (or implemented ecommerce tracking) it’s the quickest and easiest way to track conversions. However, there are differences.

Counting multiple conversions

The AdWords conversion tracking lets you choose between counting multiple conversions for each click on your ad, or only counting one conversion. This is different to the way goals work inside Google Analytics which only count a single conversion each session for a specific goal. (Just to note this isn’t the case for imported transactions as they are always counted in Google Analytics.) So if you want to count multiple conversions for the same action in a session using the AdWords conversion tracking is a better option.

AdWords Conversion Tracking

Extra tags

Google Analytics (and Google Tag Manager) only require a single tag on all the pages of your website in order to track people engaging with your website. Whereas the AdWords conversion tracking tag must be placed on the individual page that people view when a conversion has taken place (or implemented for the individual action on your website, for example, a button click). This means if you have multiple conversions, you’ll need to configure multiple AdWords conversion tracking tags to collect data. 

AdWords Conversion Tracking

AdWords-centric

If you choose to use AdWords conversion tracking you’ll only be able to report on the performance of your AdWords campaigns and you won’t see performance for your other marketing channels. So even if you use the dedicated AdWords conversion tracking you’ll also need to configure the conversion inside Google Analytics (or your analytics platform of choice) in order to understand how each of your marketing channels (and not just AdWords) is performing in relation to one another.

AdWords Conversion Tracking

View-through and cross-device conversions

When you import conversions from Google Analytics you won’t be able to make use of the ‘view-through conversion’ or ‘cross-device conversion’ metrics inside AdWords. Currently, these metrics are only available directly inside your AdWords account if you’re using AdWords conversion tracking. So if you add these columns inside your account you will see zeros reported for your display campaigns. Instead you’ll need to use the attribution reports available inside Google Analytics.

AdWords Conversion Tracking

Summary of the differences

Here’s a summary of the key differences when considering using AdWords conversion tracking and importing conversions from Google Analytics.

AdWords Conversion Tracking

And some other technical differences:

AdWords Conversion Tracking

Using both types of conversion tracking together

There might be cases where you want to import a conversion from Google Analytics for one particular type of action taking place on your website and use AdWords conversion tracking for another. This is perfectly fine. The main thing is that you want to avoid doubling up for any single action that you are tracking. 

For example, a lead form on your website that’s important for your AdWords campaigns. If you configure a goal inside Google Analytics and then import the goal into AdWords, and you’re also tracking this action using AdWords conversion tracking, then you’ll see two conversions in AdWords even though there is only one conversion taking place. This is something you want to avoid. All you need to do is pick one type of conversion tracking and then remove the duplicate from your AdWords account.

Setting up AdWords conversion tracking

Now that we’ve covered the differences between these two options, it’s time to configure conversion tracking inside your AdWords account.

Follow my step-by-step tutorial on configuring AdWords conversion tracking:

Alternatively, if you want to import goals from Google Analytics into AdWords follow these steps:

  1. Configure goals (or implement ecommerce tracking) in Google Analytics.
  2. Ensure Google Analytics is linked to your AdWords account.
  3. Inside AdWords click the configuration icon, select ‘Conversions’, then click the plus sign, select ‘Import’, then ‘Google Analytics’ and follow the steps to import your conversions.

Here’s my tutorial on configuring goals inside Google Analytics if you aren’t tracking any conversions yet:

Wrap-up

As we’ve seen, there are differences between using the dedicated AdWords conversion tracking and importing conversions from Google Analytics. In most cases you’ll find goals are already configured inside Google Analytics, so importing them is the quickest way to get up and running in AdWords. 

Just remember if you want to count multiple conversions in a session or you want to make use of the ‘view-through conversion’ or ‘cross-device conversion’ metrics inside AdWords, then you’ll want to consider taking the time to set up AdWords conversion tracking.

And here are some related resources: