AdWords Conversion Tracking: How To Optimize Your Account 10x Quicker

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could get data 10 times faster so you could make your bid & ad decisions in days instead of weeks or months? If you are presently only tracking sales conversions in AdWords, there may be a better way.

It is common to spend hundreds of dollars testing new ad groups before you have enough data to finally pull the plug or drastically lower the bids on under-performers. Split testing ads is also slow going if you’re of a mind to choose a winner based on conversions, but you’ve “peeled-and-sticked” to the point where getting 20-30 conversions for each ad takes months in most ad groups.

Refresher: “peel and stick” refers to the method made popular by Perry Marshall where you “peel” a keyword from one ad group and “stick” it into a new one to write a more targeted ad.

Yes, you want to keep tracking sale conversions in AdWords, but have you considered tracking a pre-sale conversion as a leading indicator for sale conversions? If your landing page is targeting an email opt-in, this is the strongest candidate for pre-sale conversion tracking. There are other possibilities as well, such as a view of a key page on your site, like your order form.

Sounds risky…I prefer tracking sales

I’ll go into the risks & remedies later, but at this point you may be thinking, “Whoa… wait a minute there — are you asking me to disregard all my sales conversion data in AdWords and start tracking an activity that may or may not lead to a sale?”

No. Sales conversion data will still be available in AdWords reports. But if you start tracking an action which has a strong correlation to actual sales, you will gain tremendous optimization speed with little risk in hurting sales. All the risks can be guarded against, but the speed and efficiency rewards can happen virtually no other way.

Do sale conversions rise and fall with email opt-ins? Do sale conversions rise and fall with “enter your credit card” page views? These can both be candidates for conversions to be tracked in AdWords. These “conversions” may occur 5x-50x more frequently than actual sales.

The current conversion will still show up in the “Conversions (many-per-click)” column the AdWords interface and reports, but whatever conversion happens first chronologically will get the Conversion 1-per-click spot. (Be sure you understand the 1-per-click / many-per-click distinction.)

This additional data is likely already available in your Google Analytics AdWords reports, but this read-only interface isn’t conducive to making and acting upon data-informed bid decisions. Smart decisions can happen more reliably when you conduct your analysis in the same tool where you can take action.

There is another great benefit to making this pre-sale action data available directly in AdWords – you can use Conversion Optimizer to automatically manage bids based on these conversions. If you weren’t able to use Conversion Optimizer before due to a low number of monthly conversions, you will now be able to enable this bidding strategy, which Google has shown to increase conversions.

Implications of tracking a new conversion in AdWords

As stated earlier, if you record an earlier action as a conversion in AdWords, this will show up as your 1-per-click conversion. Your existing conversion will move over to the many-per-click conversion column.

CPA (1-per-click) will no longer be the cost per sale acquisition, but cost per action… how much you paid to get someone to take an action on your site that has statistically proven to increase the likelihood of a sale. So if you are targeting a certain CPA with your bids, you will now be targeting a lower CPA.

Risks & remedies of tracking a non-sale conversion in AdWords

It is possible that certain campaigns can bring in a good amount of pre-sale actions, but bring in lower quality traffic and thus have a lower than average conversion rate on these actions to the actual sale.

The solution is to keep recording the conversion value for the sale in AdWords so you can still see true dollar worth in your reports. Run these conversion value reports in AdWords regularly so you can verify that you are bidding appropriately considering the value/cost of each ad group and keyword.

Also, before you even get started with the new conversion stat, customize your target pre-sale conversion CPA for each ad group and/or primary keyword based on sales data.

You may be tempted to optimize your funnel for the pre-sale action you are recording in AdWords instead of the actual sale. Don’t do it. At the end of the day, the success of your AdWords campaigns must still be measured in actual sales dollars.

What happens when the funnel changes? Someone outside the loop may change a page in the funnel which distorts the action to sale correlation on which your target CPA is based. For this new conversion tracking strategy to work, you need to have a reliable funnel with reliable stats. Before making bid decisions, do a reality check with your stats to make sure nothing is out of the ordinary.

You should always ensure the correlation is remaining steady before doing bid management based on the pre-sale action CPA. Make changes to your target CPA as necessary. Also, communicate to all parties involved the crucial nature of the funnel stats so you are notified of any activity that may cause a change in page-to-page conversion rate throughout the funnel.

Top candidates for pre-sale conversion tracking

While this option may work for any account, some accounts can track pre-sale conversions with the least amount of risk. Here are the “golden” accounts ripe for pre-sale conversion tracking:

  • You have a defined pre-sale stat that you are already tracking with good success — such as email opt-in rate
  • You have a high number of pre-sale actions, but a much lower conversion rate to sales
  • You can establish a strong correlation between this pre-sale action and sales conversions
  • You are frustrated with how long it takes to get enough sales in many of your campaigns and often resort to looking at pre-sales stats in Google Analytics to make an early determination as to the success of an ad group
  • You get many sales from the Content Network and want to be able to use Conversion Optimizer with greater success

If you manage an AdWords account that meets the above criteria, and are courageous enough to shuffle the deck and try something new, have at it!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords | How To: PPC


About The Author: is a PPC Account Manager with ROI Revolution, which provides PPC audits and paid search management services to small & medium sized businesses. He also writes for the ROI Revolution Blog.

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