Step-by-step: Setting up PPC conversion action tracking on a website

Below is a screen shot of what the setup screen looks like in Google AdWords for tracking website conversion actions. Let’s walk through the steps you’ll need to take.

Fig. 9 – Website conversion action flow in AdWords

First, you’ll name the action. You’ll want this to be easily understood by anyone managing, reporting on or evaluating your AdWords campaigns, so use a naming convention that will be will be clear to all parties.

Next, select the category that best describes the conversion action. Your choices are:

  • Purchase/sale.
  • Sign-up.
  • Lead.
  • View of a key page.
  • Other.

The value you choose will depend on the kind of conversion you’re tracking. If your business or client has designated a specific value for a white paper download, for example, you can choose “Use the same value for each conversion” and enter that value. An e-commerce site will typically want to use the total sale value, which usually varies by customer. In this case, choose “Use different values for each conversion.” Note that you’ll need to edit the conversion tag to track transaction-specific values. Or you may choose not to assign a monetary value to a conversion at all.

Then you’ll choose how you want Google to count conversion actions taken by a user. An e-commerce site will typically choose to count “Every” conversion, since a cumulative value is associated when a user makes multiple purchases after clicking on an ad. A services business, however, likely wants to count three white paper downloads from the same user as “One” conversion.

Now, it’s time to choose a conversion window. A conversion window is the maximum time you want to count a conversion after someone clicks or interacts with your ad. In other words, at what point does it no longer make sense to give your PPC campaign credit for a conversion? Your conversion window will depend on your sales cycle, and you may have different conversion windows lengths for different conversion actions. For example, an insurance broker might set a seven-day conversion window for a quote request and a 90-day (the maximum length) conversion window for a policy purchase.

The view-through conversion window is set at a default of one day. You likely will not change this, and it only applies to display and video campaigns, not search campaigns. View-through conversions are counted when a user converts after a display or video ad impression is viewable but not clicked on.

Most likely you’ll keep the box checked to include your conversion action in the “Conversions” column in AdWords reporting, though you can opt out by unchecking it. The Conversions column is what AdWords uses in its automated bidding, or Smart Bidding, algorithms. We’ll get into Smart Bidding further, but if you want to measure an action and not have your bids optimized against that action — say visits to a particular page on your site — you can uncheck this box.

In AdWords, you can set an Attribution model for each conversion event you create (Fig. 10). The default is currently “Last click,” though this is likely to change. This setting determines how much credit each click is given for your conversions. Attribution is addressed in greater detail in the next section.

Note that AdWords attribution models are not available for app and in-store conversions. They also aren’t available for Display Network ads, including video.

Fig. 10 – Attribution models can vary by conversion action

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