Google Ads Conversion Tracking for E-commerce
In this article, I’ll explain why correct conversion tracking for eCommerce projects is crucial. What other features of conversion tracking are important for online stores? At the end of the article, I will show you how to check the correctness of conversion tracking on the site, if you are not an expert in this matter.
Errors in website conversion tracking are one of the most common problems for accounts we conduct audits for.
Most often, we see the following situation: conversions are configured and recorded in the account. But this is not purchases (transactions), but conversions that are higher in the sales funnel. At best, it could be adding an item to the cart, at worst, product card views.
There is no error in tracking these conversions in the ad account. Problems start when conversions are tuned in such a way that campaigns are optimized for those less significant conversions, rather than optimized for website purchases. What you get as a result of such a conversion setup is an enormous number of cheap conversions that an advertising campaign brings, but at the same time, not a single actual sale from them.
In other words, if you analyze the effectiveness of advertising campaigns according to reports in Google Ads with such incorrect conversion tracking settings, you see brilliant results and high efficiency of advertising campaigns. There are a lot of conversions, they are cheap, ads spend budgets, and work for a long time. But despite the apparent high efficiency of advertising campaigns, the business for some reason still does not grow. The crux of the problem is that in Google Ads reports, in the conversion column, you see data not for purchases, as you mistakenly believe, but for all events preceding the purchase.
This error is difficult to see with an unprofessional eye. After all, there will be no notification about this anywhere, on the contrary, the advertising campaign will consider that everything is correct. It received a signal: look for users who will view product cards and add them to the cart. And the ad campaign is actively learning to achieve this goal. If you tell the algorithm that your main goal is not adding to the cart and viewing products, but buying a product, then the campaign will start looking for a completely different audience for you. And this audience is already much more targeted for business success.
80% of clients who come to us for an audit do not suspect that the wrong goals are being used in their advertising campaigns.
Why Correct Conversion Tracking Is Important for Effective Advertising Campaigns
I’m not going to cover the global issue of conversion tracking here. It is well known how it helps to evaluate the effectiveness of investment in advertising, make decisions and find points of growth. Let’s speak about the more specific issue — why correct conversion tracking is important for ad systems, in particular for Google Ads.
The development of tools for advertising eCommerce directions is now in an extremely active phase. This is a very promising area. And this leads to the fact that the most modern and advanced machine learning mechanisms are available specifically for eCommerce products.
It means that machine learning ad campaigns learn from the data you provide them to give you the outcome that you target them. If a smart Google Ads Shopping campaign gets reliable data about purchases on your site, it will eventually learn to generate those conversions for you — it learns to bring to you those users who are more likely to make a purchase from your online store.
What happens when the system does not receive all of the sales data is that the campaign takes longer to train. In other words, you will spend more budget training your campaign before it will learn how to attract buyers.
What happens when conversions are not transferred at all, or micro conversions are used instead of important business conversions (transactions) (viewing a product card, adding an item to a cart, adding to a wishlist, etc)?
The campaign does not receive the data on the basis of which it can be effective and useful.
By teaching your campaign to work on product card views, you risk getting a huge number of users who will gladly look at your products, but never make a purchase. And the ad campaign will think that it does the right thing because you gave it such signals as key targets.
How to Transfer Conversions to the Google Ads Ad Cabinet Correctly
In your Google Ads ad account, you can configure the transfer of conversions in two ways:
- directly via the Google Ads conversion tag,
- by importing conversions from Google Analytics.
Advantages of the First Method
Conversions get to your ad account faster if they are captured through the Google Ads conversion tag.
There is also an unspoken preference for conversions via the Google Ads tag over conversions imported from Google Analytics. Based on our experience, we are convinced that conversions on the Google Ads tag are the most preferable for the advertising system. Ad campaigns optimized for Google Ads tag conversions learn faster and perform more efficiently.
Another advantage of this method is related to video campaigns. If you have already used or plan to launch them in the future, then this method of conversion is also the most preferable. Only the Google Ads tag allows you to accumulate, analyze and use information about conversions by impressions (when the user saw your ad, but did not view it or interact with it) and views (when the user watched 30 seconds of your video or clicked on any of its elements).
Advantages of the Second Method
When you import conversions from Google Analytics, the system will also count associated conversions. It provides you with more data for analysis of ad campaigns, education and effective operation of smart campaigns and bidding strategies.
The disadvantage of this method is that conversions to the account are pulled up with a delay (an average of nine hours).
What should you choose? We recommend giving preference to the first method — the Google Ads tag. We recommend using the second method only if there are insurmountable difficulties with the implementation of the first.
Track Other Conversions in the Google Ads Dashboard
You can also set up and transfer to your Google Ads ad account and other conversions. For example, viewing a product card, adding an item to the cart, filling in the shipping information, and others. But again, we do not recommend using these conversions at the start for campaign optimization. This means that these in-account conversions should not be included in the Conversions column.
To check which conversions are included in the conversion column in your account and which are not, go to the conversions section.
There you will see a list of all conversions in the ad account. Pay attention to the column “Include in conversions”.
How this setting works: all conversions with Yes in the conversion column will be counted in the conversion column when analyzing the data.
Also, the system will focus on these conversions when it uses automatic bidding strategies.
You have an online clothing store and you track two conversion actions: cart usage (how many times users have placed an item in the cart) and online sales (how many purchases were made on your site).
You want to optimize your bids for sales and track these user actions by adding data about them in the “Conversions” column. You are not looking to optimize your basket bids and you do not need to see the relevant data in the Conversions column.
Select the Include in Column Conversions check box for sales and uncheck for the shopping cart. Your autobid strategy will now only consider the sales data that will appear in the Conversions column. Your shopping cart usage information will only appear in the All Conversions column.
We highly recommend that you include the most valuable action on your site — a purchase — in the conversion column. And only it. But there is an exception. Using conversions higher in the funnel as goals for optimizing ad campaigns is appropriate when there is too little transaction data.
If purchases on the site are made very rarely and their number is not enough for a full-fledged training of a smart advertising campaign, then you can use conversions such as adding to the cart, for example, as optimization goals for the campaign. Again, we do not recommend optimizing a campaign for broad goals (for example, viewing a product card).
The decision to add a higher goal in the funnel for campaign optimization should be made by a PPC specialist based on an analysis of current statistics and their dynamics.
How to View Statistics on Conversions Not Included in the “Conversions” Column
You still have the option to view statistics for conversions that are not included in the conversion column. To do this, firstly you need to tweak your Google Ads report slightly.
For example, you need to analyze data by campaign and you want to see what conversions (that are not included in the conversion column) are being made for them.
To do this, first, add the column All conversions to your report.
In the window that opens, use the search to find the All conversions column, click on it and apply the changes.
Now segment the statistics by conversion actions.
You will see a list of all the conversions tracked in your account. The number of recorded conversions included in the conversion column will be displayed in the conversion column. And statistics for conversions not included in this column will be in the All conversions column.
The screenshot shows that out of 4 conversions, two are in the “Conversion” column — there are statistics on them in both columns. As for the rest 2 conversions, statistics on them are only in the “All conversions” column.
Transfer the Value of Conversions
Another important point for advertising an online store is the transfer of the amount of each purchase on the site.
Your customers have different values to your business. Someone buys many items at a time or selects the most expensive items, and someone buys one item at a low cost. By submitting this transactional information to the advertising system, you also give the system information about which customers are most significant to your business. With this in mind, the campaign will prioritize the customers with the highest value.
About Dynamic Remarketing
This is a special topic. But it is no less important for the promotion of online stores.
Not all visitors of an online store convert immediately on their first visit. Customers hesitate, view your competitors’ offers, add an item to their cart and forget it there. And it is extremely important to be visible when your potential buyers are ready to make a purchase decision. Dynamic remarketing helps solve this problem.
How is it different from regular remarketing? And why it is dynamic? It is dynamic because you can show the ads for the user with exactly the same products that they viewed before. Or you can set up the display condition so that the user sees ads for those products that he has already added to the cart, but for some reason did not buy.
If you run a Smart Shopping campaign, your Dynamic Remarketing setup is critical to its effectiveness. The point is that a smart Shopping campaign automatically includes impressions of the audience who visited the site. This allows it not only to attract new customers but to be visible to those users who have already interacted with your site.
Discrepancies in Conversion Statistics
In this section, we will discuss the discrepancies in conversion statistics across different systems. Let us analyze in which cases this is the norm, and in which it is a cause for concern.
If you have an online store, you probably collect statistics about all transactions on the site somewhere. In addition to a universal analytics system, for example, Google Analytics, it can be a Shopify advertising account, which records all transactions that go through the site.
When the discrepancy in conversion data is normal
The first and most harmless reason is the different attribution of conversions to sources in different analytics systems. This can be seen when your total number of conversions is the same in different systems for collecting statistics, but it differs by traffic source.
The discrepancy occurs due to different principles that underlie the attribution of different data collection and analysis systems.
If you face such a discrepancy — do not worry, this is normal. In practice, the best solution in such a situation would be to choose one analytics system, the data in which you will consider as reliable. Based on this data, you will analyze conversions by source and make decisions about their effectiveness.
Check out our article to learn more about different attribution models.
Another valid reason why the total number of transactions may differ in different systems is the blocking of analytics tags on the user’s side. This applies, for example, to Google Analytics tags and Google Ads.
In addition to blocking tags on the user side, the tag loading problem can also be related to a tag installation error, so before moving on to the reasons on the user side, make sure that there are no problems installing analytics tags on your site: analytics tags are set to all pages of the site, nothing blocks the loading of analytics counters on the site, etc. If you do not know how to check the correctness of the tags on the site, contact your web developer.
After you are convinced that the tags on the site are placed correctly, and there are still discrepancies in conversions, let’s talk about why this can happen.
One last addition: conversion discrepancies due to user-side blocking are always small. We are talking about small discrepancies when the difference in transaction data per month is within 5%. If your discrepancies are larger, you need to look for tag installation errors.
So, let’s go to the reasons why some users may have the tags of analytics systems blocked when loading your site.
First reason: the user has blocking programs installed. These are all kinds of ad blockers on the site. They also block third-party codes, including the Google Analytics tag, for example.
The second reason: the user has forbidden to collect information about himself or herself on the site. This applies to some browsers (e.g. Safari) and operating systems (e.g. iOS 14 from Apple).
Unfortunately, nothing can be done for these two reasons. Some of the data will be lost and cannot be resisted.
How to Check That Conversions Are Being Tracked Correctly
This section assumes that you have already configured conversion tracking in Google Analytics and Google Ads and you want to check if conversions are being recorded correctly in these systems.
The easiest and most reliable way to do this is to complete a transaction and check if your test conversion was recorded in analytics systems.
For Google Analytics
Before making a test transaction, go to Google Analytics. Go to the real-time report.
In a new browser window, complete a transaction on the site. If everything is configured correctly, you will see your conversion in the conversion report, at the bottom of the Realtime overview.
For Google Ads
To check if the conversion is triggered by the Google ads tag, you will need to install an additional application — Omnibug. Link to Chrome extension.
Install the extension.
Next, in the Chrome browser, open your site and make a test transaction. When, after completing the conversion, you find yourself on the thank you page, press F12, click on the arrow on the right and find the Omnibug extension.
After refreshing the page, you will see a list of loaded tags of different analytics systems in the console window. Let me remind you that we are checking the firing of the Google Ads conversion tracking tag, so that is why we will be looking for it in the list of triggered tags. If it is in the list, then the conversion tag is working correctly.
But before that, you need to know the unique identifier of the desired conversion. You can find it out in the conversion section of the Google Ads ad cabinet.
How to find a unique conversion ID for a Google Ads tag:
1. Go to the conversion section and click on the conversion for the Google Ads tag, which records the transactions on your website. All conversions for the Google Ads tag will have a site in the source column.
2. Scroll down the conversion settings window that opens and find the tag settings section. Click on it.
3. In the drop-down list, select the option to customize the tag yourself, scroll to the bottom of the page. There you will see a separate window with a tag to trigger the conversion.
4. Find your unique conversion ID. This is what we will look for in the triggered tags on the site through the Ontraport extension.
Now we know the unique identifier of the conversion that is triggered when making a purchase on the site. We look for it among all triggered tags through the Ontraport extension.
If the tag works correctly, then you will find it in the list by the unique identifier that you found in the previous step.
Now you know that correct conversion tracking is an important element in the learning process of advertising campaigns. As a result, it also affects the effectiveness of your advertising investments.
We hope this article helped you understand the issue and make sure that all conversions are recorded correctly on your site. Visit our eCommerce PPC library and find more valuable guides and our cases.
Still, have questions? Ask them in the comments.
Need help setting up conversion tracking for your online store? Contact us and we will help.
Performance Marketing Specialist. Working with PPC since 2016. Specializes in Google & Microsoft paid traffic for eCommerce & B2B projects. In love with analysis. When not launching effective Ad campaigns, she is reading up on the latest in eCommerce and data tracking last trends.