Setting Up Conversion Tracking in AdWords

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We’ve already showed you how to translate business goals to analytics goals, and we’ve provided clear instructions for how to set up Google Analytics Goal Tracking. With this in place, you’re able to track all conversions in Google Analytics and even import them directly into Google AdWords.
That’s enough, right? Why would you even bother to set up AdWords conversion tracking separately?
Simple: to give AdWords the credit it deserves!
You may know that, by default, Google Analytics attributes every conversion to the last non-direct source. That means that if your customer’s last contact with the site was via Google organic search, even if an AdWords ad was technically their first point of discovery, the conversion will show up as coming from google/organic.
Over time, this can actually skew your understanding (or your boss’ understanding) of the success you’re seeing from AdWords. Here at Megalytic, we believe it’s important that AdWords receives at least some credit any time it was part of a user’s process of finding your site. By setting up AdWords conversion tracking, you’ll be able to credit conversions to AdWords that occur within a specified window of time (default 30 days) after a user clicked an ad, even if that person came back via another source.
Setting up AdWords tracking also allows you to track unique conversions. This means that if the same user fills out forms multiple times on your site, you’re only tracking one conversion per user. In contrast, Google Analytics will track multiple conversions from the same user if they happen across different sessions. Of course, if for some reason you want to count every conversion separately (say that you sell products via your site and the same user could be making multiple purchases) you can still count all conversions.
Now that we’ve established the need to set up conversion tracking directly through AdWords, you need to decide how you’re going to define a conversion and what it is you’re going to track. A conversion should correlate with someone showing interest in your business beyond just a casual visit to your site, including any activity from a contact form submission to a free ebook download. If you are running an Ecommerce site, you may want to define any purchase as a conversion. Once you’ve determined a conversion to track, you can then proceed to setting up the tracking code and putting it into your site.


Blog Image AdWords Conversions


Creating a Conversion Tracking Code for AdWords

AdWords provides a simple step-by-step process for setting up a conversion. Within your AdWords account, click Tools from the navigation bar and select Conversions from the dropdown menu.


AdWords Conversion Tracking Step #1


When you start creating a new conversion, you’ll see several options for conversion sources. For this example (tracking a form submission), we’ll choose Website.


AdWords Conversion Tracking Step #2


Next, you can customize several options for your conversion.

  • Name: Give your conversion a custom name to distinguish it from other conversion points on your site.
  • Value: Assign a currency value to a conversion.
  • Count: Decide whether to count total conversions or unique conversions. The “unique” setting won’t count multiple times if the same person submits a form more than once.
  • Conversion windows: Determine how long after a person visits a site to credit a conversion to AdWords. For example, within a 30-day conversion window, a person who clicked an ad at some point and came back to the site a couple of weeks later would still be credited as an AdWords converter.
  • Category: Designate a conversion as a purchase, sign-up, lead, view of a key page, or other.
  • Optimization: Choose to use this conversion for AdWords bid strategies.


AdWords Conversion Tracking Step #3


Once you’ve selected the options you want, you can proceed to the next page. Here, you’ll be given code to add to your site to begin tracking conversions from AdWords.

Consider keeping this page open in a separate tab while we go over getting the code into your site. Our recommended method of adding is via Google Tag Manager.

Adding AdWords Tracking to Your Site using Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager (GTM) provides an easy way to set up AdWords conversion tracking without forcing you to mess with the source code for a site. Once the GTM code is in place across a site, you can set an AdWords conversion code to fire on the submission of any form.

If you haven’t done so already, see our article on Implementing Analytics with Google Tag Manager for details on getting GTM in place on your site. You’ll just need to add one small snippet of JavaScript code across your site (or ask your developer to add it). Once GTM is set up, you can use its web interface to configure AdWords conversion tracking on your site.

First, from within your site’s container in GTM, add a new tag.


Google Tag Manager - Add New Tag


You’ll now see a list of several types of tags you can create. Choose Google AdWords.


Google Tag Manager - Choose AdWords


Next, choose a Tag Type of AdWords Conversion Tracking. You’ll then want to cross-reference your AdWords Conversion code to input the Conversion ID and Conversion Label. If you are tracking values, you’ll want to fill in the Conversion Value field, as well.


Google Tag Manager - Adding AdWords Id


Finally, in the fourth (“Fire On”) section, you can choose when to fire the conversion tracking code. If your site serves a “Thank You” page to users who submit the form, select “Some Pages.” In the box that pops up, create a trigger based on the page that should fire the conversion.

For this example, we want the conversion code to fire on a page that ends in /thankyou. Of course, your Thank You page URLs may differ depending on your site’s setup, especially if you have multiple thank you pages.


Google Tag Manager - Select Thank You Page


Once you’ve set up the tag via GTM, don’t forget to publish your container live (button in the upper right), so the code you just configured will be enabled on your live site.

Seeing Conversion Data in AdWords

With the conversion tracking code set up and deployed on your site, you can now track results as they come in. To do this, check the Converted Clicks column within the interface. If your code is installed properly and people are indeed converting on your site, you should begin to see numbers here.


AdWords - Reporting Conversions


You’ll want to pay attention to multiple metrics:

  • Converted Clicks: total number of clicks that resulted in conversions, correlating to total leads from AdWords on your site
  • Cost/Converted Click: average cost for each converted click (crucial for tracking ROI)
  • Click Conversion Rate: percentage of clicks that resulted in conversions, showing how likely visitors from AdWords are to be potential customers

Note that by selecting the various tabs within the interface, you can view conversion data on the Campaign, Ad Group, Ad, or Keyword level. Each of these views will allow you to further optimize your account. For example, you’ll want to use successfully converting ad copy to guide writing of future ads, while bidding up or down on keywords based on conversion performance.


When running an AdWords campaign, be sure to set up conversion tracking for any actions on your site that correlate to leads for your business. AdWords and Google Tag Manager provide a fairly user-friendly process for creating a code and getting it to fire on a form submission within your site. Once you’ve set up conversion tracking, use it to measure the success of your campaigns and the value of AdWords in driving business.

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14 Comments on “Setting Up Conversion Tracking in AdWords

  1. organicfarmerz

    I’m confused… Google suggested that I just connect the GA account with AdWords because it automatically attributes everything properly without needing to embed any code. Is their suggestion a bad one?

    1. Ken

      Hi There. In case you are still confused – What Google said is correct, GA (I’m assuming Google Analytics) can and should be connected.

      GTM is responsible for the actual code that you drop. If you were involved with the set up for your Google Analytics, or AdWords conversion tracking, you would have been given a code, or asked to drop a code? GTM makes that process much easier in the long run.

      Hope that clarifies the matter a little.


      1. Thomas Reinholdt

        Actually i am a bit confused 2, should you still set up targets in GA, connect GA account with AdWords and set up tracking with AdWords in GTM?. Wont you get double conversions then?

        1. markdhansen

          GA does attribution differently that AdWords. So, this article is for people who want to set up conversion tracking in AdWords because they like the attribution model used by AdWords better. The differences are explained in the first part of the article. Also, see:

          You can have tracking in both GA and AdWords. AdWords reports let you pick which source you want to show for conversions.

          1. medway808

            I’m in a similar situation. I now have both GA and Adwords tags setup to track conversions. I noticed that when I use the GTM preview function it shows the Adwords tag fires even on a direct visit. Will this still count conversions in Adwords even though the traffic didn’t originate there? Do I need to setup a filter for that tag to only fire on Adwords traffic or does it figure that out on its own?

          2. markdhansen

            AdWords counts it as a conversion if the person ever came to your site by clicking on and Ad and then, eventually, converted. If you want to only count as conversions the traffic that comes via and Ad click, then use Google Analytics conversion tracking.

  2. sorn

    I set up Conversion Tracking in GTM and use the preview function. It shows the conversion tag fires properly in Thank you page. After I published GTM and try to test it by clicking my Ad and then fill in form until got thank you page. The next day, I check in Adword but no conversion shows. I try again with ‘click’ type of conversion in separate tag to track mailto but got the same problem. No conversion. What should I do?

    1. markdhansen

      Did you remember to publish your GTM changes? If so, go into AdWords and look under Tools > Conversions. What does it say under the “Tracking Status” column? Make sure that AdWords has verified that the tag is working.

  3. aehageman

    Mark, Nice post very informative. I am looking for an explanation on the trigger configuration.. I am using Contact Form 7 plugin and would like to use the on form submission functionality, not the some page functionality.
    I need to be able to accomplish my goals using only Google Tag Manager. I don’t have access to the site or wordpress dashboard. I have three forms to track.

    FYI, your post is accurate, unless you take into account the new beta release of Adwords. The conversion code from Adwords has changed, so a new explanation for the Id and label might be needed.

      1. AEHageman

        Thanks for the quick reply. So funny that you sent a link to Chris’s website. I just finished watching one of his videos and reading several posts on his site.
        I will need to change from Analytics to Adwords, but the functionality looks almost identical.
        Thank you for sharing.

  4. Julien Crouzet

    Hi, Great Post!

    I have a problem with the adwords conversion.

    Adwords register a conversion whenever a visitor fire the trigger regardless of where the visitor comes from: he can come from a google ad or a direct link, adwords will still register a conversion. Any advice?


    1. markdhansen

      Google AdWords does not use last click attribution. So, if a user came to your site from and AdWords click, but then 2 days later came back via direct or organic search, AdWords will still register a conversion.

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