AdWords Conversion Tracking vs. Google Analytics Goal Completions

Adwords, analytics, Google Analytics, Paid Search

February 6, 2013 by

adwords goal completionsWondering what's the difference between AdWords conversion tracking and goal completions in Analytics? For starters, they are not reporting the same data, so do not expect the two to match. Because of this, both tracking codes can be on the same page without interfering with one another.

The difference between AdWords Conversion Tracking and Google Analytics Goal Completions

Goals in Analytics count a completion at the exact time a visitor reaches the goal completion URL location. For example: a prospect fills out the lead generation form and is taken to the /thank-you.html page to receive the white paper download – at that moment that action is counted.

This is unlike AdWords conversion tracking which attributes ‘the win’ to the time of the last ad click BEFORE conversion. Meaning a person clicks an ad, bookmarks the landing page, clicks off the site but within 30 days came back to the website via bookmark and filled out the lead generation form – that original click on that ad (even though the success action happened days later), was just attributed as a conversion.

Analytics would have counted that action as a non-paid goal completion since the visitor left the site and their last action BEFORE the conversion was by clicking on the bookmark, which brought them to the landing page, but not from an ad.

Oh, let the data discrepancies begin!

But don’t be deterred. If you understand what each tracking code is reporting you’ll be better suited to use the data to tell two different stories of which paid campaigns or landing pages are best performing.

Goal completions can be attributed to any traffic source, where conversion tracking only counts users if they clicked on an ad from the AdWords account. This means you would need to apply an advanced segment in Google Analytics to separate goal completions attributed to paid traffic from the remaining traffic sources like organic, referral and direct.

Setup goals in Analytics and import them into AdWords if you:

1. Want to track if an event occurred from Google Search paid traffic which does not result in the visitor being directed to a unique thank you page, like:

  • Downloading a file
  • Starting a live chat session
  • Watching a video

2. Want to report on which goal completion URL a visitor ended up on, because you’re not too concerned about what ad copy got that visitor to the site. It’s more important that you know what pages a visitor clicked through, what date they completed the goal, and what form they filled out.

3. Use a template landing page creation tool where Google Analytics is setup to track each landing page for bounce rate and total visits, but you'll also need to report on the conversion rate percentage per landing page. Since AdWords conversion tracking attributes the conversion to the ad that was clicked on, you'll want goals setup in Analytics and imported into Adwords to be able to track how many people visited the landing page and converted.

Conversion tracking is configured within AdWords and is useful when you need to track:

1. Whether this ad led to this sale on my ecommerce website, and because each sale is important, I want to know if that one ad may have possibly resulted in multiple purchases (many-per-click conv.). Analytics would count each purchase separately.

2. How many people clicked on my ad and then at some point within 30 days filled out a form. It doesn’t matter when someone completed the form to receive more information; I just need to know which ad campaign got them there.

3. Sales within an ecommerce platform which do not have a clearly defined ‘thank you’ success URL like /receipt.html, but instead creates a dynamic purchase confirmation page unique to every customer that buys from the website.

The biggest difference is to remember that you will not be able to track Analytics conversion rate percentages based on AdWords clicks or ad spend if you do not import your goals into AdWords. The goal completions would be measured based on URL paths setup in GA, and AdWords conversions would be contained with the AdWords platform and report actions solely completed by paid traffic.

The above were just a few of the scenarios where you'd want to configure one tracking method over another, and of course you can set up both and pull the numbers from each to tell their different stories if needed. In the comments below, share what you’re using the different data sets to say about your site visitors’ engagement rates.

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