TPE #79: Google Ads Conversion Tracking Best Practices [2024 Update]Feb 05, 2024
Read time: 8 minutes
Hey, Bob & Miles here with The PPC Edge.
We’re super excited for this issue, because it contains a LOT of value.
As you know, Google Ads tracking is a huge mess:
- People are using ad blockers.
- Browsers block third-party cookies.
- Privacy regulations + lack of user consent lead to gaps in conversion data.
The current landscape causes a huge problem:
Without proper conversion tracking, you will never get your desired results.
That’s why we created the ‘PPC Mastery Measurement Maturity Model’.
It shows you the best practices you need to future-proof your Google Ads tracking, and measure more high-quality conversions.
We recently updated the framework.
Up until now, we only showed it in our Google Ads Masterclass and Conversion Tracking Mastery course.
Since conversion tracking is such a hot topic, we decided to share the updated framework with you as well, because we appreciate you as a reader of The PPC Edge!
This framework will serve as the blueprint for your Google Ads conversion tracking setup.
We wish we had something like this when we started our careers (although the state of tracking was much different back then).
Let’s dive in, shall we?
Track more high-quality conversions with our updated Measurement Maturity Framework.
Our updated Measurement Maturity Framework contains 3 sections:
- Lay the foundation for success.
- Enhance your dataset with 7 advanced features.
- Correct your dataset for more accuracy.
Let’s zoom in on each section.
Section 1: Lay the Foundation for Success.
The first section of the updated Measurement Maturity Framework helps you lay the foundation for success.
How you set this up can truly make or break your conversion tracking.
If you implement the 3 tracking techniques we have for you in this section, you will already be ahead of 90% of your competitors.
1.1: Implement Server-Side Tagging.
We believe Server-Side Tagging (SST) is no longer optional — it’s a must in nearly every account (except maybe the really small ones):
- It prevents data loss due to client-side issues such as ad-blockers, cookie restrictions, or browser limitations and increases accuracy.
- It leads to faster page load times and improved UX, because the processing load is shifted from the user's device to your server.
We won’t dive into the nitty-gritty details of SST in this newsletter.
Just understand that your server directly communicates with third-party platforms, such as Google Ads, using server-to-server connections.
Server-Side Tagging typically collects data in first-party context, which is a great way to future-proof your tracking setup.
With SST, we’ve seen conversion uplifts between 10-30%!
1.2: Implement the Google Ads Conversion Pixel (Tag) for all website conversions.
You can’t rely on GA4 data and must therefore use the Google Ads Conversion Pixel (Tag) to:
- Measure more conversions and data points.
- Improve attribution with cross-device and view-through conversions.
- Use additional advanced data enhancement features (see section 2).
- Optimally integrate Offline Conversion Tracking.
It’s best to import GA4 conversions for observation and back-up purposes. We highly recommend you to use Google Ads Conversion Tracking (or Offline Conversion Tracking, see section 1.3) for all your tracking needs.
1.3: Implement Offline Conversion Tracking for all offsite conversions.
Offline Conversion Tracking is an absolute must for Lead Gen advertisers. It helps you:
- Track the real impact of your Google Ads campaigns on offline sales.
- Optimize toward more profound lead-to-sale events and increase your bottom-line results.
How it works:
- Customer data is matched with online identifiers (e.g., GCLID, GBRAID, WBRAID, email) to link offline conversions with your ads.
- Google Ads uses this data to attribute offline conversions to specific in-platform dimensions, like campaigns and keywords.
With Offline Conversion Tracking, you unlock extremely valuable data points about your closed deals, cost per closed deal, lead-to-closed dea ratio, and ultimately (gross) profit.
Added benefit: you can use the real conversion values from closed deals to optimize for high-value leads/customers with Value-Based Bidding (VBB).
The most common way to set up Offline Conversion Tracking is with Zapier. For advanced and high-volume accounts, the Google Ads API might be the best solution.
Section 2: Enhance Your Dataset With Advanced Features.
You’ve now laid the foundation for success with Server-Side Tagging, Google Ads Conversion Tracking, and Offline Conversion Tracking.
Now it’s time to go beyond the basics and measure REAL business results (aka qualified leads, revenue, and stone-cold profit).
Let’s look at 7 advanced tracking techniques to measure more high-quality data than your competitors (these will really take your skills and performance to the next level).
2.1: Implement Enhanced Conversion to improve attribution.
Enhanced Conversions supplements your existing conversion tags by sending over hashed first party conversion data, such as an email.
This enables Google Ads to match and attribute that data to logged-in Google users who viewed or clicked on ads through for example another device when a cookie was deleted.
In other words:
- You will recover conversions that otherwise wouldn’t have been measured.
- You will improve bidding optimization through better data and attribution.
Rachel Williams, member of The PPC Hub recently saw a 10% increase in measured conversions on the Search network when she implemented Enhanced Conversions.
And here’s an example from one of our own accounts, where we saw a 25% increase in measured conversions on the Video network.
Long story short: implement Enhanced Conversions to recover conversions that would otherwise have been lost!
2.2: Implement Google Consent Mode (V2) and fill in the gaps with Conversion Modelling.
Google Consent Mode V2 is the talk of the town at the moment (and rightly so).
You need to set it up before March 2024 in order to comply with EEA privacy regulations.
But privacy regulations aren’t the only reason you need Consent Mode.
We recommend everyone to use Consent Mode so you can make use of Conversion Modelling.
Here’s how Google Consent Mode works:
- Consent Mode automatically adjusts how your tags behave based on the cookie consent status of your users.
- Using consent signals, Google uses Conversion Modeling to recover lost conversions from users who didn’t consent to ads cookies.
- When consent is granted, tags will function normally. When consent is denied, associated tags will adjust their behavior accordingly.
- Conversion Modeling can help fill in blanks at times when it’s not possible to observe the path between ad interactions and conversions.
Meaning: Consent Mode gives you additional conversions that you would otherwise not have measured.
Quick note on Conversion Modelling: you can’t segment observed and modeled conversions inside of Google Ads. So you will have to trust Google…
But, on average, we see an uplift of 5% in measured conversions.
Stack this on top of the +/- 10% uplift from Enhanced Conversions, and you have a lot of extra data to work with!
We created a free guide that will help you implement Google Consent Mode V2. You can grab it here.
2.3: Implement Conversions with Cart Data to understand what people buy.
Unlock new columns in Google Ads and view which products were bought after an ad is clicked, which products are most likely to convert, top sellers, cart size, items sold, and so much more.
These are essential insights that set you apart from competitors, and make for great talking points with your clients.
2.4: Implement Profit Tracking (POAS) to measure and/or optimize for profit.
Most advertisers only track revenue and use Return On Ad Spend (ROAS) to analyze and improve campaigns.
The problem: these metrics don’t tell you anything about your profitability.
Google will push the products that are most likely to get conversions and won’t look at profit margins. You might be getting a lot of conversions and revenue, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’re profitable.
The solution: implement profit tracking and enable Profit On Ad Spend (POAS).
(The easiest way to set up profit tracking is with a tool called ProfitMetrics.io.)
These are the benefits:
- See gross profit data in Google Ads.
- Stop unprofitable ads and scale hidden winners.
- Increase Profit on Ad Spend and know exactly how much profit you make.
- Deliver better input to let Google improve campaign performance (profit).
2.5: Implement New Customer Data to segment new vs. returning customers.
After implementing, you can see new vs. returning customers conversion data for all your campaigns inside Google Ads. This is epic, because Google’s algorithm has a tendency to focus more on returning customers. If relevant, you can use the insights to change your strategy and focus more on new customer acquisitions.
2.6: Implement Transaction IDs to avoid duplicate conversions.
Sending the Transaction ID helps Google Ads to identify and filter out potential duplicate conversions.
This provides a more accurate view of your conversion data, which can be crucial for assessing the performance, and prevents over-bidding.
By implementing Transaction IDs, your data becomes clean and trustworthy.
2.7: Implement Custom Variables to gain business-specific insights.
Custom Variables is one of those features that almost nobody talks about, yet they can be extremely powerful when used correctly.
Custom Variables allow you to:
- Enrich your conversion data with custom dimensions that matter to your business, so that you can further segment your conversion reports.
- It helps you understand, at a more granular level, which kind of conversions were driven by your campaigns.
A hotel chain might want to see its conversion numbers split by these dimensions:
- Hotel name
- Room rate category (high, medium, and low)
- Customer loyalty status
This allows you to answer important business questions, for example:
- How many customers clicking on an ad for hotel A end up booking another hotel?
- Do loyalty card owners who interacted with my ads spend more per booking than non-loyalty-card customers? Do they book higher-value rooms?
- Which keywords are more often resulting in bookings for higher-rated hotels?
Quick note: although Custom Variables are a great way to enhance your dataset, they are optional and not mandatory.
Section 3: Correct Your Dataset.
You’ve now laid the foundation for success and enhanced your dataset with advanced features.
The last step is to correct your dataset. We’ll do that with 2 features.
3.1: Use Conversion Adjustments to remove or change conversion data.
A customer's conversion path ends after they convert, but the journey is not always over.
Customers may return purchases, cancel reservations, or become more valuable.
With Conversion Adjustments, you can adjust the conversion (value), so it affects your bid strategies and reporting.
This is great if you want to adjust conversions, so Smart Bidding can optimize for better, more accurate results.
You can either retract conversions that should no longer be counted, or restate conversions that need to be adjusted.
3.2: Use Data Exclusions to clean up your conversion data.
When using Smart Bidding, your data needs to be of the highest quality.
With poor data, you will get poor results.
By using everything we spoke about in this newsletter, you will have crystal clear data.
However, unforeseen issues can occur.
In the past, we had a client who accidentally removed the GTM container from the website, resulting in a big drop in measured conversions:
As you can imagine, this is a big problem. Smart Bidding is now going to use the wrong data.
In a case like this, you can use Data Exclusions to exclude all data within a certain timeframe from your dataset. Smart Bidding will now ignore this data and recalculate your metrics based on performance outside of your excluded period.
You can set them up via Tools > Budgets and Bidding > Adjustments > Exclusions.
Implement this framework and you will be 10 steps ahead of your competition!
Most of these tracking techniques are technical and difficult to set up and we’d love to help you out.
At this stage, you have 2 options:
- Go online and try to find all the details to implement these tracking techniques (doable but costs a lot of time and energy).
- Get a huge shortcut and enroll in our Conversion Tracking Mastery course.
If you go for option 2, we’ll show you the easiest and fastest way to implement every advanced tracking technique in our Measurement Maturity Framework, with no fluff.
You’ll also get email templates with instructions for technical implementations (which you can copy-paste and share with your developer).
There’s a lot that goes into proper conversion tracking, and these advanced implementations are an absolute must to measure and steer on real business results.
With Conversion Tracking Mastery, we can help you:
- Measure more high-quality conversions to get better results.
- Learn from theory + over-the-shoulder implementation videos (step-by-step).
- Master basic and advanced Google Ads Conversion Tracking with best practices for Ecom, Lead Gen & SaaS accounts.
And as a result, your value as a Google Ads Specialist will increase!
Remember: investing in a solid, advanced conversion tracking setup is no longer optional.
You MUST future-proof your conversion tracking and dataset in order to survive in the current PPC landscape.
And we’d love to help you with that.
Good luck, see you on the inside!
Bob & Miles