If you’re using Google AdWords and some or all of your sales occur OFF of the internet (i.e. over the phone or in your store/office), then I have some amazing news.  Well actually, Google has the news and they released it last Thursday on their blog.

Google AdWords now gives advertisers the ability to import conversions and automatically match them to the original ad clicked on.  I’ll explain in a minute how it all works, but for now just imagine how this is going to improve your advertising:

  • You’ll see both your online and offline sales directly in your ad account.
  • You’ll be able to adjust bids and ad budgets based on real sales data (rather than only leads data).  In fact, you can use Google’s automated bidding tool – conversion optimizer – to automatically adjust your bids based on sales.
  • You’ll clearly see your return on investment (ROI) for campaigns, ad groups, keywords, and placements.

None of that was possible before last Thursday.  Well technically you could always track offline sales, but it was a pain to setup and prone to human error.


How We Used To Track Offline Sales In AdWords

In July 2011, I wrote, “How to Track Online Advertising ROI for Offline Sales” which highlighted different tactics to track sales that occur off of the internet.  3 of those tactics were:

  1. Create an artificial online sale – In other words, send all of your customers to a page online where you used the regular online conversion tracking code.
  2. Use coupon codes – Use a trackable coupon code and then match the codes to your campaigns, ad groups, keywords, and/or placements.
  3. Go “old school” and just ask your customers how they found you.


As you can probably imagine, the tactics above leave room for error and do not guarantee you’ll track every sale accurately.  The most reliable one is to use coupon codes, which is similar to how the new tracking system works.  However, with coupon codes, the sales data does not go into your AdWords campaign.

Now let’s look at our new and improved option to track offline sales…


The New AdWords Conversion Tracking Import

AdWords Conversion Import

For complete instructions to get this setup, go to Google’s support document.

This new feature relies on a unique click identifier called the “GCLID.”  Every time someone clicks on one of your AdWords ads, Google assigns a unique GCLID and sends that information to you as part of the URL.  For example, if your landing page is yourdomain.com/landingpage.php, then Google will append that URL with the GCLID so that it now looks like yourdomain.com/landingpage.php?gclid=123456789.

The next step requires some technical know-how, but it’s pretty simple for any webmaster.  Every webform (i.e. contact form, coupon form, demo sign up, free report form, etc.) needs to include a hidden field for the GCLID.  Just tell your webmaster you want to read the GCLID from the URL (I promise this is not hard), and then send the GCLID through the form so that it’s stored in your customer relationship management (CRM) system like Salesforce or Infusionsoft.

Next, you’ll track sales and run reports like you normally do in your CRM, but now your reports will include the GCLID.  The final step is to import the sales data into your Google AdWords account and Google will automatically match everything up using the GCLID.

OK, I know that doesn’t sound super easy, but once it’s all set up and you have a system to import your data on a weekly or monthly basis, then you’ll be able to improve your campaign performance like never before.