This week Google announced a big update to the way conversions are tracking in Google AdWords. If you’re already advertising, then you’ll likely want to make some edits to your conversion tracking to take advantage of the new flexible conversion counting.  If you’re thinking about launching your first campaign, then this is yet another reason why I recommend you get started with AdWords.

Before I dive into the new and improved flexible conversion, I want to address the issue of whether or not your business is right for online conversion tracking.



Every Business Can Use Online Conversion Tracking

If you’re currently advertising without any online conversion tracking, then I strongly recommend you get something set up ASAP.  Conversion tracking is not just for e-commerce websites where all the sales occur online.  Every business (even if your sales are generated via phone or in your store or office) can set up online conversion tracking.

The key is to break down your sales process into mini conversions (like contact forms, coupon redemption forms, white paper or free report forms, etc.) and add the appropriate tracking.  Once the tracking is in place, then you’ll start to gather invaluable insight into which ads, keywords, and placements are REALLY working.  No more guessing.

Sure, you might think one of your ads is great because it has a higher click through rate, but that doesn’t mean those clicks are turning into leads and sales.  The only way you’ll know is if you’re tracking conversions.  Again, a conversion doesn’t have to be an online sale.  It could be as simple as a request for more information (i.e a new Lead).

Now that you have no excuses, let’s move on to the nuts and bolts of conversion tracking so you understand how it works.  This is important so you know how to set it up properly.


How Online Conversion Tracking Works

The technology behind conversion tracking is actually not that complicated.  The most basic form of tracking uses what’s called a “pixel.”  You’ve heard of pixels because that’s how images and computer monitors are measured (i.e. 600 pixels x 800 pixels).  Well a tracking pixel is simply a 1 x 1 pixel image that is nearly or completely invisible on the page.  Every time the pixel loads on the page, the tracking software counts a conversion.

So if you added a conversion pixel to your homepage, then every time someone visited your homepage, you would track a conversion.  Clearly that’s not what you would want to do though.  Instead, you want to add the conversion pixel to the page immediately after the webform you’re going to track.  Typically that page is called the webform “thank you” page because most of those pages say something like, “Thank you for completing the form…”

Once you add the conversion pixel to all of your “thank you” pages, then you’ll automatically track every time the form is completed.  Again, in the most basic form of tracking you’ll simply count conversions.  With Google AdWords conversion tracking, much more information is sent back to your account so that you know exactly which ad, keyword, placement, date and time of day, and even the geography of the visitor.


How Conversion Tracking Has Changed (For the Better)

As I said earlier, Google updated their conversion tracking this past week to give advertisers even more control over how conversions are tracked in AdWords.  Before this update, all conversions were treated the same way.  When the pixel loaded, Google counted a conversion.  If the pixel loaded again, then another conversion was counted.

Can you see how this could cause confusion in your AdWords reports?  What if a prospect requested two different free reports or white papers from your website?  Is that really 2 conversions?

No, that’s just one conversion because it’s really just one new lead for your business.  In fact, if that same prospect later signed up for a demo, then I think that’s still only one conversion from your AdWords campaign.

However, if you have an e-commerce site and one customer makes several purchases, then it makes sense to track each purchase right?  You would want to know if some keywords and ads are generating multiple purchases because that has a real impact on the ROI of your campaigns.

With the old AdWords conversion tracking, you couldn’t control how your different conversions were counted. There wasn’t any flexibility. :)

Now with flexible conversions, you can tell Google how you want to count your conversions.  Your options are:

  • Unique Conversions – With this option you’ll only track one conversion regardless of how many times the same visitor triggers your conversion pixel.  Use this whenever you’re tracking leads because one lead is only one lead no matter how many times she “converts.”
  • All Conversions – With this option you’ll track every single conversion just like the old tracking code.  Use this to track online sales so you see exactly how many sales are generated from your AdWords campaign.


By default your conversion count will be set to “All Conversions.”  If that’s not appropriate for your types of conversions, then I recommend you log in and edit the conversion count setting.  This can be found in the Conversions section of your Google AdWords campaign.  Once you make that edit, then you’re all set and your reports will start tracking more accurately.