All too often I see small to medium-sized businesses spending considerable amounts of marketing dollars on PPC campaigns without having implemented even the most basic of tracking solutions. Other businesses seem to accept that Google’s Conversion Tracking is as good as it gets, and have yet to realize the benefits of having more detailed (but still very simple) goal, event, ecommerce, and custom variable tracking in Google Analytics.
Google AdWords and Google Analytics provide fantastic free of charge functionalities for tracking, measuring, and evaluating the performance of your PPC and non-PPC marketing campaigns, helping you to make more informed decisions about how to improve your return on investment (ROI) from your online marketing activities.
Here we will explore 4 tracking opportunities, which could help you better understand and improve the return on investment (ROI) of your online marketing activities. Depending on your website, all 4 tracking methods may not be relevant, but most websites should look to implement at least two of the below.
Google AdWords Conversion Tracking allows you see which of you Google AdWords campaigns, ad groups, keywords, ads, and search queries are resulting in a desired action. When setting up conversion tracking, you specify what you are trying to measure (e.g. ‘signup’, ‘purchase’, ‘enquiry’ etc.), and you are provided with a piece of tracking code that should be place on your ‘thank you’ or ‘order confirmation’ page. Every time a conversion happens on your website, this conversion tracking code loads and sends data back to Google AdWords, allowing you to see which of your PPC keywords and ads are working better than others.
Conversion tracking is great for measuring the primary goal of your website. If your primary goal is an online sale, conversion tracking would be ideal for measuring online sales. If the primary purpose of your website is to generate leads, it would make sense that conversion tracking should measure your online enquiries. For websites which are more brand-based, you might instead want to measure an indicator of engagement such as the view of your store locator or ‘find out more’ page.
Installing conversion tracking simply involves placing a piece of conversion tracking code on your order confirmation or thank you page. Instructions can be found here.
Unlike Google AdWords conversion tracking, where conversion data only applies to your Google AdWords campaigns, Google Analytics goals allow you to add conversion data to all of your Google Analytics reports.
This means that Google Analytics goals allow you to also track conversions of non-PPC traffic sources, such as Google organic search, Bing search, Yahoo search, and Facebook and YouTube referrals.
Similarly to Google AdWords conversion tracking, you should look to set up goals that measure a desired user interaction (e.g. signup, registration, enquiry, view of the contact page etc). However, unlike Conversion Tracking, goal data for different goals are kept separate in your Google Analytics reports, allowing you to track up to 20 different goals and monitor each goal separately.
For ecommerce websites that allow visitors to make an online purchase, Google Analytics ecommerce tracking allows you to add sales and revenue data to your Google Analytics reports. Some additional coding to your website is required to define parameters such as sales, revenue, shipping, SKU, product / service name, but once implemented, will enable you to attribute dollar amounts to each of your Google Analytics reports.
Ecommerce tracking is great for measuring sales and revenue, so only really applies to websites that allow visitors to make an online purchase.
Ecommerce tracking involves adding some additional coding on your website to define values such as quantity, revenue, tax, shipping cost, SKU, and product description. Instructions for installing ecommerce tracking can be found here and here.
Google AdWords conversion tracking has a maximum cookie length of 30 days, which means that if a sale or signup happens from a Google PPC keyword after 30 days, it will not be attributed to that Google PPC keyword.
Although Google Analytics has a longer default cookie length of 6 months, if a Google PPC visitor returns to the website via another recognized source (e.g. Google organic, referral etc), then the newest referring source will overwrite Google PPC as the referrer, and receive credit for the sale (last click attribution). This means that Google AdWords conversion tracking data and Google Analytics goal tracking data will never be exactly the same, while purchases after 30 days will not being attributed to the source which delivered the first-click.
To overcome these problems, it is possible to define custom variables in Google Analytics, so that any conversions or revenue that arises from a Google PPC ad gets assigned to Google PPC, regardless of whether the visitor later goes on to make a returning visit from another traffic source. This will allow more accurate measurement of conversions and revenue from Google PPC ads (or any other traffic source) up to 6 months after the visitor clicked on your ad.
If your website requires users to sign up, you can even track revenue if the visitor later returns to the website via a different computer. By creating a custom variable which collects the visitor’s email address (or username), and by tagging your Google AdWords destination URLs with this custom variable, you can then assume that any purchase or revenue from usernames or email addresses which have this custom variable must have come from a Google PPC ad.
Custom variable tracking is great for measuring the long-term value of visitors where your product or service may have a purchase lag time of more than 30 days. It’s also great for free trials, where sales are unlikely to occur until after the free trial has ended.
To implement custom variables in Google Analytics, you’ll need to install some additional coding on your website, and tag your PPC URLs with these custom variables. Instructions for installing custom variables in Google Analytics can be found here.
Taking the time and effort to implement useful tracking is a worthwhile investment to set the foundations more accurate measurement of your website performance. The above 4 methods will provide more than enough tracking insight for all but the most complex of websites, and will allow more intelligent and informed decisions about how to improve your ROI from your PPC marketing.
So consider the primary and secondary objectives of your website, and look to install conversion tracking, goal tracking, ecommerce tracking, and custom variable tracking as soon as possible. Once you get used to having an abundance of useful and informative data at your fingertips, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without.