When Are Conversions Attributed to Your PPC Campaigns?

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During our last blog series we discussed using the ad scheduling feature within Google AdWords to save time and money when managing a PPC campaign. That article sparked a few questions in regards to when a conversion is attributed within AdWords.

In the previous post, we provided tactics for using the ad scheduling feature to automatically just your keyword bids, or completely pause your ads at certain times of the day or days of the week. If you have the data to prove that your campaign performs best at certain times of the day, this tool can be invaluable! Knowing all of this, how and when does Google AdWords attribute conversions to your account?

When a user clicks on a Google ad, a tracking cookie is placed on their computer. This cookie is active for 30 days. This way, if the user clicks on your ad and comes back a week later, the conversion is still attributed to your campaign and your specific keyword.

However, keep in mind that this latent AdWords-generated conversion is attributed to your account when the initial click occurred, not when the conversion action takes place. This means that if someone clicks on your ad on April 1 and they return to your site to convert on April 24, this conversion will appear  within your reports on April 1.

I thought I’d dig a little deeper to see how and when other tracking sources attribute conversions to their accounts and reporting.

If you have goal funnels set up in Google Analytics (and you should), these conversion are attributed to your account on the day the action takes place.

Conversion reporting for Yahoo Search Marketing also utilizes a tracking cookie. This cookie is active for 45 days. Conversions are attributed within the Yahoo interface on the day the action takes place.

The tracking cookie for MSN adCenter lasts only 7 days. MSN works similar to Yahoo in the sense that they attribute conversions on the day the conversion action takes place.

As you can see, Google AdWords is the odd-ball out here. The rest of the PPC conversion tracking tools work similarly by tracking conversions on the day of the actual transaction. When creating your reports, you should keep all of this in mind. Within AdWords, a previous month’s performance may be better than you think, at least until that cookie expires.

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9 thoughts on “When Are Conversions Attributed to Your PPC Campaigns?

  1. Tribal


    Great to have this information clear, handy, and in one place for reference.

    To follow your example for Google, if a user clicks on an ad on April 1 and then a different ad on April 15, and then makes a first conversion on April 24, which date and which ad is the AdWords conversion credited to? What about in Google Analytics?

    Thank you.

  2. Loric

    On several of my campaigns the volume of attribued conversions (30 days) could improve my conversion by 20%

    It means that it’s important to be present during all the buying cycle. Being present today could give you conversions several days later.

    It’s essential to have these data in mind when you check your results.

  3. JoeJoe Post author

    @ Tribal: Within AdWords, I believe the conversion is attributed to the first click so this would include the keyword and ad that was clicked upon. This is why one way that Yahoo is very helpful because they provide assists which show if a keyword was clicked on but the user converted on a another keyword.

    @ Loric: Very good point! We have often written about the buying cycle and the importance have been visible at each stage. 🙂

  4. cris chico

    one interesting problem that i had is that the system was not tracking conversions for me on sales.

    only when i switched the conversion tracking to “other” with the dollar value in the amount field did the conversion tracking work.

    Lead conversions where being tracked fine.

    Not sure why this would be the case?

  5. Ellerton Whitney

    This post highlights the importance of tracking ALL your clicks that lead to conversions! If someone clicks on three different ads and three different keywords, and AdWords only attributes the conversion to one keyword, you could potentially cannibalize the performance of the other two keywords. And without those two keywords, the the conversion funnel may never have completed.

  6. Kerry Dye Vertical Leap

    @Tribal – Google Analytics is different. Analytics credits the conversion at the time of the conversion to the LAST WAY the customer entered your site. So in the example, if they entered your site on the 24th by typing your company name into Google, it would be tracked in Analytics as an organic conversion. Google Analytics therefore will show less Adwords conversions than your Adwords account.

  7. Suzy Bureau

    This is a great article! It’s literally the first one I could find on conversion attribution after the day of a click.

    I’m particularly interested in this section:

    “However, keep in mind that this latent AdWords-generated conversion is attributed to your account when the initial click occurred, not when the conversion action takes place.”

    I’m looking to verify this claim with a source from AdWords for a client. Did you run across any while writing this article?

    Thanks again for the great info!

    1. PPC Hero AllyPPC Hero

      Hi Suzy,

      In a lot of our accounts we’ve seen this behavior take place. We refer to it as a lagging conversion. There are times when the click is attributed to a different day than what our clients’ lead systems tell us, but for the most part it’s pretty much right on.

      We don’t have a link to something saying specifically that they do this (it’s weird that it isn’t immediately available), but this link pretty much implies that they track back to the original click.


      Hope that helps!

      1. Suzy Bureau

        This is incredibly helpful!

        It is pretty weird that there is no resource readily available, but all evidence I have seen on my end supports the lagging conversion concept.

        Thanks again!


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