If you run campaigns in Google Ads or Microsoft Advertising that are focused on lead acquisition, then you know how vital accurate conversion tracking is to your optimization efforts. Without it, you have no idea if the campaigns you’re running are succeeding at growing your business or are just wasting your marketing budget.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, so let me get to my next point: as helpful and as accurate as they may be, your first-stage conversions (raw leads, initial contacts, etc.) aren’t good enough anymore.

You and all of your competitors are spending a good chunk of money going after these same initial touchpoints from prospective customers, but these leads don’t tell you anything about their quality or potential value. Just because you acquire more of these leads doesn’t mean they’re necessarily going to translate into more revenue for your business. If these types of leads are all you’re currently relying on, it’s time for you to step up your game. You need to be able to weigh the true value these conversions have against the dollars you’re investing in getting them.

So, how do you do that? The answer is straightforward: you need to track more qualified or advanced lead stages within your sales funnel (e.g., marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads, closed sales). More importantly, you need to get these lead stages reflected in your paid SEM accounts through an automated offline conversion tracking process. Doing this will allow the machine learning within Google, Microsoft, or whatever platform you’re using, to reference these additional lead stages and, thereby, the weighted values of your conversions so they and you can make the best optimization decisions possible to grow your business.

In this post, we’re going to cover how to set up an automated process for offline conversion tracking, assigning the right values to these offline conversions, and using them to optimize your campaigns’ performance. For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to speak to this as it pertains to Google Ads from this point on, but please note that this concept and methodology probably can and should be replicated across any paid digital advertising platform you’re using.

Automating Offline Conversion Tracking

Offline conversion tracking is simply taking what happens to a lead after its initial submission and importing that information into your account. An initial conversion’s progress through your sales funnel doesn’t get tracked through normal “out of the box” conversion tracking. Instead, it must be imported from an outside source such as your CRM. For these offline conversions to get accounted for in your account continually and consistently without the need for manual uploads, you’re going to want to set up an automated process

There are three main steps you need to complete to automate offline conversion tracking:

1. Identify the appropriate lead stages within your CRM that you want to track. If you have several stages a potential customer reaches before they close, you could use all of them. Conversely, you can also use the two stages most sales funnels have regardless of their complexity: qualified lead and closed sale. However, many of thethese stages you want to use are up to you—just be sure each one you choose can have a proper value assigned to it.

2. Set up conversions for each of these lead stages within your Google Ads account. You’ll choose the import option for each of these conversions you set up and give each a unique name. You’ll also create the corresponding export files from your CRM for each of these conversions.

3. Within the settings for each conversion in Google Ads, you’ll define what they are, set the methodology (FTP, HTML, or Google Sheets), and define the schedule for these imports to occur.

Assigning a Value to Your Conversion Imports

Equally as important as setting up these conversions and automating this process, you’ll need to ensure a dollar amount value is ascribed to each conversion you import. You can do this in the conversion settings within Google Ads and choose to either include a value from your CRM included in the CRM’s export file or set a static value within the conversion’s settings itself.

If your CRM doesn’t include dollar value amounts for lead stages before a closed sale, you can calculate the average value per lead stage (read: per conversion) by using your sales funnel conversion rates. For example, let’s say your average value per sale is $10,000. Use the following methodology to calculate the average value per lead stage:

Closed Sale ($10,000 avg. value per sale)

25% conversion rate from sales qualified lead stage

Sales Qualified Lead ($10,000 x 25% = $2,500 avg. value per SQL)

50% conversion rate from marketing qualified lead stage

Marketing Qualified Lead ($2,500 x 50% = $1,250 avg. value per MQL)

10% conversion rate from initial lead submission stage

Initial Lead ($1,250 x 10% = $125 avg. value per lead)

Along with that, you’ll want to select the right attribution model for each conversion as well. This model should match the one used for the other conversions that are already present in your account. Please note that if you’re using the data-driven model for your other conversions, you may need to wait until these new offline conversions accrue enough data before you’re eligible to make that switch.

The reason why it’s so vital to ensure you have your lead conversion values and attribution models squared away is because Google is transitioning to a value-based bidding environment. Manual CPC bidding has become arcane, and some of Google’s automated bidding solutions such as Maximize Clicks are on their way to becoming obsolete. Come 2022; you may not even be able to use click-based manual or automated bidding at all as you’ll be forced to use either Maximize Conversions (with an optional Target CPA) or Maximize Conversion Value (with an optional Target ROAS).

You don’t want to be caught unprepared by lacking these lead values in your Google Ads conversions when this change inevitably comes. Get ahead of the game this year: set up your offline conversions and assign values to all of your lead-based conversions within your account.

Use Offline Conversion Data to Optimize Better

Once everything is set up as it should be, you have two options to start using this data effectively:

  1. You can set these automated offline conversions to be included in your conversions column within Google Ads and see their effect directly within the UI.
  2. Suppose you don’t want to overhaul your Target CPA or Target ROAS bidding targets which are based on just the initial lead conversions already being tracked in your account. In that case, you can create a new report within Google Ads or Google Data Studio, which looks at all conversions.

As more of these offline conversions get recorded into your account and applied to your campaigns, you may see trends such as campaigns with the lowest average CPA for initial lead submissions not always translating to having the best avg. CPA for closed sales.

Making optimization decisions from these offline conversions will, over time, lead to more sales, more revenue, and more profit for your business.

The Takeaways

The digital marketing space is fast-evolving. If you’re currently relying solely on click-based bidding strategies or initial lead submissions, you’re lagging behind your competitors and risk falling even further behind as Google (and other platforms) change the way advertisers utilize campaigns and automated bidding. Be sure to set up and automate your offline conversions, include accurate values, and start utilizing them to achieve better results for your business.