Let’s take a minute and talk about conversion tracking— the process that, you know, lets you know when your PPC campaigns are successful, and when they are not. Pretty important stuff, yeah?

But rather than take the notion of “conversion tracking is important” at face value, perhaps a high-level explanation of why is in order.

Why is Conversion Tracking Important?

Imagine that Frodo had embarked on his journey to Mordor without one Samwise Gamgee at his side (what a fateful decision it was to eavesdrop from that rosebush!). Samwise was his advisor, his encourager, his moral support, and his voice of reason. If Frodo’s safe delivery of the One Ring to Mordor was the goal of Campaign Fellowship, Sam was the conversion tracking. Metaphorically.

Imagine that Harry had never bonded over chocolate frog cards with Hermione and Ron on that first time aboard the Hogwarts Express. In the battle against supreme darkness, his support, his guiding light, his conversion tracking would never have been there to illumine the way, to let Harry know when he was on the path to righteousness, or when he was just being a smarmy chumbucket.

Imagine that Luke Skywalker, steering his X-Wing towards the most fearsome spacestation the galaxy had ever seen, with the fate of all benevolent life resting on his shoulders, chose to NOT use the highly effective targeting device installed on his flightcraft…okay, maybe that one’s a bad example.

Conversion tracking shows you precisely where in your account value lay. You wouldn’t get on a highway across the country without knowing you were headed in the right direction. Conversion tracking’s your road map.

If the metaphors aren’t doing it for you, here’s the literal translation for you high-and-tight folk: conversion tracking gauges your success. You, the advertiser, choose an action that you want to achieve with your digital advertising. Conversion tracking tells you when, and from where, that action is completed.

Conversion tracking measures and reports the efficacy of your advertising.

How Does Conversion Tracking Work?

I’m glad you asked.

Once you set up a conversion in AdWords, you’ll be provided with a snippet of code that needs to be placed on the “thank you” or “confirmation” page that often succeeds the completion of a lead generation form or purchase.

That will look something like this:

Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 12.49.56 AM

This code will only be activated when someone reaches the page upon which the code has been placed by a user who has clicked on a paid advertisement inside the conversion window.


The conversion will then be attributed at the following levels:

Search term – if you download a search term report, you’ll be able to find out exactly what query the searcher used to trigger your keyword, before eventually converting. This is a great method for discovering new, efficient keywords to incorporate in your account.

Keyword – in the AdWords interface, you’ll be able to see which one of your keywords is accruing the most conversions. These are your most valuable conversions, and you will want to bid on them accordingly, or even go so far as to work your account structure around them.

Ad group – much like keywords, conversions can also be tracked at the ad group level, though you’re probably better off mining down to the keyword level to find some more meaningful information.

Ad – by opening up the “ads” tab in the interface, you’ll be able to see which ads have been clicked that eventually led to a conversion action. This data can be highly relevant, and will be used by AdWords if the “optimize ads for conversion” automation feature is enabled.

Campaign – yep, you can see your conversions at the campaign level too. This is important because the campaign level is the only place in the account where you have budget control. So, here is where you can throw your money at funnels that are producing results, or where you can pump the breaks on funnels that are not. Generally speaking, these decisions are made with the conversion column close at hand.

Once you understand precisely what conversion tracking is, how to use it, and what sorts of information it can illuminate, it’s time to set your knowledge in motion. Here are some resources from my colleagues to help guide the way.