Columnist Jacob Baadsgaard makes the case that proper conversion tracking in your AdWords accounts can provide better and more helpful insights for optimizing your campaigns.
The goal of any good marketing campaign is conversions — or better yet, sales.
Yes, key performance indicators (KPIs) like rankings and traffic can help you figure out whether or not your campaigns are on track, but if your marketing doesn’t lead to action (a conversion), it isn’t doing your business a whole lot of good.
Obviously, the more conversions you can squeeze out of your traffic, the better, which is why conversion rate optimization (CRO) has become such a hot topic in digital marketing.
But what if I told you that you could increase your conversion rate by 45 percent… today?
Odds are, you’d probably think I was full of it. And, to be honest, you’d be partially right. Most companies can’t produce those sorts of conversion rate increases overnight. That being said, most marketers really can improve their apparent conversion rates by 45 percent in just one day.
Looking at conversion tracking
If you want to boost your conversion rates, you need to track all of your conversions. This seems obvious, right? After all, if you don’t know how many conversions you were getting, how will you know whether or not your new results are better?
The only problem is, most marketers aren’t tracking all their conversions. In fact, a significant number aren’t tracking any conversions.
As a result, these businesses are marketing blind (or at least with severe cataracts).
For example, let’s look (okay, you got me, pun intended) at some data Disruptive Advertising has put together on AdWords conversion tracking.
Tracking conversions in AdWords
In my opinion, AdWords is one of the best advertising mediums for tracking conversions.
First of all, paid search is usually pretty low-funnel advertising: people are looking for something, they do a search for it, see your ad, they click on it and (hopefully) convert. That makes attributing conversions fairly straightforward.
Second, Google offers a range of easy-to-implement conversion tracking options, ranging from reporting form completions to offline sales.
The combination of these two elements makes AdWords an ideal platform for high-quality conversion tracking. So, odds are, if you’re not tracking all your conversion actions in AdWords, you probably aren’t tracking them on your other marketing channels, either.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how effectively advertisers are tracking conversions in AdWords:
After auditing more than 2,000 AdWords accounts, we discovered that only 58 percent of AdWords accounts track conversions.
The remaining 42 percent of advertisers can’t tell if their campaigns are working.
But here’s the thing: of that 58 percent of advertisers who were tracking conversions, about half were only tracking a portion of their conversion actions.
For example, if you’re a plumber, most of your leads don’t fill out a form — they call.
However, your typical plumbing company doesn’t track calls, it tracks form submissions. And when that company goes to optimize their campaigns, they end up optimizing for the least important conversions!
This problem isn’t limited to plumbers, either. I’ve seen countless AdWords accounts with hundreds of thousands of clicks and only a few conversions.
Now, technically, those companies fall into the “58 percent of AdWords advertisers track conversions” statistic I just mentioned, but their “conversion tracking” doesn’t tell them much about their campaigns.
So, if we only look at businesses that actually have effective conversion rate tracking in place, that leaves us with a mere 29 percent of AdWords advertisers.
The other 71 percent have no real idea how their campaigns are performing.
How inadequate tracking affects your apparent conversion rate
Now, all of that is well and good, but the idea that most marketers aren’t effectively tracking campaign performance is hardly breaking news.
The real question is, how many conversions are they missing out on?
Let’s take another look at our data. In general, an average AdWords account has a conversion rate of two to three percent.
Makes sense, right? The majority of AdWords accounts convert zero to five percent of their traffic.
But there’s a problem: this data is skewed.
Remember how only 29 percent of AdWords accounts are effectively tracking conversions? Well, the preceding graph shows conversion rates for all advertisers in our study that were tracking any sort of conversions. They were tracking some conversions, but because they weren’t tracking all of their conversions, their conversion rates are artificially low.
To be fair, though, we aren’t the only ones to have made this mistake. WordStream ran a similar analysis a couple of years back and found that the average AdWords account had a conversion rate of 2.35 percent (our average conversion rate was 2.18 percent).
The lowest-performing 25 percent of accounts converted just zero to one percent of their traffic (we had the same results). The highest-performing 25 percent had conversion rates of 5.31 percent or more (5.34 percent in our study).
Makes sense. Same study, same results.
But what happens if you do what WordStream couldn’t and only look at conversion rates from the 29 percent of AdWords accounts that we knew from our audit process were effectively tracking conversions?
As it turned out, those accounts with poor conversion tracking were heavily skewing our conversion rate data. Here’s what the conversion rate breakdown for AdWords accounts really looks like:
When you include all conversions, the average AdWords account converts 3.16 percent of its traffic (remember, the average conversion rate for all AdWords accounts with conversion tracking was 2.18 to 2.35 percent).
That means the average AdWords advertiser isn’t tracking 45 percent or more of their conversions. Can you imagine what conversion tracking is like for other marketing channels?
Improving your conversion rate
So, can you really improve your conversion rate by 45 percent in one day? Well, if you’re like the average AdWords advertiser, the answer is yes.
Now, technically, you’re not actually increasing your number of conversions, but your conversion rate will improve and actually become a useful marketing indicator.
To do this, you need to start tracking everything that matters to your business — form submissions, sign-ups, live chats, phone calls — everything!
Fortunately, this really isn’t that hard. Google has a great guide to implementing conversion tracking in AdWords here. If you still have questions after going through their materials, let me know on social media, and I’ll see what I can do to help you out.
Getting your tracking on track isn’t just about making your marketing return on investment look good for investors, either (though it certainly will make you look good). Setting up effective tracking will give you the tools you need to truly optimize your conversion rate.
For example, you (like those plumbers we mentioned earlier) might have a campaign that produces a lot of great call leads but very few form submissions. If you aren’t tracking calls, that campaign might look like a waste of money.
However, if you start tracking everything (including calls), it will quickly become obvious that this campaign is a real money-making opportunity.
Once you know that this campaign is a winner, you can put some serious effort into figuring out why that campaign performs so well and use what you learn to improve not only the performance of that campaign, but other campaigns as well.
But, you can’t do any of that if you aren’t tracking everything.
Regardless of which marketing channels your business uses, you can’t run an effective marketing campaign without great data.
Unfortunately, tracking two-thirds of your conversions hardly counts as great data.
So, if you’re looking for great results from your advertising, it’s time to define your conversion actions and set up conversion tracking for all of them — your campaigns will thank me later.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.