Google Ads Conversion Tracking - Search Scientists

Google Ads Conversion Tracking vs Google Analytics: Which Makes More Sense For You?

Pop quiz: how do you determine the success of a website?

Now, many folks will say that a successful website is one that generates a ton of organic traffic. If you ask us, though, there are other important factors to consider… such as your website’s conversion rate.

Think about it this way: it doesn’t matter how much website traffic you get — you won’t be able to generate a large number of sales or leads if your conversion rate is abysmally low.

Bearing this in mind, it’s important to get your tracking sorted, so that you can:

  • Measure your conversions
  • Optimize your website for conversions
  • Increase your Average Revenue Per User (ARPU)

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through how to monitor your conversions using Google Ads Conversion Tracking and Google Analytics. (For the uninitiated, these are the two most common methods that website owners use to track conversions).

We’ll also discuss the pros and cons of each approach. That way you can decide whether using Google Ads Conversion Tracking or Google Analytics is a better fit for you.

Using Google Ads Conversion Tracking To Track Site Conversions

In a nutshell, Google Adwords Conversion Tracking is a feature that tells you what your prospects do after they interact with your ads.

Now, there are various things you can track here. These include website visits, add-to-carts, purchases, form sign-ups, app installs, in-app actions, and more.

The idea is that you set up Google Ads Conversion Tracking and define the actions you want to track. Once you’ve done that, Google Ads will identify these actions as conversions, and go on to measure them for you.

Benefits of Using Google Ads Conversion Tracking to Track Site Conversions

What are the key benefits of measuring conversions with Google Ads?

First and foremost, Google Ads gives you the flexibility of either counting a single conversion OR multiple conversions for each click on your ad.

With Google Analytics, however, you’re only able to count a single conversion per session.

If you’re not sure how this works, here’s an example: say you want to track the number of leads that fill up a form on your site.

Obviously, you’ll only want to count one lead once. (Even if they accidentally submit the form twice, it doesn’t make sense to double-count the lead).

Since that’s the case, it doesn’t matter if you use Google Ads or Google Analytics to track your conversions — either will work just fine.

If you’re tracking sales, on the other hand, you’d ideally like to track EVERY sale or sales transaction that occurred after a user clicked on your ad.

Picture this: someone sees your ad, clicks through to your site, and buys a pair of Adidas sneakers.

After they’ve completed their purchase, they think: Screw it, I’m going to treat myself and get another pair of sneakers. They then make a second purchase.

Now, if you’re doing your tracking via Google Ads, then you’ll be able to measure both of these transactions. If you’re using Google Analytics, however, it would only register the first purchase.

How to Set Up Google Ads Conversion Tracking

To set up Google Ads Conversion Tracking, you’ll have to:

  1. Create a Conversion Action within Google Ads
  2. Set up your conversion tracking tag

For the latter, you can either install the tag yourself, or use the Google Tag Manager.

Here’s a handy guide by Google that walks you through the entire process.

Using Google Analytics to Track Conversions

If you’re not keen on using Google Ads Conversion Tracking, another option is to rely on Google Analytics to keep track of your conversions.

To do this, you’ll have to link your Google Analytics account to your Google Ads account.

We’ll walk you through how to do this in a bit. But first, let’s explore the advantages that Google Analytics brings to the table.

Benefits of Using Google Analytics to Track Site Conversions

First things first — other than being able to track your conversions, linking your accounts up also provides you with a richer dataset, and more contextual information.

If you simply rely on Google Ads, and you don’t look at Google Analytics, you’ll only be able to see information about your Cost Per Click, Cost Per Conversion, etc.

But when you add Google Analytics into the mix, you get a goldmine of information about the steps your users take on your website. You can look at their path and flow, which page they exited your website via, etc. Then, you can use this information to fine-tune your ads and craft more effective ad campaigns.

On top of that, once you link your Google Analytics and Google Ads accounts, you’ll unlock more remarketing options and be able to create hyper-targeted remarketing lists based on Google Analytics’ Audience Definitions.

Remarketing with Audience Definitions

Now, you may or may not already be running remarketing ads that retarget users by website visits, specific URLs, etc, but trust us on this… using Audience Definitions will definitely bring about better results.

If this is the first time you’re hearing of Audience Definitions, these are basically custom variables that you can use to create cohorts (ie groups of users with similar behavior).

For instance, you can use Audience Definitions to serve tailored content and ads to users who:

  • Searched your site for a particular keyword or term
  • Landed on your site from a specific referral URL
  • Visited X number of pages in a single session
  • Started to fill in, but didn’t complete a form

To learn more about using Audience Definitions with your remarketing campaigns, read AdEspresso’s guide.

Using A Tag for Tracking

Moving on, when you use Google Analytics to track your conversions, you only need to install a single tag on all the pages of your website. 

That’s because Google Analytics only allows you to track one conversion per session, like we discussed previously. 

While Google Ads allows you to track multiple conversions per session, the downside is that you’ll have to configure multiple conversion tracking tags, and place the different tags on each individual page.

Last but not least, using Google Analytics allows you to keep an eye on not JUST your ad campaigns, but your other marketing efforts as well.

Why is this important?

Well, think of it this way: say you look at Google Ads alone, and you see that you’ve gotten 100 conversions in the past 3 days, which you’re pretty happy with.

But when you look at your other data, you might realize that your social channels and email campaigns generated 150 conversions each in the past 3 days… which means that your paid ads aren’t performing as well.

The bottom line? It helps to be able to have a high-level overview of your different marketing channels, instead of looking at each channel individually.

How to Use Google Analytics to Track Conversions

Want to rely on Google Analytics to track your ad conversions? Here’s a step-by-step process:

  1. Configure goals in Google Analytics (if not already done)
  2. Link your Google Analytics account to your Google Ads account
  3. Import Google Analytics goals and transactions into Google Ads

Click on the respective links to learn more about each step.

Discrepancies between Google Ads Conversion Tracking and Google Analytics

If you’ve got your Google Ads Conversion Tracking set up, and you’ve also linked your Google Analytics account to your Google Ads, you might notice discrepancies in the number of conversions reported.

Why is this the case?

Well, first and foremost, there’s that issue of Google Ads Conversion Tracking measuring multiple conversions (as opposed to Google Analytics, which measures only one).

On top of that, some internet users also disable and opt-out of Google Analytics, or block it using a firewall.

Whatever it is, it’s extremely rare for a website owner’s numbers to sync up in both Google Ads Conversion Tracking and Google Analytics, so we wouldn’t worry about this!

Google Analytics Tracking Code vs Adwords Conversion Tracking

So… should you use Google Ads Conversion Tracking or Google Analytics?

Assuming you’ve already got your goals configured inside Google Analytics, importing them into your Google Ads account is the easiest way to get started.

At the same time, using Google Analytics also provides you with some pretty sweet benefits. These include the ability to create hyper-targeted lists for remarketing and the ability to benchmark the performance of your PPC campaigns against your other marketing initiatives.

Bearing this in mind, we’d say that most folks might prefer to default to using Google Analytics.

In the case that you need to count multiple conversions in a single session, though, then Google Ads Conversion Tracking will definitely be more up your alley.

So sit down and think about which method suits your needs better… then make your decision from there!

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Cherie Foo

Cherie is a full-stack marketer who is in love with writing and communications, and fascinated by the power and precision of digital marketing. Her greatest personal achievement to date is surviving a 48-hour bus trip in Vietnam -- in which she was jammed shoulder to shoulder with strangers (and live chickens which were illegally smuggled on board).

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