Are Conversion Tracking Errors Manipulating Your Sales Numbers?

Conversion Tracking: AdWords & Google Analytics

It’s absolutely essential for advertisers to accurately monitor their customer’s purchasing path through Conversion Tracking.

Most of the time, if a customer is served an ad for a product they are interested in, they will click on it, visit the website, and hopefully make a purchase.

But sometimes, the sales funnel suffers a disconnect when a customer clicks on an ad, but decides to wait a few days before returning to the website to make a purchase. If your conversion tracking is not set up properly – you run the risk that you are not accurately monitoring the impact of your PLAs.

In the following post, we will discuss two of the most common conversion tracking issues among advertisers including:

  • Missed AdWords Conversions
  • Double Conversion Reporting in Google Analytics

 

Missed AdWords Conversions Tracking Error:

To better explain how a missed Google AdWords conversion can occur we will use the example below:

Sam wants to buy a wireless Bluetooth speaker. He Google searches “wireless Bluetooth speaker” and is served a PLA ad for a variety of products available. He decides to click on the Sony item from Best Buy below:

conversion tracking

Sam decides he really likes the Sony product because it has all the features he’s looking for and it comes with 4.5 star rating and tons of great reviews, but it’s almost $70, so he decides not to make a purchase right away. He needs a few days to think about it.

Later, Sam decides he is ready to buy the Sony speaker. This time, he goes directly to BestBuy.com, finds the same Sony wireless Bluetooth speaker (from the initial PLA he was served days prior), adds to cart and makes the purchase. For this conversion, it’s pretty obvious that the PLA was a contributing factor in Sam’s journey from browser to purchase. If he was never served the ad in the first place, it’s likely he never would have found the product in Best Buy’s website on his own.

Unfortunately, what can happen in Google Analytics conversion tracking is – instead of giving credit to the PLA, advertisers will only see the conversion tracked through the direct URL (aka the Best Buy website).

So, what it looks like is Sam went directly to BestBuy.com to make his purchase. It appears (through conversion reports)that the PLA played no role in his path to purchase. (Which of course, is not true).

It’s kind of like getting the tail end of the story – we know the end result (the conversion) came from the website but unfortunately we never get to see the whole story play out and the path from Google search to PLA, which later led to a sale.

To avoid this issue, what we recommend is that advertisers set up a 30 day window in AdWords for conversions based off of last click.

In the example above – if the tracking was set up properly, the PLA Sam initially clicked on, prior to his purchase, would have received credit for the conversion value of $69.99, even if he purchased it days later.

This conversion reporting error can be amplified across an entire catalog. Sam is just one person but think of how many other shoppers could follow a similar path to purchase.

When advertisers analyze their conversion data within AdWords, it can look like they are investing in PLAs that are not converting at all – when the reality is, they are driving the customer to make a purchase.conversion tracking

Inevitably advertisers will start to identify products that don’t appear to be converting well (based on the conversion data) and may decide to down bid – which will cut impressions.

“This is why you want to make sure that you are tracking conversions through Google AdWords over a 30 day* window to give credit to AdWords (aka across all of your ads), so you can better allocate your marketing dollars moving forward,” George Anastopoulos, Client Development Analyst at CPC Strategy said.

“Unfortunately, many advertisers don’t realize this is happening. When your tracking conversions through Analytics, you probably have a lot more conversions through AdWords that you are not even aware of.”

*Pro-Tip: We typically recommend a 30 day window lookback period but it really depends on the product or item. For example, a $2,000 sofa might be better suited for an extended lookback period (of 90 days) rather than a $10 HDMI cable – which is likely to convert in a much shorter period of time. 

We see this specific conversion tracking error pretty often with small to mid-size business owners, who are juggling multiple aspects of their company and might not have the time dedicated to figuring out a reporting issue.

Double Conversion Reporting Error:

Another common issue we see is “double conversion” reporting.

Double conversion reporting can happen when an advertiser sets up conversions in both Google Analytics and AdWords (as seen in the red box example below).

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“It happens pretty frequently and it can be detrimental to a business because they think their campaigns are working well, when they are actually losing money,” Anastopoulos said.

For example, let’s say Sam clicked on a PLA for the wireless Bluetooth speaker. He then clicked through from the PLA to purchase the speaker right away.

If you have both Analytics and AdWords set up to track conversions what can happen is – one conversion will be reported as 2 separate conversions (1 on AdWords and 1 on Google Analytics) for a total sale of a $139.98 ($69.99 x 2). But in reality, it’s only one conversion, not two.

Double reporting conversions can occur when a customer converts on an item by clicking directly through the PLA.

So of these two reporting issues, which one is more common?

“My answer to that is probably the first one we discussed, the missing AdWords conversions,” Anastopoulos said.

“Business owners are under the assumption that their AdWords campaigns are not performing well and they can’t figure out why. They don’t always understand where the conversions are coming from, because according to the data – it looks like their customers are going directly to their website to make a purchase, rather than because of the influence of the PLA.”

We typically see the the double reporting issue among agencies or marketing managers who may be trying to boost sales numbers to make their performance look better or because they are completely unaware of this tracking error.

Want to learn more about conversion tracking? Email tara@cpcstrategy.com or check out our resources below.

Additional Resources

How to Set Up AdWords Offline Conversion Tracking

Are BigCommerce & Shopify Over-Reporting Your Adwords Conversions?

About the AuthorTara graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.S. in Journalism / Business. Her passion for creative publishing and quality reporting landed her work opportunities at several companies in Massachusetts, New York and California. She is a leading voice behind CPC Strategy’s Blog. See all posts by this author here.