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Stop Importing Google Analytics Goals into Google Ads

It’s our duty as PPC marketers to get the word out there that you should stop importing Google Analytics Goals into Google Ads. 

Having reviewed hundreds of Google Ads accounts over the past three years, we’ve observed over 45% of accounts we’re reviewing are importing & optimising for Google Analytics goals. 

It’s one of the biggest barriers to identifying the true value of the platform and ultimately hindering advertisers from scaling. 

In this post, we’ll provide an all-encompassing rundown of this issue, including working screenshots of comparing Google Analytics goals & Google Ads conversion tracking. Plus, how to set up better tracking so you can take your Google Ads account to the next level. 

 

Google Analytics Default Attribution

Firstly, it’s crucial to understand how Google Analytics attributes conversions and transactions by default. This setting cannot be changed unless your pockets run deep and you’re willing to invest in Google Analytics 360, which let’s face it, is not likely for most SMB’s.  

The default attribution model in Google Analytics is last-click. Let’s make this visual by showing a users path to conversion as it’s easier to understand. 

In the example provided above, when reviewing metrics within the Google Analytics traffic source/medium report, the conversion would get allocated to Google Organic. 

Why not direct you may ask?  

Google Analytics gives the attribution to any traffic source that wasn’t direct unless the user only came directly to your website and then converted. 

 So why is this a problem? That’s a great question and I’m glad you asked. 

Google CPC was the first touch in the customer journey, and arguably the most important. When importing Google Analytics goals into GA, despite Google CPC playing a massive part in the path to conversion, the keyword responsible would not have received attribution for the conversion. 

Over time, this can lead to switching off keywords that are actually providing value to your business, reducing bids on top-performing segments (age/gender/time of day/day of week/household income/device/etc) or worse yet, deciding that Google Ads is not running profitably and sadly switching off ads. 

 

Use Google Ads Conversion Tracking Instead 

There are two main types of conversions that we set up for clients, and depending on the campaign strategy, we dictate at a campaign level which conversion actions we’re going to optimise for. 

If we’re launching a new account for a client that hasn’t run ads, or running display advertising for any client, we set up “Micro” conversion actions. A Micro conversion action may be tracking:

  •  Engagement
    • Time on site
    • Pages/session 
    • Button clicks
  • Pageviews 
    • User landed on “get a free quote” page but hasn’t submitted en enquiry
    • User hits “get a free demo” and lands on Calendly form but doesn’t submit an enquiry

The purpose of Micro conversions is to gather insights & data on additional signals so we can put our optimisation hats on sooner than if we were just relying on “Macro” conversion actions. 

For established accounts, we tend to stick to running Macro conversion actions. These are the obvious goals that you want to set up, such as:

  • Transactions
  • Form Submissions
  • Phone Calls from Website

Whatever it is that you’re wanting to track, it can all be achieved with Google Ads Conversion Tracking. 

Let’s now take a look at a screenshot of the conversion page within Google Ads. This is a client of ours that was previously running Google Analytics transactions before we set up Google Ads Conversion Tracking.

As you can see in the “all conv. Value” (revenue) column, in the exact same date range, Google Analytics has attributed $13,248 of revenue to Google Ads. Meanwhile, the Google Ads Conversion Tracking has attributed $23,254 to Google Ads. 

That’s a 75% difference! 

Let’s let that sink in for a minute… 

Now I know what you might be thinking at this point. What if we don’t want to give 100% of the attribution to Google Ads. Other traffic sources within a conversion path are also important and we need to attribute conversions to those sources as well. 

I completely understand that, and you can do that with Google Analytics. That’s not the purpose of what we’re trying to achieve as PPC marketers. Our goal is to make Google Ads as profitable as possible, and to do so, optimising an account like the one mentioned above with an additional $10,006 worth of revenue means we can pull on additional leavers that weren’t otherwise available. 

How you decide to attribute conversions in order to make business decisions is completely up to you. And thanks to Google Analytics, within the “Conversions” -> “Multi-Channel Funnels” -> “Model Comparison Tool”, you can actively change the “last-click” default attribution setting that we discussed to models such as:

Side note – The data in the Multi-Channel Funnels reports can be delayed 24-36 hours beyond the data shown in other Google Analytics reports. 

It’s also worth mentioning that Google Ads continues to put a large emphasis on smart bidding. Everything seems to be heading in that direction whether we like it or not. 

Therefore, the more data you are able to feed the system, the better it’s going to be at optimising for your ideal, converting customer. 

 

Ever Heard of View-Through Conversions?  

Let’s just say this is the icing on the cake when it comes to utilising Google Ads conversion tracking over Google Analytics. But let’s first talk about what a VT conversion actually is. 

To put it simply, a view-through conversion happens when a user is cookied after being shown a display ad without a click but later comes to your site and converts.

View-through conversions are particularly important to review when it comes to display advertising, both on prospecting and retargeting levels. Without this data, it can be extremely difficult to understand the performance and value of display advertising. 

The result, again, would be pausing off display ads that are actually resulting in conversions (just not direct conversions). 

Check this screenshot out from one of our clients:

In this particular scenario, from over $900 of ad spend, our display campaigns have only generated 6 direct conversions. However, they have contributed to an additional 91 view-through conversions. 

If you were using imported Goals from Google Analytics, you won’t be able to see view-through conversions within Google Ads, and therefore, couldn’t see the greater effect these campaigns are having on your business. 

 

It’s Relatively Easy to Set Up 

In most cases, it’s no harder than setting up Google Analytics tracking. You’re (hopefully) using Google Tag Manager to track events & forms – this can be achieved exactly the same way by using GTMs in-built Google Ads tracking tags. These tags are set to fire on the same triggers you were using for Google Analytics. If you are just using straight thank you pages in GA, a simple page view trigger can be created to achieve the same result.

Things get slightly more difficult when we are talking about revenue tracking unless you use Shopify or an equivalent platform. Google’s documentation on this setup is extensive, along with countless other tutorials, etc for the various cart plugins.

If you want help setting up your first Google Ads Conversion, or want to chat about GTM, please reach out to us and we’d be more than happy to lend a hand. 

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About The Author
Josh Somerville

Josh is Farsiight’s Founder, Head of Growth & Spiritual Leader (or so the team call him). A PPC Marketer with over a decade of experience working both agency & client side for SMB’s to Fortune 500’s.  When he's not busy with strategy, he's still trying to beat his 60-year-old Dad at triathlon, the struggle is real.

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