Setting Up Conversion Tracking

Data report graphs and pie charts

AdWords would be pretty useless without this itty bitty thing called conversion tracking.

Actually, they didn’t have conversion tracking when AdWords was set up, but soon enough Google realised that finding out what happens after an ad is clicked would be pretty useful. Indeed, AdWords without conversion tracking is like waffles without syrup—quite unappealing. You can track your conversions for free on AdWords, so why wouldn’t you?

Knowing exactly how visitors convert is immensely valuable to any and every business, so you can take that information and run with it. It gives you total power and control over your ads—if an ad is generating leads and sales pretty well, you can find out how to increase it even further, and if an ad is an absolute underperformer and doesn’t generate any conversions, you can stop paying for it until you optimise your ad copy, keywords and/or your site pages.

Can’t I Just Use Analytics Goals and Transactions?

Fair question. It’s not only AdWords that offers customer activity tracking. We’ve spoken about Google Analytics a lot in Chapter 3 and come back to it now because Google Analytics goals are a great way to take a sneak peek into what your clients are doing on your site. Great news is that you don’t have to choose between Analytics goals or AdWords conversion tracking—you can have the best of both worlds and use them in tandem for biggest insight. Read about linking Google Analytics and AdWords.

The pros of Analytics are that you can track the entire flow of customers on your site and not just the ones which become conversions. That way, you can get a realistic picture of what the traffic of your business looks like. Plus, you can include conversions from non-AdWords sources too. Meanwhile, AdWords conversion tracking is perfect in situations when the primary interest is only in conversions from AdWords sources.

Setting up Conversion Tracking & Generating Conversion Tracking Code

So here is what you do:

  1. Go to your AdWords account, click on Tools and select Conversions.
  2. Click to set up a +Conversion or select an existing conversion.
  3. Select the Website option.
  4. Enter a Name, Value and Count for your conversion and click Done.
  5. Adjust the Conversion Windows as well as the Category of your conversion.
  6. When you’re happy with all the settings, click Save and continue.
  7. Choose either option: Save instructions and tag (if you’ll be installing the code on the site yourself) or Email instructions and tag (if your webmaster will be installing the code for you).

Conversion Settings

In the above section, we referred to some conversion settings that we’d like to take our time to explain right now. There are six simple settings that you should be aware of so that you make the best of your conversions data, and mine some good data to make you rich! Quite possible anyway.

1. Name

Simply the name that you wish to give the conversion you’re about to track. Don’t be tempted to put in random mumbo-jumbo or numbers one through nine, as you’ll later need this name to identify conversions easily.

2. Value

Your conversions can either have the same value, differing values or you can also choose to not assign a value at all. When you choose the conversions to have the same value, a £10 purchase and a £10,000 purchase will be counted as the same. See the problem with that? That’s why you can also enter varying values depending on the size of the contribution the conversion makes to your business.

3. Count

You can choose whether to count every conversion per ad click or just one. If you’re not sure, the option ‘every’ is the better one for sales, while ‘one’ is better for generating leads.

4. Conversion window

You have the flexibility to choose how long you’d like to track conversions after someone clicks on your ad, up to a maximum of 90 days. There’s also view-through conversion window if you’d like to track conversions from impressions rather than ad clicks (up to 30 days).

5. Category

Pretty self-explanatory, really. You can identify a conversion as a purchase/sale, sign-up, lead or view of a key page.

6. Include in “conversions”

This is selected by default, meaning that the data for the conversion will be included in “Conversions” reporting column.

There are more advanced settings and sub-settings within conversion reporting, but we’ll leave those to the advanced users. If you’re interested to delve deeper into this subject, then the Google AdWords pages will offer you plenty of reading material.

Putting the Code on Your Website

Once the tracking code is generated, you need to either place it on your site yourself or have someone else do it for you. If you aren’t that tech savvy, we’d advise that you get someone in the know to do it instead of you messing up bits of your sites coding. Trust us—it’s definitely worth paying a freelancer for an hour’s worth of work to get this done.

Yet, if you aren’t afraid of a few lines of code and have a can-do attitude (and know how to revert a site back to its previous version just in case something goes wrong), then go ahead and follow our instructions. Here is how you place the generated code on your site to track conversions:

  1. Open the HTML for the page that your customers see after they’ve completed a conversion, i.e. the page they reach when they purchase something or sign up for a newsletter.
  2. Then, find the bit of code called ‘body tags’ which look like this <body></body> and paste the code in between tags.
  3. Save the changes and your site should be all updated and good to go!

Please note that AdWords will usually take a couple of hours to update to reflect your newly configured conversion tracking and in some cases it might even take up to 24 hours. So wait a day before you go mental, trying to figure out why your conversion tracking code ‘isn’t working’. The page might not even have updated yet!

Track Mobile App Conversions (iOS and Android)

Don’t fret. Although we’ve mainly focused on site conversion tracking, the same tools exist for mobile apps too. It doesn’t matter if they’re based on iOS or Android—there’s plenty of excellent data waiting to be unearthed.

App installs from Google Play

Android only, duh—because Google owns this app store, it’s easy to track conversions and you don’t even need to add a tracking tag to your app code.

App installs

First open—this option can be used to track apps that are downloaded from stores other than Google Play such as the App Store, and you can use this in addition to the first conversion tracking option above if you’ve got an Android app.

In-app actions

This will offer you valuable data about everything your customers do while in your app—from buying stuff, to signing up, to advancing a level, et cetera.

The entire installation process for app conversion tracking is identical to the site tracking we’ve outlined above, except you must choose “App” instead of “Website” tracking when prompted. For a comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to set-up app tracking, check out this Google page for Android or this one for iOS tracking. It’s guaranteed to always be up-to-date and, let’s be honest, is the best resource for AdWords there is.

Target CPA Bidding (previously, Conversion Optimizer)

It wouldn’t be Google if there wasn’t yet another tool to make your life easier and your business more profitable. Cue Target CPA bidding—a handy piece of software that can get you the most conversions for the least amount of money. It might seem counter-intuitive that Google are volunteering to let you spend less money (thus profiting less themselves), but Target CPA bidding really does highlight the customer friendliness of AdWords.

So, rather than focusing on the quantity of clicks or impressions, the main goal is to find that balance between cost and income—the cost-per-acquisition (CPA) if we’re being totally technical. The tool uses historical data to optimise your conversions: you will still pay for your ads per click, but you won’t be needing to go and manually adjust the bids to reach your goals. Excellent!

It definitely doesn’t hurt to try this automated bid strategy and it does a lot of the dirty work for you, which could eliminate the need to hire an AdWords professional if you don’t have the resources for it.


Hopefully your conversion tracking will go swimmingly, but just in case something does go wrong, there is a way to test your tracking tags. The testing will help you verify that Google AdWords can ‘see’ your tag and is recording the data necessary to track your conversions and if any issues arise, there are plenty of ways to troubleshoot them.

Is my conversion running?

You can check the status of your conversion by going to Tools and then clicking on Conversions to see the full list of all the conversions that you have set up. There are multiple possibilities as to what you can see:


Google has had too little time to verify if the tag is actually on your site; if it’s been more than 24 hours though, then follow the ‘confirm and verify’ steps in the section below.

No recent conversions

There hasn’t been a conversion in the last seven days; troubleshoot as to why no one is converting.

Recording conversions

This is the status that you want to see; your conversions are being recorded and everything’s alright with the tag.

Tag inactive

Google cannot see your tag and there were no conversions in the last week; it could be that the tag is on the wrong page or something has gone wrong with your site or ad campaigns.


The conversion tag has been removed, but you can add it back by selecting Enabled.

Confirm and Verify

After you set up your tag, you should confirm and verify it, so you know that everything has gone according to plan. And then plan was to track your site conversions to maximise your profits, remember? Here’s what you do to confirm:

Visit the conversion page and check the source code of this particular page (right click and choose View Page Source on Chrome).

Browse the page to locate the tag code which will appear like so: <! — Google Code for {Action name} Conversion Page –>”.

If the code isn’t there, something must’ve gone wrong. Go back to our chapter on Putting the Code on Your Website.

Now, to verify that the code is working, you can perform four actions, two of them free and two of them which will charge you for clicking on your own ad:

Tag assistant

You can only use this Google extension on Google’s own browser Chrome; you can download it here and it will troubleshoot and resolve any tag problems you may have.

Wait for conversion

Quite simply hang around and wait for a conversion to appear; if it does, then you know your conversion tracking is working just fine.

Complete a test

Probably the simplest way to test your tag is to run a Google search for your keywords, click on your ad (keep in mind you’ll have to pay for your own click) and complete a conversion; wait for your completed conversion to appear on AdWords within 24 hours.

Use Google Site Stats

Run a Google search for your keyword, click on your ad and complete on a conversion (all of this will cost you); if you’ve installed Google Site Stats, which is a small text block on the conversion pages where you’ve placed your tag, it’s presence on the conversion page will confirm that your conversion tracking is working well.