Recently, Google announced that AdWords is changing the way it’s presenting conversions. It reads like a big change, but really it’s just a continuation of Google paying more attention to conversion metrics. This follows other recent changes that allow you to fully customize the length of time you track AdWords conversions after a click as well as upgrades made to conversion attribution modeling for multiple ad clicks.

There will be two primary changes for conversions: first, new names for their conversion data columns, and second, a new option for conversion tracking.


1. Which Conversion Data to Use? ‘Converted Clicks’ vs. ‘Conversions’

From the AdWords email:

  • Conversions (1-per-click) will be renamed ‘Converted clicks’. This new column name is a more accurate representation of what this column actually counts: clicks that result in at least one conversion.
  • Conversions (many-per-click) will be replaced by a new ‘Conversions’ column.

I appreciate brevity, but I’m not sure that ‘Converted clicks’ is a better name than Conversions (1-per-click). If a user clicks on two ads in a campaign, and then converts, do we have one ‘converting click,’ or two? Answer: One, and more specifically, the last ad click before conversion. Google then suggests that you pay more attention to what was formerly Conversions (many-per-click), which you may have never used. A number of advertisers will just move their attention to the new ‘Conversions’ column, but not you, because you’re savvy and on top of things. So which conversions are real to you?

Many advertisers use Conversions (1-per-click) more than Conversions (many-per-click) because in many cases the ‘many-per-click’ data is not consistent with internal lead or sales data, whereas the ‘1-per-click’ number is much closer.

Marketers that effectively use Conversions (many-per-click) are usually tracking two different conversion actions that have relatively equal value, like a lead form and a live chat submission. Ecommerce advertisers use it if their business has a high propensity for repeat purchases.

Our advice: If you currently track two conversion events of relatively equal value, you might want to use the ‘Conversions’ column. If you track sales and aren’t sure which is better, then check the last 7-30 days of data to see how each of the conversion columns matches up with your internal data, and use the one that best matches your data. If you don’t have time or a secondary resource to check, then it’s probably best to stick to the column that directly corresponds to the metric you are using now.

One note: If you have duplicate, extraneous, or otherwise incorrect conversions set up in AdWords, then the data in the new ‘Conversions’ column will include those conversions, and you might want to focus on ‘Converted clicks’.  For example, you might be tracking the same conversion through both the AdWords conversion pixel and an imported Transaction or Goal from Google Analytics.  That could significantly inflate and distort the number of conversions reported in the ‘Conversions’ column.


2. How AdWords Flexible Conversion Tracking Will Work

Here is the second item from Google’s email:

Conversions (many-per-click) will be replaced by a new ‘Conversions’ column that has additional functionality. This column will count conversions, based on how you want each conversion action to be counted.  (Emphasis added.)

The bolded line is a subtle feature announcement. AdWords is rolling out a new option for conversion tracking that allows you to count “only unique” conversions.

Google gives an example of a business that would like to count both a sale and a lead as different conversion actions in AdWords. This is nothing new; you can already do this by creating multiple conversions with different action names. The difference now is that you can choose to have all “sale” conversions count every time a conversion happens (including, in some instances, things like page refreshes that don’t actually result in revenue), and you can choose to have all “lead” conversions count only once for a particular visitor.

There are some advanced advertisers we work with that track both sales and leads as conversion actions in PPC. However, I don’t think any of them would use the new functionality in the way Google suggests. First, it’s questionable that Google’s interpretations of “unique” and “duplicate” are always correct, and second, there is an assumption that both conversion types are equal in value.

Currently, many advertisers use the Conversions (1-per-click) column because they have not found the Conversions (many-per-click) data to be accurate for tracking unique purchases. However, the new ‘Conversions’ column isn’t necessarily an improvement since Google offers no explanation or control of what criteria it’s using to de-duplicate. For example, de-duplicating sale conversions on the IP address of the visitor ignores conversions from that same visitor with a unique order ID – which would indicate separate purchases on the same visit.

Further, the reason most advertisers would not want to lump lead and sale conversions into the same column of data is because those conversions are not worth the same value. An advertiser would almost always pay more for a sale than for a lead. When one keyword brings in 5 sales and no leads, and another brings in 5 leads and no sales, then you will want to bid those keywords differently.

Our advice: The ability to de-duplicate conversions is great, but it’s only as powerful as the ability to control which conversions are counted and which are not. If you feel like trying out the unique conversion counting option, we again suggest testing it and comparing the counts before and after with your internal system to see which tracking method is closer.

Google has made a step in the right direction by allowing more flexibility with the new ‘Conversions’ column, and that’s a good sign for marketers. However, optimizing a campaign off of these metrics can be complicated, and advertisers should carefully monitor what conversion events are being tracked together in the new ‘Conversions’ column to see if it makes business sense to do so.