PPC Chat Streamcap – PPC Conversion Tracking and Reporting

Our very kind PPCChat host Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) thought up another set of questions on this week’s pay-per-click topic “PPC Conversion Tracking & Reporting”. The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: As PPC managers, what is our role in helping clients determine and understand conversion tracking?

  • A necessity! If you aren’t tracking conversions you can’t measure how effective your PPC campaign is. – Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
  • To make it happen. We have to educate them about the value of conversion tracking and then help them identify KPI’s. – Harris Neifield (@HarrisNeifield)
  • If we don’t do it who will? A must! – Luke Alley (@LukeAlley)
  • The primary components (CTA, LP, tracking) and how everything fits together into their website (structure, nav, content, etc). – Andy Groller (@AndyGroller)
  • It’s our job! Reporting on inaccurate numbers is…well. Inaccurate. – Aaron Levy (@bigalittlea)
  • Besides managers, we are consultants so make sure to consult! – Andy Groller
  • I tell all my clients that the singlemost important thing to do after deciding to market online is to track conversions. – Neil Sorenson (@iNeils)
  • If they’ll allow us access, we’ll put it in. Many won’t, so we explain how critical it is & how to install the code. – Amy Hoffman (@Hoffman8)
  • There’s no way to measure success without conversion tracking – it’s a MUST HAVE. – Jessica Cameron Ruud (@Camruud)
  • Always amazes me when I take over accounts with no conversion tracking setup. – Matt Umbro +
    • Same. How many people use something apart from leads/sales as a “conversion”? – Luke Alley
    • We need to make our clients care, often they don’t. – Cassie Lee (@_CassieLee_)
  • Utterly essential! The very first thing I educate clients about. – Andrew Baker (@SEOEdinburgh)
  • That not all conversion points are created equal but each have individual value in understanding the funnel. – Peter Hughes (@hughespjh)
  • Also, teach the client how important it is to have a backup. Analytics, Omniture, Coremetrics, SOMETHING in case the code breaks. – Aaron Levy
  • Conv trx is crucial. W/out it, I’m willing to manage PPC for traffic, but transparent about not making it a high priority. – Mike Shollenberger (@webjock)
  • My conversion is simply ROI. My tracking is done manually offline…in a sense. – Steve Bitter (@stevebitter)
  • Hard to understand why a client WOULDN’T make tracking a priority. It almost guarantees better results & It isn’t hard to set up! – Amy Hoffman
    • Yep. That’s what makes PPC better than trad. advert. – Luke Alley
  • Very Important. Optimize for conversions and not for clicks! Big difference. – Nikhil Inamdar (@NikhilInamdar)
  • Facilitate conversion tagging foundation as much as possible. Encourage conversion focus long term. – Tropik Media (@TropikMedia)

Q2: Do you setup your conversion codes to track revenue in both Google and MSN? If not, what do you use to track revenue (I’m speaking specifically to the conversion value within the AdWords & adCenter codes)?

  • Primary revenue tracking is Google Analytics or other web analytics; AdWords & adCenter are backups. – Andy Groller
  • Yes revenue tracking very important for ROAS both in AdWords & in Analytics (however you do get discrepencies). – Andrew Baker
  • For e-commerce clients who want to track revenue I’m using AdWords & Analytics codes. In the past I’ve used ClickEquations. – Harris Neifield
  • Use the engines as primary, so our reports sync with other features (SQ, Dayparting etc.) – Aaron Levy
  • Yes, conversion codes, and Google Analytics. – Dennis Petretti (@Denetti)
  • Analytics provides so much more in-depth analysis & segmentation across all sources, not just PPC. – Andy Groller +
  • Analytics also now offer Multi-Channel Funnel Reporting which is awesome! – Andrew Baker
  • Google yes, with added focus in Google Analytics. – Tropik Media

Quick poll, from what source to people report PPC revenue (ie: AdWords, Google Analytics, etc)? – Matt Umbro

  • Google Analytics. – Andy Groller
  • Google Analytics – so it’s a consistent source with all other channels. – Jessica Cameron Ruud +
    • Goes back to making sure Analytics is setup properly to use in conjunction with PPC campaigns. – Matt Umbro
  • Google Analytics. – Nikhil Inamdar
  • Both. – Andrew Baker
  • Crap. I’m the minority… Adwords. – Luke Alley
    • I’m in the minority too. – Matt Umbro
  • Analytics is primary, as Andy Groller noted – AdCenter & AdWords, secondary. – Amy Hoffman +
  • Analytics as well as custom built platform. 2 points of reference = less exposure when the sys. inevitable failure happens. – Jacob Hoopes (@JacobHoopes)

Q3: Do you import goals from Google Analytics into AdWords? If so, do you find this reporting accurate and worthwhile?

  • Never import from Analytics; inaccurate much of the time. Separate tracking from AdWords & Analytics also provides insight into nuances of coding, etc to help catch issues – Andy Groller
  • No we don’t import. I prefer to let them track separately so that we can compare. – Amy Hoffman +
  • Nope, can often duplicate conversions if there’s any sort of difference between the two. – Aaron Levy
  • I don’t import to AdWords – like to keep stats separate as they normally differ anyway and chance of skewing results. – Anna George (@AnnaGeorge)
  • I’m not sure why AdWords made this option available in the first place. – Matt Umbro
    • Another Googler thought it was brilliant. – Andy Groller
    • I think it was to make it “easier” because you wouldn’t have to add Adwords conv. tracking code. – Luke Alley
  • Sometimes, as you get discrepancies, both are correct just different attribution methods as long as you understand that’s fine. – Andrew Baker
  • We only use goals within Analytics, have never tried the import. From the other answers sounds like a bad idea anyways. – Dennis Petretti
  • Unless it’s fine italian leather, I never import. – Jacob Hoopes ++++
  • A number of clients import Transactions with associated revenue into Adwords. – Jeremy Brown (@JBGuru)
  • No. The data isn’t exactly the same, we leverage AdWords for topline info; Analytics for deep dive. – Tropik Media

Q4: Are you satisfied with adCenter’s conversion tracking? Why or why not?

  • I haven’t had issues with it. – Luke Alley
    • Same here. Numbers are usually close to in-house tracking and google analytics. – Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
  • Let’s talk about tracking separate conversions (ie: sale vs. whitepaper download). Frustrating within interface can’t decipher? – Matt Umbro
  • No. We’ve had problems with it. With the money they generate, there is no reason it shouldn’t function better & with more data. – Amy Hoffman
    • It’s a huge pain in order to get revenue data within the interface. – Matt Umbro
      • It is! They need to get with the program! – Amy Hoffman
  • Dear lord no. it fires at weird times, can only track one conversion type, breaks often. no likey! – Aaron Levy +
  • No I’m not satisfied because adcenter only records conversions at the time they occur rather than click time. – Harris Neifield
    • Great point, doesn’t allow for latent conversion tracking. – Matt Umbro
  • Yes multiple conversions should be a given but it isn’t. – Harris Neifield
  • Actually, it’s as good as Adwords, when taken alone. But of course it doesn’t play well with GA. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
  • Seems like for straight forward conv. tracking it does fine, but for distinguishing types of conv. or revenue it’s a pain? – Luke Alley
    • Yes, good for people who only need basic conversion tracking, but we want more! – Matt Umbro
  • It’s perpetual catch up with them. Analytics tells a better story/ yields more insight. – Tropik Media

Q5: How do you explain view-through conversions to clients and how much emphasis do you put on them?

  • The VTC is a big pet pieve of mine. I don’t believe Google describes it very well and often confuses clients kind of like what a balk is in baseball. – Matt Umbro
  • Simple definition with not a lot of emphasis, basically just mention them briefly unless significant. – Andy Groller
  • I don’t even bother unless there are a lot of VTC (which hasn’t happened for me yet). – Pamela Lund (@Pamela_Lund) +
    • Even with a lot of VTCs I don’t feel this stat is that telling, especially when overall site revenue remains constant. – Matt Umbro
      • Definitely agree if revenue doesn’t increase. – Pamela Lund
  • View through are maybe conversions – correlation but not causation like with a click. – Harris Neifield ++
    • Agree, it’s a more of an “ooh, this is cool” metric, but definitely not a gauge for success. – Aaron Levy +
  • Pretty easy to explain. A user was served your ad, but didn’t click & converted through another channel. – Aaron Levy
  • The answer to that is directly correlated to the client’s IQ. – Jaco Hoopes
  • They are an important metric but not a ‘bill-able’. They still have too many holes to hold much water. – Amy Hoffman
    • VTC are good to show for overall branding of name, but if u can’t directly see results I see it hard. – Aaron Robb
  • They are worthy of noting but.. w/o knowing how much overlap there is in counted conversions it’s hard to put much weight in them. – Amy Hoffman
  • Like many of the other #ppcchat -ers still undecided on the value of view through conversions. – Dennis Petretti
  • VTCs offer little insight into results = not actionable data. – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • I don’t discuss VTC specifically unless it is mentioned by the client, similar to MCF in Analytics. – Andrew Baker
  • I find correlative value in view-through tracking, especially when comparing freq. of baseline VTCs vs remarketing/brand VTCs. – Mike Shollenberger
  • Explained as total picture ROI. Important to incorporate for conversion and the long term value PPC/ display media provides. – Tropik Media

Q6: Do you (or any of your clients) find value in a pageview conversion? If so, explain what this value is?

  • Like virtual pageviews (i.e. pdf downloads, etc)? – Andy Groller
    • No, actually putting a conversion code on a page that doesn’t generate a sale or lead. – Matt Umbro
      • It’s not conversion tracking either. It’s the Top Content report in Google Analytics. – Andy Groller
        • True, but the top Content report in Google Analytics won’t get imported into your AdWords dashboards for CPA. – Harris Neifield
          • Advanced Segments in GA. – Andy Groller
      • Agreed – even if the client specifically asked or sees value in that PV, it should be reported upon separately. – Cassandra McClure (@imcassy)
      • Dhady but hopefully it wouldn’t last long after low revenue. – Kristi Davis (@KristiBug)
  • I can imagine scenarios & clients for whom it would make sense, but I haven’t had a client where a pageview conversion was used. – Harris Neifield
  • PVC’s are redundant to me, because pageviews can be found in analytics. I don’t see much use for them. – Mike Shollenberger
  • The idea of a PV conversion is useless. If you are tracking a PV as a conversion you might as well not be using conversion tracking. – Matt Umbro ++
  • If it’s purely informational based goals, maybe; but otherwise we haven’t really come across a need. – Andy Groller
  • However, I’ve taken over accounts where the past agency tracked the form page, not the form & called it a conversion. – Harris Neifield
    • Very frustrating, especially when you have to relay this information to the client. Brings up a black hat technique. Counting conversion that aren’t really conversions and using them to show success. – Matt Umbro
  • Key pageviews should be viewed in funnels or as goals in GA not as conversions. in AdWords imo. – Pamela Lund +++
  • If the page view is an agreed micro conversion, then yes. – Andrew Baker
  • The only reason would be if I just wanted people to read something but I could just go look at that page’s data in Analytics so… – Amy Hoffman
  • I inherited an account that counted the “Special Discounts” page as a conv. Best I’ve seen but still pointless. – Luke Alley
  • The only time I’ve ever used page view as a conversion is for a client that wanted to track use of a store locator. – David Kyle (@DavidKyle)
  • Brick & Mortar store tracking PV for a directions page would be helpful in determining online to in-store / offline conversions. – Jessica Cameron Ruud +
    • As long as PPC managers clearly explain this is the conversion. – Matt Umbro
    • Even a PV of a directions page is only a guess that they will actually get in the car and go to the store. – Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
      • Same with a lead turning into a customer. – Luke Alley
      • Agreed. But online to offline CVR tracking for ecom requires Micro CV’s to help fill the gap. Not 100%. – Jessica Cameron Ruud
        • There in lies another problem of PPC, sometimes not being able to view the whole picture. – Matt Umbro
  • It might be useful to determine reach. But mostly used with other metrics: eg. x% viewed, y% took an action. – Terence Nelan (@FlyingAshtray)
  • Why am I shocked that PV would be in a C? – Kristi Davis
  • If PPC managers want to track PV conversions for their own benefit fine, but don’t report to client. – Matt Umbro
    • Unless the client specifically asks for it. – David Kyle
  • A conversion is whatever’s important to the client If they want people to look at page X then a PV of X is a conversion. – Harris Neifield
    • Until you convince them otherwise. – Andy Groller +
  • B&M focused clients may track directions pages, store locators, coupons etc. BUT adjust CPA goal accordingly. – Aaron Levy
  • I’m using PVs as a metric for a retailer who’s supporting brick & mortar, as an interest/engagement indicator. – Lisa Sanner +
  • I’m not using PV conversions, but it’s not inappropriate if the client understands. – Harris Neifield
  • I’m in the minority but I use them for valuable campaign insight, certainly not black hat. – Mark Baker
  • Def, if nothing more it demonstrates interest, esp w/ multiple pg views. Also it can be used to quantify content effectiveness. – Tropik Media

Q7: To accurately determine the success of PPC campaigns do phone call metrics need to be utilized? Why or why not?

  • Absolutely. Otherwise you’re missing a key conversion funnel that can easily be tracked. – Cassie Lee +
  • For local search ABSOLUTELY! I haven’t found a vertical yet that doesnt get more phone calls than email leads. – David Kyle
    • I’ve seen plenty of verticals that get more web/email leads than calls. Regardless, you need to be tracking both. – Cassie Lee
  • Call tracking very necessary in determining success, but does depend on vertical/business too (real estate vs high price IT). – Andy Groller
    • Very true bringing clients around is critical. Unless a PV successfully hypnotizes it probably isn’t a good conversion. – Harris Neifield
  • Depends on the business model and what % of sales are happening offline. Likely, yes. – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • My experience is that local PPC advertisers get 2 calls for every form fill. You’d miss 2/3 of your results. – Robert Brady +
    • I’m seeing more like 5:1. – David Kyle
  • Depends on clinet. for most client probably, ignoring offline activity due to online $$ is foolish. For online only companies no. – Harris Neifield
  • If inbound calls are important to the business model, then yes. IMO they generally do have a place. – Jacob Hoopes
  • I’ve found call metrics to help greatly. I send these reports to clients and they cross reference with their call reports able to find some good sales coming in this way. – Matt Umbro
  • Yep, a conversion is a conversion. – Amy Hoffman
  • Haven’t used them yet. Fall sales season coming up and looking forward to giving them a try for the first time. – Dennis Petretti
  • Follow up question to Q7- What’s the best solution for call tracking? – Luke Alley
    • Haven’t used anything but AdWords call metrics. – Matt Umbro
    • Best call tracking solution —-> – David Kyle
    • Have a client using AvidTrak. Works well. – Robert Brady
    • I use @Twilio (Blog about Twilio) and a script that reads traffic source from Google Analytics, then rewrites or edits css to change number on the fly. – David Kyle
  • And with the ubiquity of cell phones, people are almost always within reach of a phone. – Robert Brady
  • Absolutely, think about “Need an answer now” industries (doctor, exterminator etc) People will call before filling a form. – Aaron Levy
  • It can be difficult though. We’ve had clients w/ their # plastered all over their site & in graphics, so that line’s hard to track. – Amy Hoffman
    • Often phone tracking scripts are simple search & replace functions. You can swap out images the same way you swap #’s. – Cassie Lee
    • We’ve actually got a new phone # for only online-sourced calls. Makes it a bit easier to see where they come from. – Aaron Robb
  • No AdWords call metrics in the UK. – Andrew Baker
  • Do you find that customers actually call from the SERP without clicking into the site with AdWords Call tracking? – Jessica Cameron Ruud
    • Yes, they probably still go to the site, but I do see calls originate from the dynamic phone number. – Matt Umbro
  • Yes; the more measurement to reflect ROI and impact the better. Call metrics are becoming a standard for our clients. – Tropik Media

Additional Resources

More PPCChats

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.


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About the Author

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe, Search Manager at WebRanking in Eden Prairie, MN, #PPCChat Streamcap putterer togetherer, rarely an seo blogger, SEO Padawan, Tweeterer @PaulKragthorpe, and Google+’er PaulKragthorpe.

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2 Responses to PPC Chat Streamcap – PPC Conversion Tracking and Reporting

  1. Thanks for putting this recap together! So far my schedule hasn’t allowed me to join many PPCChats.

  2. Thanks for this, great recap!

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