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James Holding

Head of Analytics

Tracking is a vital part of any PPC analyst job. Without tracking, it is almost impossible to accurately judge profitability of any PPC campaign.

Tracking is a vital part of any PPC analyst job. Without tracking, it is almost impossible to accurately judge profitability of any PPC campaign.


AdWords Tracking

This is relatively simple to implement and well documented within several Google help centres. AdWords tracking should ideally be placed on a page that is representative of your websites goal. For many sites, the goal is usually a purchase/sign-up, thus the AdWords code will be placed on a transaction/sign-up confirmation page. AdWords conversion code is required in the body text of the page, and once implemented, I recommend testing the code to ensure that conversions are accurately picked up. When creating the code, there are a different options (first navigate to >>Tools & Analysis>>Conversions within AdWords, then “New Conversion”):

  1. Decide if the code is to be placed on a web page (the majority of cases) or in a few cases, to track calls from mobile phones.
  2. Then decide a conversion category (purchase, sign up, lead etc)
  3. Choose the page security level (make sure this matches the page you are planning to place the code upon, otherwise the page will likely alert the user of a security issue).
  4. A fixed conversion value can be added (e.g. if you were to drive leads worth £10 each, then a fixed £10 could be assigned to each lead).
  5. As default, the AdWords tracking code adds a link that informs users they are being tracked, and explains how and why. This can be removed, but should only be done provided you have covered this in your website’s T+C’s.
  6. A dynamic order value can be inserted, modifying the following line of code, so that the value 0 is replaced with the value of the sale: var google_conversion_value = 0;


The best way to test AdWords conversion tracking is to go through one of your paid search adverts, proceed to the conversion point and then check to see if the conversion has been recorded as expected. As many conversion points are located on confirmation pages, this usually involves purchasing an item for it to be refunded (or if you’re lucky, using test credit card details that will allow you through the checkout process). Further checks can be performed for the more technically minded, using a headers program (such as HTTP fox) to look for the response request generated on the confirmation page. This should tell you if conversion tracking is working (it will look along the lines of: Ghostery is a useful web browser plugin (at least for Firefox but it may be available for more browsers). The Ghostery plugin scans pages for tracking code, and lets you see what is in use by the page you are currently viewing. It also allows you to block certain tracking scripts if required.

AdWords & Google Analytics

If you are using Google Analytics to track AdWords stats, then it is possible to link together AdWords and Analytics accounts (see this article for more details on how to achieve this). Once the accounts are linked, ensure that auto-tagging has been enabled within the AdWords' settings page. This will add a tracking variable onto the URL (?gclid=test) which will enable analytics to distinguish source data for AdWords driven traffic.


Testing Analytics Tracking

Again, the best method of testing is to complete the goal (usually purchase something) and ensure that your purchase tracks against the correct source. If you append ?gclid=test onto a URL of your site that you plan to use as a landing page, then this should then be recorded within the analytics cookie (called UTMZ). A further check can then be performed, examining the cookies set for the page to ensure that the source is recorded as a test. Furthermore, this source should then remain in the cookie for subsequent pages that are viewed. If this is not the case, then it is likely that you have traversed through a page that did not have the analytics code present, or the analytics code has not been correctly set up to track across the site. Once AdWords and analytics have been linked, it is possible to import goals from Google Analytics. Thus if you have a site already running analytics, you could import a goal into you AdWords account, rather than having to request code to be added to a page. This ability is also useful if any goals have been customised in any way, such as onclick actions, time on page, virtual page views etc. There are further customisations that can be made to Google's analytics code to track a variety of sources be it display, Yahoo, Bing, affiliates etc., although this is a discussion for a different blog post.

Useful Programs

HTTP Fox - Ghostery - What are your thoughts on tracking? - @JamesMHolding