The three key takeaways from this article:
- Bing Ads must be carefully set up to bucket traffic correctly in Google Analytics.
- Click attribution is handled differently in Google Analytics and Google AdWords.
- Google Analytics, while useful, is an imperfect and incomplete tool for measuring PPC lead generation campaigns.
Key Issue 1: Bing Tagging
When results are leveling for a Google AdWords campaign, expanding with a Bing Ads campaign is a great option. (In fact, earlier in 2015, Bing achieved a 20 percent market share.)
Even though a Bing campaign is easy to set up — it can be as simple as importing your AdWords campaign — tracking conversions requires careful setup. The problem: Google Analytics will put organic and PPC traffic from Bing in a single (organic) bucket unless your Bing campaign is properly tagged.
Obviously, if Bing Ads traffic is recorded as organic, your SEO and PPC data in Google Analytics will be useless. Use the Google URL builder to tag the destination URLs of your Bing Ads campaigns, so that Google Analytics can put Bing-organic and Bing-cpc in separate buckets.
Key Issue 2: Click Attribution
Discrepancies in reporting data from AdWords and Google Analytics — sometimes significant in magnitude — occur because of differences in how the two systems treat click attribution:
- AdWords uses “first touch click attribution.” If a Google user clicks a PPC ad, then comes back to the website two weeks later by clicking on an organic result and makes a purchase, AdWords will attribute the conversion to the PPC ad.
- Google Analytics uses “last touch click attribution.” In the situation described above, Google Analytics will attribute the very same conversion to the organic source.
When PPC campaigns produce a high percentage of immediate conversions, discrepancies caused by this difference in attribution modeling are insignificant. However, when PPC campaign conversions follow a longer and more complex conversion path, discrepancies can be significant.
Both the first touch and last touch models provide valuable insights for an AdWords campaign — just different kinds. AdWords data is terrific for understanding conversions; Google Analytics data is great for understanding user behavior once visitors get to your website. For instance, AdWords reporting will tell you a particular landing page is producing a 2 percent conversion rate. Google Analytics will tell you 25 percent of the visitors are clicking to a particular product page — suggesting adding more product information to the landing page will improve the conversion rate.
Other causes of data discrepancies between AdWords and Google Analytics are discussed in AdWords Help (at the bottom of the page). They include date of transaction, invalid clicks, cookie expiration dates, imported goal delays, and goal or view name changes in Analytics.
Key Issue 3: Lead Tracking
While Google Analytics provides many valuable insights into the performance of landing pages for PPC campaigns, it has some issues when it comes to lead tracking.
Google Analytics only has the ability to track Goals. For a lead generation campaign, Goals are used to track submissions on a form that holds contact information like an email address or phone number. The only data you can get from Google Analytics Goals is a simple count of how many times your form was successfully submitted and your confirmation page was shown.
The issue with Goal tracking is that it is not lead tracking. You have no way to know how many Goals are truly sales leads. Because Google Analytics doesn’t store the data from the fields of your form submissions, you cannot review submissions and separate your Goals into sales leads and non-sales leads.
Furthermore, Goals are not triggered if a website visitor doesn’t successfully complete your form. You would be amazed by the number of website visitors who attempt to complete a form with 5-10 fields, receive an error, but think they’ve successfully submitted your form and then leave your website. Not only will Google Analytics not track a Goal completion, many times an email won’t even be sent from your website.
To prevent under recording of Goals — and more importantly, losing sales leads — keep your form fields to a minimum, reducing the number of your required fields and having your form send an email on all submissions (with or without errors).
Perhaps most importantly, Goals do not track phone calls, which are highly important for lead generation campaigns. Prospects with a high level of interest, who have complicated questions or needs, or who are more comfortable communicating over the phone than digitally, are likely to call in response to a PPC ad — and these people may well be your hottest, biggest prospects. With phone calls invisible on Goals, companies could grossly underestimate the effectiveness of their AdWords campaigns.
Optimize and Augment Your PPC Reporting for Clear Campaign Evaluation
As these three issues illustrate, AdWords and Google Analytics are excellent tools, but are also complex and limited. Configuring the campaign with proper tagging of Bing Ads URLs and proper setup of Google Analytics Goals will make your data from these reporting sources far more accurate. Augmenting these sources with a solid phone lead tracking system and lead validation system will fill very large reporting holes and give you a more complete picture of your PPC campaign results.