Not All Conversions Are Created Equal

The ability to view your conversion data right from within the AdWords interface is hugely beneficial when optimizing. The system collects this data via the AdWords conversion tracking code snippet, or via imported Google Analytics goals, and allows you to track and assign values to virtually any user action you wish to optimize to.

Import into the AdWords system gives you the ability to tie conversion actions to specific campaigns, ad groups, keywords, etc., and generally makes it much easier to understand what’s working in your account, and what isn’t. While this is hugely convenient, the way the data appears in AdWords creates a major pitfall.

Let’s say you’re tracking four different conversion actions in your account:

1.) >5 min on site goal via GA (Value of $1.00)

2.) Thank you page visit via AdWords conversion tracking (Value of $50)

3.) Item placed in shopping cart goal via GA (Value  of $10)

4.) E-book download goal via GA (Value of $5)

So, you have site behavior/engagement goals set up (Gold Star!), a primary conversion goal, a funnel goal, and a micro conversion goal related to your content marketing efforts. You give yourself a big pat on the back for tracking such a wide range of user actions, and an even bigger pat on the back for assigning values to each. You want to optimize AdWords to all of these and so you load your GA goals into AdWords as conversions, which in addition to your conversions set up via AdWords conversion tracking, gives you four conversion actions in AdWords. Awesome!

Here’s the pitfall: These four goals all represent different actions with correspondingly different values. However, the default conversion columns will aggregate all conversion types and just give you a total. This is problematic because you’ll likely have different CPA goals for each conversion action. After all, you don’t want to pay the same amount for an e-book download valued at $5 as you would for an actual purchase with an average order value of $50.

What commonly happens is that while great care has been put into identifying and assigning values to user actions in GA, AdWords is assigned merely a single CPA target that the account manager will try to hit across all conversion types, in spite of the fact that these conversions all represent completely different value to the company. This may seem far fetched but I assure you, it’s not.

Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to deal with this.

1.) AdWords conversion report

You can view this report under the “Tools” tab. It will give you insight into how many of each specific conversion action you received as a result of your campaigns.

2.) AdWords dimensions report

The “Dimensions” report gives you the ability to segment conversions by category or name, and view at the campaign or ad group level. This is particularly handy for this reason.

3.)  Google Analytics reports

If you’re tracking conversions solely via GA goals you can view all of this in your Analytics AdWords report. This is probably the best option because of the amount of information you can access quickly, but you can’t view conversions tracked via AdWords conversion tracking, which can be a major limitation.


AdWords conversion tracking and GA goals provide a great deal of flexibility when it comes to tracking significant user actions. Unfortunately, the granularity of the conversion reporting in the AdWords UI still leaves a bit to be desired. Just remember, if you’re tracking multiple conversion types and using that data to optimize your AdWords campaigns, be sure to set corresponding CPA targets for each in AdWords and optimize to those, as opposed to a single target CPA. Or, if you must choose a single number, consider a weighted average for all conversions.