Until this past week, I’ve never been able to tell whether AdWords was paying for itself or not. Somewhere between my ads and the payment processors, my tracking lost its way. It all hinged on a) the tracking working through the payment processors or b) the customer clicking the link to return to the BreezeTree web site after the transaction. Based on what I’ve seen in the past week, I’d estimate that those two methods were working about 10% of the time.

Tracking concerns anyone running a web based business because the cost of Google’s advertising is going up up up. They just reported a 46% rise in 3rd Quarter profits. While the boys in Mountain View are getting richer, the rest of us are wondering whether we’re just throwing money away. You think that the Chinese government is rerouting Google traffic to Baidu today in retaliation to Bush’s meeting w/ the Dalai Lama? Nah! My money’s on some Chinese hacker ticked off over the rising cost of AdWords.

To improve tracking, I decided to change the FlowBreeze order confirmation email. The old FlowBreeze confirmation letter included the registration information and a long list of instructions for downloading, installing and registering the software. It also contained a mini getting started guide. I decided to go with a minimalist approach in the email but link to a confirmation page (where the tracking code is). The new email looks like this:

###

Dear [BUYER'S NAME],

Thank you for purchasing FlowBreeze flowcharting software. Your product registration information is as follows:

[REGISTRATION INFO]

If you haven’t already done so, we strongly encourage you to visit the confirmation page:
[CONFIRMATION LINK]

On the confirmation page, you will find…

  • A link to download FlowBreeze (if you haven’t already done so).
  • Installation and registration instructions.
  • How to get started with FlowBreeze.
  • Over 100 flowcharting templates.
  • Links to help and support.


Again, thank you for your order. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,

BreezeTree Software

###

With this system in place, I’m estimating that close to 100% of my customers have visited the confirmation page. Suddenly the light is on. AdWords is actually paying for itself – much better than I thought.

There are some flaws with the system. I’m using both Google Analytics and Google AdWords tracking systems, and neither does a great job of tracking. So I have to look at them both. My Venn diagram isn’t as cool as any of Jessica Hagy’s (my fav), but basically the tracking looks like this:

Analytics vs AdWords Venn Diagram

I’ll admit I don’t understand this because both systems are javascript based and placed at the bottom of the confirmation page. I cross referenced my own sales data vs. my server logs vs. Analytics goal tracking for AdWords vs. tracking shown on the AdWords Campaign Management page. Of the sales that come from AdWords clicks, some are tracked only by Analytics, some are tracked only by AdWords, and some are tracked by both.

So to get an accurate total you would need to determine A + B – A Intersect B. Figuring out that Intersect number on a regular basis is going to be a real pain.

Overall, I would say the conclusions to be had are:

  • Give your customers a reason to visit your confirmation page.
  • Offer something free for their effort (in my case, the 120 flowchart templates).
  • Don’t rely on just one of Google Analytics or Google AdWords tracking systems.
  • Don’t rely on Google Analytics for your web traffic analysis (the holes in this data reaffirm my opinion that Analytics sucks).

7 thoughts on “How I Finally Got AdWords Tracking To Work

  1. AdWords tracking is cookie based, and the cookies expire after 30 days. Since the goal I have here isn’t to track the total number of visitors – just the ones with those cookies, it should be fine.

    I would hope that Google’s tracking system doesn’t double count the same visitor viewing the page again as another conversion. But you never know.

    On the other hand, since I sell B2B software a lot of purchases have been made by corporate buyers – not the original visitor. I lose out on tracking those conversions.

    Hopefully any over/under tracking errors even out in the end.

    Reply
  2. I doubled checked Google’s newsgroups, and double counting is a possibility. They get counted once per session. So multiple visits will likely appear as a multiple counts.

    I’m working on a few, more robust, ways around this that I’ll post in a follow-up.

    Reply
  3. I’ll admit that it does take some time to get right but after going through about 6 months of pain I pretty well have GA working accurately. Or at least it correlates with the web logs within about 5% which is good enough and bang on with transactions.
    Now it looks like I am going to have to go through with adwords and using cookies to prevent transactions registering multiple times.

    Reply

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