AdWords Conversion Tracking in Two Flavors

Google AdWords recently made a change to how conversions are reported in the new AdWords interface, in order to provide richer information with regard to the full benefits of AdWords campaigns.  There are now two types of conversions, designated as ‘one-per-click‘ and ‘many-per-click‘.  This fairly straightforward and quite useful, and the AdWords crew has provided a pretty decent explanation of what it all means in an Inside Adwords blog entry and in an AdWords Help entry.

However, it is a departure from the past and I think it is fair to say that there has been some head scratching around the precise implications, mostly due to the cumbersome terminology.

Conversions in new Google AdWords interface

Conversions in new Google AdWords interface

So here’s a scenario…

I search for ‘web analytics software’, see your ad, click on it and visit your site.  Your clearly written landing page with attractive call to action persuades me to download your white paper.  After I get a chance to read your thought-provoking white paper, I return to the site (within 30 days – before the AdWords cookie expires) and subscribe to your newsletter.

…and here’s how the conversions break down:

1. In the past, when AdWords reported on ‘conversions’, it was not necessarily the actual total number of conversions, but rather the number of clicks that led to one or more conversions.  Under this somewhat misleading system, the above scenario is counted as 1 conversion, since there was 1 click that led to both conversion events.

2. The new ‘1-per-click’ conversion count corresponds to the old way of conversion counting: still counting clicks as opposed to events – a maximum of 1 conversion per-click.  If you have past trending data that you want to compare to, this is the number to go with.  Also, if you are more interested in the number of PPC visitors (roughly equivalent to ‘clicks’) that convert than the total number of conversion events, this is the number to use.  So for lead generation this is more applicable.

3. The new ‘many-per-click’ conversion count will be 2 – one each for the white paper download and the newsletter sign-up.  Now events are being counted, not just clicks.   This is helpful for e-commerce sites where you want to know the number of purchases that are attributable to AdWords, for example.  This terminology is also a tad confusing, though, because even if there is one conversion it will still be counted in the ‘many-per-click’ column, since ‘many-per-click’ doesn’t actually mean ‘many conversions on a click’ – it really means ‘total number of conversions.

Note that these are two separate ways of counting conversions, using different perspectives (clicks vs. events) so these numbers are not meaningfully added together.

We all know that those Google folks are uber-smart, and I’m not going to presume to tell them how to do their jobs, but I’m thinking a more clear and intuitive approach might be something like:

  • Conversion Clicksinstead of ‘1-per-click conversions’
  • Conversion Eventsinstead of ‘many-per-click conversions’

This would tell us very simply: a) how many clicks led to conversions and b) how many total conversions occurred.  Useful information – no head scratching required.