How exactly to fix the holes in your Google Analytics conversion tracking

David Linder

MSc in Marketing from the University of Salford. Facebook Certified Planning Professional Facebook Certified Buying Professional
7 min read

Learn how exactly to accurately track and attribute performance to make sure your channels and campaigns are receiving the credit they deserve

Everyone can concur that tracking the success of one’s digital marketing activity and website is essential, but exactly how you do this effectively could be a lot trickier. Even though you think you curently have a thorough system create, it’s likely that there’s regions of your Google Analytics conversion tracking or reporting that could be improved.

In this guide I’ll explore a few of the main methods for you to more accurately track and attribute performance, to make sure your channels and campaigns are receiving the credit they deserve.

Conversion Tracking

Most folks are already acquainted with the idea of conversions. If you want a refresher, a conversion can be explained as any valuable online or offline interaction somebody has together with your business. Conversions tend to be tracked via Google Analytics goals.

Although many businesses track conversions, if you ask me conversion tracking is frequently under-utilized. Tracking a variety of conversions will assist you to build up a far more comprehensive picture of website engagement and valuable actions, which may be related to different channels.

I recommend tracking a number of both primary and secondary (or macro and micro) conversions:

  • Primary conversions: inherently beneficial/valuable actions, e.g. enquiries and sales.
  • Secondary conversions: supporting actions which frequently result in primary conversions, e.g. high website engagement and newsletter signups.

To provide a few examples, the next conversions are relevant for most businesses:

  • Over X pages per session (high engagement)
  • Over X session duration (high engagement)
  • Specific page visits (e.g. contact page, brochure/showcase pages, purchase/booking pages)
  • Button clicks and downloads
  • Video views
  • Account creations
  • Newsletter signups
  • Phone number/email address clicks/taps
  • Form completions
  • Sales

In addition, for ecommerce sites, I strongly suggest establishing ecommerce tracking in the event that you haven’t already. This enables one to analyze transactions/products, transaction rate, transaction value, revenue, average order value, and much more. Importantly, you may also segment this data by channel, device etc. in the most common way.

While it’s beneficial to track a number of conversions, it’s also advisable to decide on a few key performance indicators (probably most of your conversions along with other key metrics) which may be used to measure success across your organization and/or individual channels. This will help avoid obsessing on the fluctuations of (secondary) conversions which aren’t particularly indicative of overall success and probably don’t matter much in isolation.

Campaign URLs

Campaign URLs are another solution to better attribute performance, in cases like this to specific sources. Understanding that someone clicked a Facebook ad and converted is good, but knowing which ad is better still. Campaign URLs may be used across various channels to boost your attribution, from email to social media. With auto-tagging, it’s not necessarily essential to use custom campaign URLs, however they will surely be useful.

Campaign URL builder

The very good news is that it’s an easy task to create campaign URLs using Google’s Campaign URL Builder, plus some platforms offer in-built campaign URL tracking too. Once your URLs are setup, just utilize them in the most common way and campaign data will automatically populate in Google Analytics.


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Assisted Conversions & Attribution Models

Mention models, & most people either think about the type you glue together or complicated statistical types of the stock market/climate patterns/other confusing stuff. But don’t worry- this isn’t as complicated since it sounds.

Let’s say someone initially finds your organization with a Google search (organic visit), browses your site for a little, then Likes your Facebook Page. The very next day, they see your Facebook post, click on through to the web site (social visit), and create a purchase (conversion). The conversion path would appear to be this:

Organic Visit > Social Visit > Conversion

In the example above, can you give credit to Google or Facebook for the conversion? Or value them in a few other way? Imagine if there’s a supplementary step (e.g. a trip to your internet site from the paid search ad) in the centre? That’s where conversion attribution will come in.

In most Google Analytics reports (e.g. Channels and Goals Overview reports), goal completions are reported predicated on last-click attribution. In the aforementioned example, which means Facebook (the ultimate acquisition source before conversion) would get all of the credit for the conversion.

Last-click attribution is practical for quickly assessing performance. However, if you’re only reporting on last-interaction (or last-click) conversions you then may be unfairly giving credit to the channel which will push people on the line towards conversion, while ignoring the contributions of another touchpoints involved. This doesn’t (necessarily) imply that another channels aren’t performing well, that they aren’t usually the last step before conversion.

In contrast, Multi-Channel Funnel reports (within Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels) offer data about all of the channels/steps mixed up in journey towards conversion. In these reports, conversions are related to channels in line with the channel’s position in the conversion path:

  • First click conversion. Once the channel was the initial interaction in the conversion path. It is a specific kind of assisted conversion.
  • Assisted conversion. Once the channel was in the conversion path but wasn’t the ultimate interaction before conversion. Assisted conversions include first click conversions.
  • Last click conversion. When there is several channel in the conversion path, and the channel was the ultimate interaction before conversion.
  • Direct conversion. When there is just a single channel in the conversion path.

Here’s how it operates in practice, with a couple example conversion paths…


Social Visit > Email Visit > Organic Visit > Conversion

Organic Visit > Conversion

Organic Visit > Paid Search Visit > Conversion


Based on the aforementioned paths, channels will be allocated the next conversions:


Social Visit (First/Assisted) > Email Visit (Assisted) > Organic Visit (Last) > Conversion

Organic Visit (Direct) > Conversion

Organic Visit (First/Assisted) > Paid Search Visit (Last) > Conversion


Channel conversions

For additional information concerning the above, see Google’s help article about channel contribution. You can even view real conversion funnels in Top Conversion Paths along with other reports.

Top conversion paths

Depending on your own business aims, you will possibly not want or have to report on every interaction type. However, I would recommend at the very least splitting out conversions by assisted and last click/direct conversions. This data is supplied by default in the Assisted Conversions (Assist Interaction Analysis) report, so it’s accessible and export.

Assisted Conversions

Bear at heart that data in the Multi-Channel Funnel reports requires a few days ahead through- an excellent excuse for why you haven’t completed those monthly reports yet. There are some other differences between regular reports and Multi-Channel Funnel reports too, such as for example how conversions are related to direct traffic, but I won’t get into that here.

Finally, if you’re interested, you can even try out some of the alternative attribution models utilizing the Model Comparison Tool. This enables one to compare the performance of channels under various models, such as for example first interaction, linear, and time decay.

Offline Conversions

In my experience, offline conversions are regularly overlooked or deliberately ignored when assessing the performance of digital activity. That’s understandable – oftentimes, it could be difficult or impossible to precisely attribute performance.

However, it’s important never to underestimate the power your digital campaigns have on offline performance, even though it’s not accurately tracked. For instance, even though your AdWords campaigns only generate 5% of total offline sales, which could make the difference between a confident and negative (reported) ROI.

As such, it’s vital that you bear offline conversions at heart when reporting. According to the data available for you, it could even be possible to determine around baseline rate of offline conversions that you can increase to your reporting.

Missing Data

Aside from offline conversions, there are several other explanations why you will possibly not be obtaining the full picture from your own data- so-called Google Analytics black holes. Included in these are:

  • Ad blockers which also block analytics tracking
  • Browser “usually do not track” requests
  • Cookie policy options which disable tracking (blame GDPR because of this one)

It’s unlikely these unreported sessions represent a considerable proportion of traffic, however in combination, their effect could possibly be significant. Once more, it’s vital that you bear these at heart when reporting in order to avoid underestimating the worthiness your digital activity is generating.

In addition, it’s worth auditing your present tracking/view setup to make sure everything is configured correctly. For instance, problems could occur with tracking implementations (especially Google Tag Manager) or filters/segments which block a lot more than they ought to.

Custom Reports & Dashboards

Finally, I would recommend that you setup custom reports and/or dashboards.

Although establishing automated reporting isn’t always easy and simple task, it’ll almost certainly save time and make reporting more straightforward over time. Dashboards may also be the best way to quickly grab some stats or give your boss (who probably doesn’t provide a damn about how exactly lots of people viewed 5 pages per session) usage of the most crucial data.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it’s vital that you make certain you’re both tracking/attributing conversions properly and accounting for just about any lost data. To summarise:

  • Ensure your conversion tracking is comprehensive, including primary and secondary conversions.
  • Use several key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure success.
  • Be alert to conversion paths- the ultimate channel isn’t the only person that is important!
  • Consider reporting on both assisted and last click/direct conversions.
  • Be alert to offline conversions, and report on or estimate them when possible.
  • Be alert to unreported (missing) data and audit your tracking/reporting setup.
  • Set up automated custom reports/dashboards to create your task easier!

While this may seem like plenty of work, once you’ve create your tracking and reporting process it’ll probably save time in the long term. Plus, you may be confident that you’re obtaining a full, accurate picture of how things are actually performing.

David Linder

MSc in Marketing from the University of Salford. Facebook Certified Planning Professional Facebook Certified Buying Professional

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