Server-side conversion tracking in Google Ads (Adwords)

Want to track the results of your Google Ads (AdWords) campaigns? Then you need to see what users were doing on your site after they clicked on your ad. The typical user actions include submitting a contact form, adding something to a cart, or finalizing a purchase. What if you decided to move your tracking to a server-side? In this case, you need to know how server-side Google Ads (AdWords) conversion tracking works and how to implement it on your site.

In this article, I’ll show you how to set up Google Ads (AdWords) conversion tracking using server-side Google Analytics.

What Is Google AdWords Conversion Tracking?

Google Ads conversion tracking is a must if you want to have enough data to analyze your ad campaign results and give Google machine learning algorithms more information about your business goals. Google’s ML will use conversion data for smart bidding and showing your ads to the users most likely to do the conversion actions.

It means that you need to specify these actions in Google Ads to track all valuable actions users can do on your site. I suggest adding not only purchases as conversions in AdWords. You might also set up micro-conversions such as add to cart, form submit, etc. You can select conversion action for each campaign separately inside the campaign settings. This conversion action will be included in the ‘Conversions’ column and will be used for Smart Bidding

Conversion tracking inside Google Ads (AdWords) account is crucial because it shows you which search terms, keywords, ads, or campaigns have the highest ROAS or lowest cost/conversion. 

The main benefits of adding conversions to AdWords are:

    • A better understanding of which keywords, ads, or extensions are working (and which ones are not). 
    • More valuable data that you can use to optimize your ad campaigns.
    • Better insights into how to optimize your ads for boosting ROAS.
    • Ability to test smart bidding through Google Machine Learning algorithms.

Why Should You Link Google Analytics With AdWords?

Let’s say you decided to move your Universal Analytics tracking to the server-side. You have campaigns running in Google Ads and want to move AdWords conversion tracking to a server-side as well. The bad news is that Google doesn’t have a native tag for AdWords conversion tracking inside the Google Tag Manager server container. I’m sure they will release it in the nearest future. We are also working on a custom template for Google Ads conversion tracking. 

The good news is that you can add server-side AdWords conversion tracking by exporting goals from the server-side Universal Analytics (or GA4) account to Google Ads. 

The ability to export goals is only one of the main advantages of linking Google Analytics with Google Ads (AdWords). Here are some other benefits you get:

    • Ability to compare your Google Ads results with other traffic sources.
    • Importing Google Analytics engagement metrics into AdWords (such as bounce rate, avg session duration, etc.)
    • Receiving full data in the Analytics Multi-Channel Funnels report.

How to add server-side conversion tracking to Google Ads.

To set up server-side conversion tracking in AdWords, you need to have these things implemented: 

If your website fits the mentioned requirements, follow this step-by-step guide to set up server-side conversion tracking in AdWords. 

  1. Link Google Analytics and Google Ads accounts. To do that, open your Google Ads account, click Tools & Settings -> Linked accounts -> Choose Google Analytics (UA) -> Find the corresponding Google Analytics and click Link. If you don’t see a needed Google Analytics account, make sure that the Gmail account you are using inside AdWords has access to Google Analytics that you want to link to this AdWords account. 
Server side conversion tracking in Google Ads (Adwords) link Google analytics

2. Now you need to export Google Analytics goals into AdWords. To do that, click Tools and Settings -> Conversions -> Click “+” -> Choose import -> Choose Google Analytics (UA) -> Click Continue -> Choose Google Analytics Goals that you want to add to Google Ads. 

Server side conversion tracking in Google Ads (Adwords)
Server side conversion tracking in Google Ads (Adwords) choose Google Analytics goal

3. You can export multiple goals from Google Analytics to Google Ads. There are settings inside Google Ads conversions that allow you to specify which conversions you want to include in the ‘Conversions’ column. 

Server-side conversion tracking in Google Ads (Adwords) select campaign conversion

4. If you exported several conversions from Google Analytics to AdWords and want to see each conversion result, you can create a custom column. To do that, click on columns button on the right side -> modify columns -> scroll to the bottom and click on the custom columns -> click “+ custom column” -> add conversion name -> inside formula type conversions -> on the right side, under the Segment -> Click Conversions -> Conversion action -> Choose conversion that you want to segment -> Click Save. 

Server side conversion tracking in Google Ads (Adwords) choose conversion action

How to share Google Analytics audiences with Google Ads (Adwords).

There is also an ability to share Google Analytics audience/segments with AdWords. Inside Analytics, you can segment your site users based on their behavior, language, location, conversions, etc.

You can use these audience lists inside Google Ads as a target audience for your remarketing campaign or create a similar audience for your prospecting campaigns. 

  1. Open Google Analytics account and click Admin. Under property click Audience Definition -> Audiences.
  2. Click add a destination and choose your Google Ads account -> Enable.
Server side conversion tracking in Google Ads (Adwords) import Google Analytics Audience

3. You can create audiences based on pages users visited, events they completed, device, traffic source, etc. To do that, click new audience -> under audience definition click edit, and choose condition for segmenting your audience.

Server-side conversion tracking in Google Ads (Adwords) create audience

4. Once you specified the audience condition, click Apply, add audience name, and select AdWords as a destination.

Conclusion

I have shown you the quickest and easiest way to add server-side conversions tracking to Google Ads. This way, exporting goals from Google Ads and Analytics allows you to see the ad performance inside Google Analytics and compare Google Ads results with other traffic sources. 

On the other side, you can import Google Analytics behavioral metrics like bounce rate, average session duration, and pages per session into Google Ads. You can also create and share Google Analytics audiences with Google Ads.

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