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. Whether they submitted a contact form, added to a cart or made a purchase. What if you decided to move your tracking to a server-side? How server-side Google Ads (Adwords) conversion tracking works and what is the best way 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 analyse your campaign’s results and give Google machine learning algorithms more information about your business goals. Google’s ML will use conversions data for smart bidding and try to show your ads to those who are most likely to do your desired conversion. 

As a conversion in Google Ads, you want 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 campaigns 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 which search terms, keywords, ads, campaigns etc. have the highest ROAS or lowest cost/conversion. 

Main benefits of adding conversions to Adwords are:

  • Gives you a better understanding of what keywords, ads, extension are working and what is not. 
  • Provides you with more data that you can use to optimise campaigns.
  • Gives you insights into how to optimise your ads for boosting ROAS.
  • You can test smart bidding using Google Machine Learning algorithms.

Why Should You Link Google Analytics With AdWords?

Let’s say you decided to move your Universal Analytics tracking to 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 Google Tag Manager server container. I’m sure they will release 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.

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.
  • Import Google Analytics engagement metrics into Adwords (such as bounce rate, avg session duration, etc)
  • Get 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 first: 

If your website fits the above requirements, follow these steps to set up server-side conversion tracking in Adwords.

  1. Link Google Analytics and Google Ads account. To do that open your Google Ads account, click Tools & Settings -> Linked accounts -> Choose Google Analytics (UA) -> Find the corresponding Google Analytics account and click on “Link”.  If you don’t see needed Google Analytics account make sure that Gmail 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 insdie 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 what conversions you want to include in the ‘Conversions’ column.

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

4. If you exported more then one conversion from Google Analytics to AdWords and want to see each conversion results, you can create a custom column. To do that click on columns button on the right side -> modify columns -> scroll to the button 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 behaviour, language, location, conversions, etc.

You can use this audience lists inside Google Ads as a target audience for your remarketing campaigns. 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 audience condition click Apply, add audience name and select AdWords as a destination.

Conclusion: I have shown you the quickest and the easiest way to add server-side conversions tracking to Google Ads – exporting goals from Google Analytics. It will show your ads’ performance inside Google Analytics and compare Google Ads results with other traffic sources. 

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