The ABC’s of Google Ads Mistakes

google ads mistakes

Creating and optimizing a Google Ads account is both an art and a science. Each marketer has their own style and techniques when it comes to setting up, managing and optimizing their account. However, there are a few fundamental components of a Google Ads account that if you get them wrong, will result in failure and a wasted marketing budget. Think of these as the ABC’s of a Google Ad account.

Google Ads Mistakes

The ABC’s are so fundamental that they are easy for anyone to understand and verify, regardless of your level of experience with Google Ads. At the same time, getting even just one of these essential components wrong is a sure indication of poor account management and will probably reveal dozens of other problems.

When it comes to Google Ads, the ABC’s stand for:

  • A – Automation
  • B – Broad Keywords
  • C – Conversion Tracking

For part one of our series on the ABC’s of Google Ads mistakes, I’ll show you exactly how to check your account’s conversion tracking and how to fix any issue. Even though it is third letter alphabetically, conversion tracking is the first thing to check when analyzing an account. Let’s start by defining a conversion and what it is before we move onto more complex concepts.

Conversion Tracking

What is a “Conversion”?

Essentially a “conversion” is an action taken by a visitor to your website that results in added value to your business. The most basic conversion types are:

  • Sale – if you are an eCommerce business, then you will define a conversion as a purchase made on your website.
  • Lead – if you generate leads, then someone filling out a form on your website, and providing you with contact details is considered a valuable conversion.

Why Conversions are Important

Conversions are fundamental and necessary to optimize Google Ads accounts. Monitoring conversions will tell you what kind of return you are getting on your investment. These results will also give you a clear direction when it comes to knowing what to optimize in your account.

For example, let’s say you invested $500, which ultimately resulted in 5 conversions (sales or leads). This tells you that your cost per conversion was $100. Next, you have to assess whether the sale or lead was worth $100 or more to your business. Then you can begin to pull the hundreds of levers within Google Ads to optimize what you want to pay for each conversion.

This is why Google Ads is so powerful and has so much potential. An optimized account is fine-tuned to get you the results you want at the price you feel they are worth. When you achieve this balance, you are using Google Ads correctly and will be able to grow your online business and increase profits.

Technicalities of Conversion Tracking

How Conversions are Tracked

How does Google know who clicks on an ad and then who makes a purchase or fills out a form? Here is a basic explanation of how this tracking works:

  1. Someone conducts a search on and clicks on an ad
  2. By clicking on an ad, Google marks their browser as someone who clicked an ad
    1. Google does this by using something called a “cookie”
    2. Picture it as a stamp you’d get on your hand when going into a party
  3. Depending on your website, if the visitor
    1. Makes a purchase, then they reach a page that says “order confirmation”
    2. Fills out a form, then they reach a page that says “thank you”
  4. As a Google Ads user, you define a “conversion” by telling Google that if someone reaches a page on your website called “order confirmation” or “thank you,” then it should be counted as a conversion and added to the Google Ads conversion report.

It’s really that simple. You just set up your Google Ads in a way that tells Google that if someone reaches a specific page on your website, they have completed a valuable action and should be recorded as a conversion.

Event Conversion Tracking

While recording a visit to a specific page is the most basic type of conversion tracking, you can also set up “event” conversion tracking. An “event” is defined as a specific action someone took on your website. For example, clicked on a specific button, watched a video, or even downloaded a white paper.

This is simply another way to flag an action as a conversion for the purposes of Google tracking.

Systems that Define Conversion

The two systems that you can use to set up these conversions are:

  1. Google Ads – in the conversion section, you create a new conversion. The site will generate a small piece of code that you will paste onto your “order confirmation” or “thank you” page.
  2. Google Analytics – this is Google’s free web analytics service that you can integrate into your website and track all your website visitors, their actions, behaviors and much more.

Conversion Tracking Problems

Tracking Several Different Conversions

Theoretically, you could label any customer action you want as a conversion. In addition, you aren’t limited to tracking one type of conversion at a time. You can track many different types of conversions and import them all into Google Ads.

The important think to note is that defining the right conversion is where most Google Ads accounts fall short. Let’s say you define a conversion as someone who reaches your “order confirmation” page – meaning, they made a purchase. Great, you can now analyze your Google Ads:

  • Cost – “Cost” column
  • Conversions – “Conversions” column
  • Cost per sale – “Cost / Conv.” column

But what if you also define a conversion as an event where someone downloads a catalog of your products.? Now, for every “sale” or “catalog download,” the number in the conversion column will increase by 1.

If you invested $500 into Google Ads and earned 5 conversions, it won’t be clear whether you earned 5 sales or 5 catalog downloads or a combination of the two conversions. This starts to make things tricky when it comes to calculating the value of your investment.

Incorrect Tracking Setup

Fortunately, there is a specific way to setup each type of conversion so that you can view more accurate data. Keep in mind that setting it up incorrectly means that the conversion numbers that will appear in Google Ads will also be incorrect.

For example, a sale made on your website may show up as three conversions in Google Ads. Or you could end up recording anyone who just visits the “contact us” page as a conversion – even if they didn’t actually submit their information.

If your conversions are incorrect, then you are flying blind and it’s impossible to optimize your account.

Importing the Same Conversion Multiple Times

I often see people use Google Ads and Google Analytics to track the same conversion. So, when a sale is made on the website, it shows up as two or more sales in the conversion column. While this may make it seem like Google Ads are performing well, in reality the investment in Google Ads is bringing in half or less of the value than is being displayed.

Short Call Length Phone Calls

In Google Ads, there is an option to track phone calls to your business. Without getting into the technical specifics of how this works, basically Google tracks any call to your business and how long it lasts. This is called “Calls from Ads” conversion.

In the Calls from Ads conversion settings, you can choose the length of a call that you would consider as having value or one that you would classify as a “conversion.” The standard setting for this is 60 seconds. Anyone that stays on the line with you for a full minute, is probably relevant to your business and offers some value.

What I often see is the “call length” option set to 5 or 10 seconds. This means that if you sell furniture and someone calls you and asks to order a pizza and you tell them they have the wrong number, their call is tracked as a conversion.

How to Check and Fix Conversion Tracking

The most fundamental way to think about successful conversion tracking, is that is must reflect real world circumstances. In other words, the conversions and value you see in Google Ads must match what you see in your actual business.

Compare Google Ads with the Real World

A basic check you can do to evaluate the health of your Google Ads account is to roughly compare the conversion reporting to what you already know about your business.

If you generate leads on your website, then look at the number of conversions for yesterday and see if this roughly matches what you know about your business. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it needs to be close enough to make sense.

If you have an eCommerce website, then compare the number of sales you earned to the conversions seen in Google Ads. If Google Ads is tracking the column for “Conversion Value,” then compare that to your revenue during the same time period.

For example, if you see 10 conversions for yesterday and you know you got only 2 or 25, then 10 clearly doesn’t reflect reality. Depending on the volume of your business, you can look at yesterday, the past 7 days, or the past 30 days. The point is to see whether the conversions in Google Ads reflect your business results.

Check the Break Down of Different Conversions

Most people don’t know that when you track more than one type of conversion in Google Ads, there is an option to see the breakdown of how many conversions you got from each type. The best way to see this is to:

  1. Log into your Google Ads account and click on “All Campaigns”
    1. You should see the table with all your campaigns
  2. Click on Segment à Conversions à Conversion Action
  3. This will show you the name of each conversion that earned results in that time period
    1. Make sure everything that is tracked makes sense to you
    2. Use this detailed breakdown to understand why your conversion tracking is incorrect

Conclusion – Google Ads Mistakes

Google Ads is data driven. Conversion tracking allows you to track every penny you invest and the exact value you get back from that investment. Without conversion tracking, you won’t know which strategies and campaigns are working and which aren’t. You could be throwing money down the drain, or gambling, at best.

When I audit an account, the first thing I check is the conversion tracking. I ask the prospective client if the numbers reflect their business reality. If it doesn’t, then there is no possible way that their Google Ads account is optimized. They are either trying to optimize based on incorrect data, or they don’t even have tracking in place and they are just guessing.

Does your Google Ads tracking reflect your business’ reality? If not, then ask the person managing the account how they have any idea how to optimize … and be prepared to see some fancy tap dancing.

Making sure your Google Ads tracking is correct is the first thing your account should have in place to begin to take full advantage of Google Ads and run successful campaigns that drive conversions and growth.



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Lior Krolewicz Lior Krolewicz is the CEO of Yael Consulting, an online marketing consultancy. An ex-Special Ops turned Google Ads expert, he helps eCommerce and lead generation businesses grow profitably. With experience managing budgets of $1 million per month, Lior applies his proven Fortune-500 marketing techniques to small businesses worldwide.

4 Reactions
  1. Amen! Getting your conversion tracking right needs to happen before you spend a single dollar. This is a great primer for businesses looking to advertise on Google Ads.

  2. Thank you for your comment, @Robert Brady. Even though this is fundamental, you’d be surprised how many established Google Ads accounts get this wrong – don’t have this in place, even when investing tens of thousands of dollars per month in their account.

    Having conversion tracking implemented is half the problem. Having the correct conversion tracking in place, is usually the bigger issue.

    People assume that just having it set up is enough. But when auditing an account, and I see conversion tracking in place, my first question is if the conversion number reflects the business reality. They quickly realize that they are a victim to many of the issues I mention in the article above.

    Take a look at your Google Ads account, adjust the date range to the past 1, 7 or 30 days. Does the number in the conversion column feel like it reflects the number of valuable actions you REALLY received during that period?

    After personally auditing hundreds of Google Ads accounts for over a decade, I would estimate that 80% of small businesses, running Google Ads, have this wrong today! So this advice would be great as a primer or an experienced marketer who is ready to take things to the next level!!!

  3. With this, you don’t have to launch a ton of ads to be able to know where you went wrong. This will help you to properly format your ads so that they can be successful.