Demystifying Google Ads: A Simple Guide to Conversions, Tags, and Tracking

Take a breath. I’m going to explain, without jargon:

– Conversions

– Conversion tracking

– Google tag

– Google Tag Manager


– Offline Conversion Tracking

– Enhanced Conversions



A conversion is the thing you want someone to do as a result of your ad. The most common conversions are purchases, form submissions or phone calls.


Conversion Tracking

Conversion tracking means letting Google Ads know which of your ad clicks CONVERTED, and which didn’t, so that it can optimize your bidding, targeting, etc. to focus on users who are most likely to convert. This is how you get better results from your ads.


Google Tag

The Google tag is one way to get your website to tell Google when you’ve had a conversion. A TAG is just a piece of code that you put on your website, and the Google tag lets Google Ads & Analytics “talk to” your website behind the scenes.


Google Tag Manager

Many businesses use Google Tag Manager as a “holding cell” for their various tags (Google, Meta, etc.) rather than placing them directly on the website. This is optional, but helpful, so you have less risk of “messing up” your site when you’re adding/editing tags.


GCLID/Offline Conversion tracking

A GCLID may sound dirty 😳 but it’s just a gibberish set of characters that Google assigns for every single ad click. It stands for “Google Click ID.” You can add code to your website so that when someone submits a form, you “capture” their GCLID along with their name, email, etc. That way, if they become a customer, you can give that GCLID back to Google, and Google will mark a conversion in your account. Pretty cool, right? It’s called “Offline Conversion Tracking” because while the form fill happens online, the actual sale happens offline.


By the way, this stuff is always changing – to stay up to date on the latest Google Ads features, subscribe to Today in Digital Marketing.


Enhanced Conversions

A newer way to accomplish the same thing is Enhanced Conversions. Rather than passing a GCLID back and forth (seriously, why does that word sound so naughty?!), you can use the customer’s actual information, like their email address. Because Google has tons of products with more than a billion users (Search, Android, Chrome, Workspace, etc.), it “knows” billions of people, even without a Gmail address.

Rather than using a GCLID as a middleman, you can simply pass the email addresses of your customers back to Google, and by combining the users it DOES recognize with some modeling & predictions, Google Ads can figure out which of your ad interactions belong to those conversions.

Enhanced conversions isn’t just for leads. Even if your conversion is a purchase, it can still be helpful to pass this information back and forth to help Google accurately track all of your conversions, like from users who interacted with multiple ads over time.


Whew! What else is frustrating you about Google Ads these days? Comment below or figure it out with us at any of our upcoming events.

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