How to Make PPC Count Without Conversion Tracking

scared-somewhatImagine for a second a PPC advertiser’s worst nightmare: You log into AdWords and your keywords, ads and campaigns all have zeros in the conversion stat column! Worse yet, it isn’t a performance problem – just a tracking problem. Scary or not, it can happen and it’s your job to roll with the punches.

It goes without saying that conversion tracking is of utmost importance to PPC management. But every once in a while something happens that separates you from your conversion data. Maybe there is a delay in conversion code installation. Perhaps a website update erased the codes. Or maybe the codes simply can’t be installed! (Believe it or not, in the past few months I’ve had all three of these scenarios play out.)

With or without conversion tracking, it’s still your job to manage and improve your PPC campaigns. Where do you go from here?

Use a Backup Data Source

If you’re lucky, in addition to native PPC conversion tracking, you have another method for tracking.

Google Analytics is a great option. Not only do you get comprehensive data across your entire website, but setting up goals for recording conversions is simple and effective. Add the fact that you can import Analytics goals into AdWords, this is a great plan b.

Any analytics option will do: Omniture, WebTrends, Yahoo Web Analytics, etc. You might even have secondary conversion tracking set up in a tool like Acquisio or Marin. Whatever the tool or service is, lean on this data until your native conversion tracking is fixed.

What if you don’t have access to a backup? Or worse yet, simply don’t have a backup?

Focus on Core Metrics

In the absence of any conversion data, your PPC management needs to become laser focused on the core PPC metrics. Take your management back to the basics. Make a strategy focused on cost-per-click (CPC), click-through rate (CTR) and quality score.

Take the opportunity to optimize your campaigns. Break your keywords into super-tight ad groups so you can write super-relevant ads. This will increase your CTR.

Make sure that you’re pointing those ads to the most relevant landing page – preferably one that includes the keywords you’re targeting. This, combined with the increase in CTR, will improve your quality score.

What happens when quality score goes up? Ultimately your CPC will decrease.

This is all PPC fundamentals, but it’s easy to forget about this stuff when you’re knee-deep in managing to aggressive conversion goals. Take the data-less opportunity to improve the CTR/quality score foundation of your accounts.

Improve Traffic Quality

What else can you do in the absence of conversion data? Improve your traffic quality for search and display.

For all of your search campaigns, run search query reports. Pour through the queries and find new negative keywords. Excluding these irrelevant queries will save money and support your efforts to improve CTR. A side benefit of this activity is that you might actually find ‘positive’ queries that you can turn into new keywords and ad groups.

For all of your display campaigns, run placement performance reports. Look for sites that are obviously irrelevant to your product or service and exclude them. Because you don’t have conversion data, this process can be a bit tricky and may require more time as you investigate site-by-site.

Ultimately the result will be the same as negative keywords – saving money and improving CTR.


Hopefully any loss of PPC conversion tracking is a short-term affair – one which you and your accounts recover from quickly. But even if it isn’t, there is plenty you can do to continue improving your accounts.

Use backup data if you can. Focus on the core metrics and improve traffic quality. Once the conversion tracking is back up and running, your accounts will be that much better for it!

Image Credit: aorr/Flickr

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