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Google AdWords recently announced plans to update its conversion tracking reporting structure to help advertisers better track and segment their campaign data.

On the surface, the changes seem far from earth-shattering. But if you dig a little deeper, you might notice a bigger vision that has Google shifting its AdWords platform toward a more advanced marketing audience.

Case in point: The conversion tracking updates allow advertisers to measure the multiple touchpoints often present in today's complex customer journeys. AdWords is updating a few conversion tracking reporting columns to allow for more customized tracking of macro and micro conversion actions.

Here are the changes that are particularly important for digital marketers to note:

  • A new "Conversions" column is replacing the "Conversions for Optimization" column. The new column shows data for only macro conversions. For a conversion action to show up in this column, its optimization setting must be turned "on."
  • An "All Conversions" column is replacing the "Estimated Total Conversions" column. The new column shows data for both macro and micro conversions. All conversion actions are reported in this column—even if their optimization setting is turned "off."

If you're having a hard time seeing why these AdWords updates are important for digital marketers, read on!

Here are four important questions and answers to help clear your vision:

1. What is a macro conversion?

A macro conversion is what most marketers probably think of when they consider the word "conversion." In truth, a conversion happens any time a visitor to your website takes an action that carries weight for your business. Macro conversions are those actions that can affect your company's revenue numbers—such as filling out a lead form, requesting a quote, or completing a sales transaction.

2. What is a micro conversion?

A micro conversion is a lesser action that a website visitor may take to learn more about your product or to become engaged with your brand. The goal of micro conversions is to lead prospects to a macro conversion. Micro conversion actions include downloading a free PDF, signing up for an email newsletter, becoming a follower on social media, and engaging with a blog post.

3. How do I track different conversion actions with the new AdWords conversion columns?

If you're not tracking both macro and micro conversions for your business, you should be. The good news is that AdWords is making it easier for you to track these different conversion actions—allowing you to gather important insights on the performance of your ads and keywords.

With the conversion tracking reporting column updates, you can now easily segment macro and micro conversions.

"Prior to this change, tracking non-conversion actions as conversions in AdWords would impact conversion totals across the entire account…The update will open the door for marketers to track additional actions without impacting key conversion metrics," states r2i.

To monitor your true sales conversions—or macro conversions—in AdWords, you must ensure that you have selected those conversions for optimization. (This option is available at the bottom of the screen when you create or edit a conversion.) Any actions that have optimization turned "on" will show up in the new "Conversions" column.

Your micro conversions—or other conversions that don't necessarily affect your company's bottom line—must have the optimization option turned "off." These conversions will still be reported, along with all macro conversions, in the "All Conversions" column.

The key is to set up micro conversions for any actions you'd like to track that don't have a direct link to a product purchase. Tracking these actions will help you understand what tactics are bringing quality traffic and nurture your best visitors to become revenue sources.

4. What do these changes indicate about the future of AdWords conversion tracking?

The recent AdWords conversion tracking updates suggest that AdWords is continuing to evolve into a platform that better meets the needs of more advanced marketers.

The move to make digital marketers think more holistically about their advertising goals and key conversions shows that AdWords wants to provide more useful opportunities for marketers to optimize their campaigns.

AdWords has even announced that it will soon offer even more customizable conversion tracking features—such as the ability to choose an attribution model for each conversion action.

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Chris Lucas is the vice-president of marketing for Formstack, a provider of online form-building software. He is passionate about discovering new ways to drive Web traffic and leads.

LinkedIn: Chris Lucas

Twitter: @chris_c_lucas