You've likely been there: You spend hours combing through keywords, tailoring the right headline and ad text, and customizing landing pages; you finally launch your Google AdWords campaign, and after a couple days or weeks... the conversions aren't as high as you expected, and you aren't quite sure why.

Google AdWords is undoubtedly a viable medium for attracting qualified leads[1]. But to fully take advantage of the opportunity, you need to track and monitor for both online and offline conversions. And the latter requires integrating call tracking into your AdWords campaigns, landing pages, and website.

Google AdWords offers two features that enable you to capture offline conversions and associate them directly with the AdWords campaigns, ad groups, ads, and keywords that drove action:

  1. Call Extensions for capturing calls from the search results page
  2. Offline Conversion Tracking for tracking calls from your website

(If at this point you're wondering whether call tracking is worth the effort[2], consider this: We're living in a world of mobile devices, and 70% of customers using mobile search have connected with businesses using the click-to-call AdWords feature directly from the search engine results page, according to a September 2013 Google study.) 

Google Call Extension: Capturing Calls From the Search Results Page

Google's Call Extensions is a feature that enables advertisers to display a phone number directly next to a PPC ad on a search results page. As part of this feature, Google offers dynamically generated Forwarding Numbers that are associated with your campaign; any calls to those numbers are recorded and forwarded to a telephone number you specify.

When the Google Call Extension number is called, a conversion is recorded and associated directly with the campaign and reported in your AdWords portal. You incur a cost only when a mobile searcher touches the click-to-call number and places a call.

Another option with Call Extensions is to integrate your own dedicated tracking numbers in your campaigns, but that can be costly and it's a time-consuming task to set up and manage; you also lose the ability to see offline conversions directly within AdWords.

One nice feature of Google Call Extension and Forwarding Numbers is that you can set how long a call must last before it is considered a conversion. That way, advertisers can avoid reporting any calls that may not be considered qualified leads, such as inquiries about hours of operation.

Google Offline Conversion Tracking: Tracking Calls From Your Website

Google AdWords rolled out its Offline Conversion Tracking feature in September 2013. Until that point, call tracking providers could feed offline conversions into AdWords reports, but the process was a workaround and not as reliable or detailed as it is now.

By combining Google's Offline Conversion Tracking feature with a call tracking platform, you can capture the AdWords visitors that called from your website, and then feed that lead data back into your AdWords reports and associate the conversions with campaigns, ad groups, ads, and keywords.

At a high level, the process works like this:

  1. A visitor comes to your site after clicking an AdWords ad.
  2. The visitor calls the dynamically generated tracking number that's on your site.
  3. The call tracking provider captures any conversions along with the visitor's Google Click ID (GCLID)—which tells AdWords which campaign, ad group, ad, and keyword the visit can be attributed to.
  4. At regular intervals (daily, weekly, monthly), you generate a conversion report from your call tracking platform and create a spreadsheet that includes each conversion's GCLID, name, time, and value (or dollar amount, if available).
  5. That spreadsheet is then uploaded into Google AdWords, from where AdWords will feed the conversion data into your dashboard reports.

A couple things to note:

  • For this process to work, you'll need to work with a call tracking platform that can capture the GLCID of each AdWords visitor.
  • You can work with your call tracking provider to generate reports that include only qualified conversions, such as those that last longer than 60 seconds or those from a specific geographic region.

By integrating offline conversion data into AdWords and combining it with online form conversions, advertisers can better assess which AdWords campaigns, ads, and keywords are driving qualified leads, and therefore more effectively evolve strategies to improve lead volume and lower cost per acquisition.

In addition, with all the conversion data compiled in AdWords, bid automation programs—such as Google's Enhanced Campaigns and those within bid management software—can more effectively optimize campaigns around leads, and ultimately improve the ROI for advertisers.

Main Takeaways: 

  • Call tracking is essential to effectively optimizing Google AdWords campaigns.
  • Google offers two ways to capture and report on offline conversions.
  • Google Call Extensions + Forwarding Numbers capture calls that result directly from search engine result pages.
  • Google Offline Conversion Tracking + a call tracking platform capture calls generated after someone has clicked an ad and visited the advertiser's website or landing pages.

[1] Paid search ads serve as an "assist interaction" 51% of the time during the customer journey—spanning the awareness, consideration, and intent stages—according to a Google Think study. Paid search ads are also the last interaction before a customer's purchase decision nearly half of the time (49%), the same study found.

[2] "39% of mobile searchers are more likely to call when using a mobile device than they would be otherwise," a study by Google and Nielsen reported.

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How You Can Generate More Qualified Leads With Google AdWords and Call Tracking

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image of Brad Reynolds

Brad Reynolds is co-founder, president, and CEO of Mongoose Metrics,  a call tracking product suite for search, display, mobile, and social marketing campaigns.

LinkedIn: Brad Reynolds