When it comes to tracking your PPC traffic, there are two obvious choices: Use the Google Ads conversion tag or install Google Analytics, set your goal tracking there, and export your conversions back to Google Ads so that they are visible in your main interface.
I always advise the Google Analytics route… but if you’re only really concerned about PPC, why bother bringing a second platform into play? Here are the three strongest reasons.
The Big Picture
There’s more to life than Google Ads (apparently…) You will almost certainly have other channels of online traffic – either now or in the future. GA tracks all of your traffic for a holistic picture of where users have come from, and how they’re using your site.
You will also understand your Google Ads traffic better by taking an occasional step back to see it the context of your total traffic mix…
Is your 5% conversion rate from GAds any good? One way to answer that is to compare it to your traffic from Facebook Ads, or referrals, or organic search…
This can be done just fine using either method, but there are some advantages to GA for tracking conversions.
Using a unified goal that applies to all of your traffic allows for more accurate like-for-like comparison between traffic sources, while using a unified goal across your platforms (GAds and GA) also gives you a more consistent picture of your conversion performance.
Then on the more technical side, the two systems use slightly different default methods of attributing conversions: GA being more conservative (last non-direct click) and Google Ads being more generous (last Google Ads click).
You can look at your conversion data through either lens, but GA plays it safer (and again, treats all channels equally, for more a consistent picture).
Once you’ve linked your accounts, it’s not just conversions that you can import from GA into Google Ads… you can also pull in your GA engagement metrics (bounce rate, pages/session, session duration) giving you another layer of ‘traffic quality’ data for evaluating your keywords / ads / campaigns…
These are particularly useful when you don’t have conversion data (in which case watch out for my new lesson on this coming soon…) or it’s spread thinly across your campaign contents… and this is often the case.
Of course, you don’t have to import those data to use them… and there are yet more insights you can draw about your PPC traffic that are not available for import into Google Ads. For example… want to know bounce rate for a given campaign, broken down by device type? There’s no report for this in GAds, but you can do any data slicing of this kind in old faithful GA.
In defence of the Google Ads conversion tag, it still offers one, clear technical advantage. It is still the only way to track cross-device conversions. In practice, this is usually a minor factor, even among the largest accounts… but it is one item to weigh on the scales.
There’s a deep well of further geekiness to enjoy with tracking, attribution, and reporting in GA and Google Ads, but these are the nuggets that rise to the top.
If you’re using Google Ads, and you’re not using Google Analytics, good things are waiting at the top of those steps…