When conversion tracking goes wrong, everything gets shaky

May 28, 2024

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by | May 28, 2024 | Data and Insights, Technology

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Conversion tracking forms the core of any marketing programme – you’ve got to know what’s working and what’s not. Insight into what is converting where, provides ideas for optimisation, budget management and programme design. But, when conversion tracking gets out of whack, you can easily get run into issues.

I recently wrote about technical debt, and whilst this is pretty common when thinking about systems and technology, it’s equally as relevant to digital advertising, conversion settings and conversion triggers and goals. 

If conversion tracking isn’t managed, reviewed, aligned and documented, things can get shaky. What I mean by that is you start comparing apples with pears, or thinking you have a conversion (when you don’t) and getting disparity between your ad platform, analytics platform and CRM. It doesn’t make for fun unpicking all that, and it can be costly – in many ways. 

In that sense, housekeeping and governance is key – and more important than ever if you’re looking at conversion attribution and media budget allocations based on performance. 

In this article, we’ll take a deeper dive into the common issues, how they come about and areas to consider when auditing and verifying conversions. 

 

First, let’s look at the common problems with conversions. 

 

1. Attribution models differ between systems

Many of the common ad platforms used in B2B have different attribution models. In addition, the default settings between platforms are not aligned. Take for instance, Google and GA4. In GA4 event set-up you can choose to track every event trigger, or count it only once. GA4 recommends to count it every time – this makes sense if you’re looking for indicators around web experience and usage. For Google Ads though, you may only want to count the conversion once (as that’s a user), particularly in B2B. 

This is because conversions for Google Ads are about leads or sales, but for GA4 it’s more about engagement and therefore GA4 wants to seek all key engagements and count them. So if a user converts multiple times in one session, that’s a good thing for GA4, but not for Google Ads. They’re fundamentally seeking different objectives. 

We see this frequently when we audit conversion settings – and it has the potential to throw out all your metrics and skew performance. Not least, because you’d have a few people scratching their heads as to why there’s a disparity. 

Regardless of how you decide to configure the settings, it’s important to know exactly how the attribution is happening and document it.

2. Conversions between platforms are not always the same

Similar to the above example, but this is the configuration of the conversion within the ad platform. Often we see different triggers set-up to capture conversions (page views, form fills, video views, etc), which ultimately means there’s no ability to compare between systems – you end up comparing apples with pears.  

3. Impact of legacy conversions

In many platforms, there are always old conversions present, and usually still tracking. We’ve recently audited one client and found one platform to have over 200 legacy conversions. These conversions are no longer required or contribute to the latest strategy, yet, they’re triggering in-platform conversions that the system is optimising for.  

This is particularly important as it happens regularly as people change jobs, new people come into the team and assume everything is set up correctly. They create more campaigns, or there’s a change in strategy or direction, and those old conversions are left alone because no one wants to touch them ‘just in case’ they’re being used.

It happens easily and can cause havoc with reporting, data analysis and optimisation. Not only that, but the algorithm is working hard to deliver more of the undesirable conversions. 

4. Inconsistent conversions between countries 

Many organisations have complex account structures due to being global businesses, yet reporting needs to level up at some point. It’s easy for one country to have a different set of conversion triggers or the same set of conversion triggers but with different settings.  

We regularly see conversions set up in one region being different to other regions. This results in the inability to compare across regions.

It’s really easy for these four problems to occur. So if you’ve got an issue with conversions not quite looking right, or the numbers seem off, then take a good look under the hood and do an audit. 

 

Start with a conversion tracking audit

When undertaking a conversion tracking audit, you need some baselines in place. First of all, you need to have a good understanding of the overall digital strategy and the media strategy so you can align with the objectives to be met.  The conversion strategy for paid and organic needs to work together too, and you need to know the attribution model being applied within GA4 and other analytics systems.  These are factors to be aware of, so you can make the right judgements about the current set-up and determine if changes are needed.

Once you know the baseline strategy, determine exactly what constitutes a conversion by the business. If it is form fill, what type of form fill? Where does that lead come from and what’s the value of the conversion point?  For example, all form fill conversions are not equal.  A demo request or contact form conversion is far more valuable than a newsletter sign up or a top of funnel content download.

All of these have value, but some have greater value. When you report, which of these would you report on? For some businesses, it’s all about sales, therefore the demo or contact is far more valuable. Other types of conversions have merit too, for example, it’s great the newsletter gets lots of sign ups, but how much is that contributing to the demand programme? 

In these instances, we commonly see organisations group types of conversions into high value or low value conversions. Then these are reported on separately – and configured differently within the ad platforms. All are measured though.

Once you’ve determined how a conversion is going to be measured and the types of conversions you need, document them and get agreement from all key stakeholders. This can then be the foundation of the conversion governance and the base for all knowledge for people in the team, especially new people.

 

So what does good governance look like?

For me, good governance around conversions is having a clear, well-documented strategy and then good documentation around set-up. All elements should be easily understood by all parties, tested and verified on a regular basis. Someone new to the team should be able to read the documentation, and understand exactly how things are structured and how to align with it. If you don’t have this in place, you’ll quickly end up with reporting that’s a mess and the legacy conversions in your ad platforms will look like the Wild West.

If your reporting or conversion tracking have gone a bit amiss, or you’re not sure things are quite right, or if you’re changing strategy, then now’s the time for an audit of your conversion tracking.

Do you need help navigating these spaces?
If you’re feeling confined to walled gardens, our dedicated Digital Team is here to ensure you’re getting the most out of your digital strategy. If you would like to discuss how we can support you, get in touch.

Further reading

The impact of the strategic skills gap in marketing technology

Leading change: Unpacking the Forrester B2B Summit, North America

Three ABM project management habits to champion your people