Server-side conversion tracking in Google Ads (Adwords)

Want to track the results of your Google Ads (AdWords) campaigns? Then you need to see what users were doing on the site after they clicked on your ad. The typical user actions include submitting a contact form, adding something to a cart, or completing a purchase. What if you decided to move your tracking to a server-side? 

In this article, I’ll show you how to set up Google Ads (AdWords) conversion tracking using Google Ads tag for the Google Tag Manager server container.

What Is Google AdWords Conversion Tracking?

Google Ads conversion tracking is a must if you want to have enough data to analyze your ad campaign results and give Google machine learning algorithms more information about your business goals. Google’s ML will use conversion data for smart bidding and showing your ads to the users most likely to convert.

It means that you need to specify these actions in Google Ads to track all valuable actions users can do on your site. I suggest adding not only purchases as conversions in AdWords. You might also set up micro-conversions such as add to cart, form submit, etc. You can select conversion action for each campaign separately inside the campaign settings. This conversion action will be included in the ‘Conversions’ column and will be used for Smart Bidding

Conversion tracking inside Google Ads (AdWords) account is crucial because it shows you which search terms, keywords, ads, or campaigns have the highest ROAS or lowest cost/conversion. 

The main benefits of adding conversions to AdWords are:

    • A better understanding of which keywords, ads, or extensions are working (and which ones are not). 
    • More valuable data that you can use to optimize your ad campaigns.
    • Better insights into how to optimize your ads for boosting ROAS.
    • Ability to test smart bidding through Google Machine Learning algorithms.

How to set up Google Ads (Adwords) server-side tracking

Google released Google Ads Conversion tracking and Conversion linker tags for the Google Tag Manager server container in July 2021! You can now get more out of your Adwords account with the new change to server-side tracking. This means that you will have access to web and server tracking together, making conversion data more reliable!

The logic of their work is similar to the Facebook Conversions API, where Adwords ss tracking gets user data in encrypted form (for example, an email address or phone number), and then it’s matched with the account that was authorized by this user.

Follow the steps below to set up Google Ads server-side tracking.

    1. Create and set up Google Tag Manager server container. 
    2. Send data from GTM Web to Server container using Google Analytics 4.
    3. Check the way you added transport URL to the GA4 configuration tag in the Web container. Enable Send to server container and add your tagging server URL.
ga4 transport URL

4. In the Server container set up the Conversion Linker tag. This tag should trigger on all pageviews. 

google ads conversion linker server

5. Create a new Google Ads Conversion Tracking tag in the Server container -> add Conversion ID and Conversion Label similarly to the web Adwords tag setup. Then you have an option to add Product and User Data. (looks very similar to how Facebook conversion API works). If you send user and product data from the web to the server, then you can enable these checkboxes and select event data as a data source. My Adwords server conversion triggers on the purchase event. 

google adwords server tag
google adwords server tag trigger

6. That’s it for the server container. But Google added a new bonus to the web Google Ads (Adwords) tag. 

They released enhanced conversion tracking for Google Ads web tracking (currently, it’s in beta). It works similarly to FB CAPI. You send first-party user data in a hashed format to Google Ads. This way, they improve the accuracy of your conversion tracking. You can read more about this feature in Google’s official documentation.

Enhanced conversion tracking is not supported for conversions imported from Google Analytics. If worked only for conversions set up using the Google Ads Conversion tag in the GTM or using a global site tag. 

Before setting up advanced conversion tracking in the GTM check that you enabled the Enhanced conversions section at the bottom of the conversion in the Google Ads admin. 

How to test that Google Ads (Adwords) server-side tracking

7. First of all, test that the Google Ads Conversion tag triggered in the server container and the request it sent is correct.

test adwords tag server container
google ads server http request

8. Check that the FPGCLAW cookie was added. It will work if you add the gclid parameter to the URL.

FPGCLAW cookie adwords

Want us to implemented Google Ads server-side tracking? Find out how much it'll cost!

Old Way (do not recommend)

Why Should You Link Google Analytics With AdWords?

Update July 2021: Google released Google Ads and Conversion Linker tags for the Google Tag Manager server container.  Using these tags is the right way to set up Adwords ss tracking. I’ve added a guide on how to use these new tags. You can find it in this article. 

Let’s say you decided to move your Universal Analytics tracking to the server-side. You have campaigns running in Google Ads and want to move AdWords conversion tracking to a server-side as well. The bad news is that Google doesn’t have a native tag for AdWords conversion tracking inside the Google Tag Manager server container. I’m sure they will release it in the nearest future. (Google released Adwords ss tags in July 2021)

The good news is that you can add server-side AdWords conversion tracking by exporting goals from the server-side Universal Analytics (or GA4) account to Google Ads. 

The ability to export goals is only one of the main advantages of linking Google Analytics with Google Ads (AdWords). Here are some other benefits you get:

    • Ability to compare your Google Ads results with other traffic sources.
    • Importing Google Analytics engagement metrics into AdWords (such as bounce rate, avg session duration, etc.)
    • Receiving full data in the Analytics Multi-Channel Funnels report.

Old Way - How to add server-side conversion tracking to Google Ads.

To set up server-side conversion tracking in AdWords, you need to have these things implemented: 

If your website fits the mentioned requirements, follow this step-by-step guide to set up server-side conversion tracking in AdWords. 

  1. Link Google Analytics and Google Ads accounts. To do that, open your Google Ads account, click Tools & Settings -> Linked accounts -> Choose Google Analytics (UA) -> Find the corresponding Google Analytics and click Link. If you don’t see a needed Google Analytics account, make sure that the Gmail account you are using inside AdWords has access to Google Analytics that you want to link to this AdWords account. 
Server side conversion tracking in Google Ads (Adwords) link Google analytics

2. Now you need to export Google Analytics goals into AdWords. To do that, click Tools and Settings -> Conversions -> Click “+” -> Choose import -> Choose Google Analytics (UA) -> Click Continue -> Choose Google Analytics Goals that you want to add to Google Ads. 

Server side conversion tracking in Google Ads (Adwords)
Server side conversion tracking in Google Ads (Adwords) choose Google Analytics goal

3. You can export multiple goals from Google Analytics to Google Ads. There are settings inside Google Ads conversions that allow you to specify which conversions you want to include in the ‘Conversions’ column. 

Server-side conversion tracking in Google Ads (Adwords) select campaign conversion

4. If you exported several conversions from Google Analytics to AdWords and want to see each conversion result, you can create a custom column. To do that, click on columns button on the right side -> modify columns -> scroll to the bottom and click on the custom columns -> click “+ custom column” -> add conversion name -> inside formula type conversions -> on the right side, under the Segment -> Click Conversions -> Conversion action -> Choose conversion that you want to segment -> Click Save. 

Server side conversion tracking in Google Ads (Adwords) choose conversion action

How to share Google Analytics audiences with Google Ads (Adwords).

There is also an ability to share Google Analytics audience/segments with AdWords. Inside Analytics, you can segment your site users based on their behavior, language, location, conversions, etc.

You can use these audience lists inside Google Ads as a target audience for your remarketing campaign or create a similar audience for your prospecting campaigns. 

  1. Open Google Analytics account and click Admin. Under property click Audience Definition -> Audiences.
  2. Click add a destination and choose your Google Ads account -> Enable.
Server side conversion tracking in Google Ads (Adwords) import Google Analytics Audience

3. You can create audiences based on pages users visited, events they completed, device, traffic source, etc. To do that, click new audience -> under audience definition click edit, and choose condition for segmenting your audience.

Server-side conversion tracking in Google Ads (Adwords) create audience

4. Once you specified the audience condition, click Apply, add audience name, and select AdWords as a destination.

Conclusion

Setting up server side-tracking in Google Ads is not a difficult process, but it does take some time. You can set up this type of tracking by using the Google Ads tag for the server container or ss Google Analytics.

If you need help setting up either one, don’t hesitate to reach out by email agency@stape.io! We have experience with both methods and would be happy to provide an estimate on how much it will cost if you are interested in our services.

Do any of these sound like something that could work for you? Let us know which method sounds best from the ones discussed today or let us know what your needs are so we can find the right solution for you.