Many marketers were affected by the disappearance of GCLID parameter in Google Ads paid traffic after the 26 April 2021 update. To comply with Apple App Tracking Transparency restrictions, Google had to start sending wBraid and gBraid parameters instead, providing anonymized way to track ad conversions. In this post we'll discuss the implications, what it means for tracking and how Able can be used to keep tracking conversions for Google Ads traffic without GLCIDs.
After a brief period of using gclids for all clicks including IOS traffic, Google Ads announced reintroduction of gBraid parameter at the end of June 2023 in May 2023.
This blog post was updated in November 2021 to reflect gBraid support that was added to Google Ads API, as well as in May 2023 to mention reintroduction of gBraid and new Customer Match setup flow.
Apple forced app vendors to stop sending identifier that can be uniquely traced to a user. To solve tracking needs, Google replaced it's old Google click identifier (GCLID) with new parameters that can't be used to identify user.
This meant that all old ways of tracking conversions such as Google Ads API integrations sending GCLIDs won't work for paid traffic coming from IOS native apps such as YouTube.
Official Google announcement said the following:
We recently introduced a new URL parameter to help comply with Apple’s policies and help you measure the results of your ads on iOS. This new parameter will help you attribute conversions back to your ad campaigns and works with conversion modelling to give you accurate measurement on iOS.
The 2021 announcement was done at the last-minute and Google Ads hasn't been providing explicit instructions on the best practices for tracking Google Ads traffic without GCLIDs at a time. It was possible to work around the tracking by attributing conversions to Google Tag identifiers and importing them via Conversion Import, however, the process was not reliable.
Currently, Able recommends a better solution that takes advantage of Google Ads API v9+ and widened access to Customer Match that Google Ads provides to its customers. While Customer Match had only been available to large enterprise corporate customers in the past, it's been rolled out to all accounts with good compliance history.
To enable Customer Match (as of May 2023):
Open Tools - Conversions - Settings - Enhanced conversions. Check that Enhanced conversions is selected for the Google Ads API:
It's critical that Customer Data Terms are accepted when "Enhanced conversions for leads" are selected for Google Ads to be able to accept conversions sent without GCLID:
Google Ads API accepts wBraid and gBraid tracking parameters, as well as additional customer match user identifiers since the API was updated in November 2021. As long as all conversions originating from IOS traffic are sent to Google Ads API with the gBraid (wBraid) parameter, they can be attributed to the ads and campaigns in Google Ads reports.
Able CDP provides the easiest way to send conversions attributed to gBraid (wBraid) to Google Ads.
First, Able CDP tracking should be installed on the website to capture gBraid (wBraid) parameters and associate them with customer details.
Then, Able sends each conversion to Google Ads API. It's important to note that even when a conversion happens offline or on the back-end, Able attributes it to the previously recorded wBraid and gBraid parameters (or a GCLID if available), which treats it effectively as an online activity.
This allows Google to utilize its conversion modelling in the same way it can do it for a regular online activity. Even if the click doesn't have unique identifier, Google Ads will attribute it with sufficient precision by combining the following parameters instead:
- gBraid / wBraid, which are anonymized device identifiers compliant with Apple privacy restrictions
- customer email and phone
This process allows to recover attribution for most of the conversions and have them displayed in the Google Ads reports correctly. It is achieved by tracing the conversion attributed to WBRAID/GBRAID by Able CDP back to the original click within Google Ads reporting engine and attributing it based on the WBRAID allocation logic Google Ads uses. While the exact percentage of IOS traffic attributed by this approach varies, it's the best option available for tracking IOS conversions in Google Ads.
In addition to the Google Ads API integration described above, Able CDP integration with Facebook Conversions API solves tracking of Facebook IOS traffic without FBCLIDs by sending Facebook Pixel browser id, as well as, optionally, personal data that can be used for matching.