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Primary and Secondary Conversion Actions in Google Ads

Understanding conversion actions is key to optimizing your ad campaigns. In Google Ads, these actions, which are the steps you want your customers to take, are grouped into conversion goals. To help further refine this process, Google introduces the concept of primary and secondary conversion actions. So, what are they, and how do they differ? Let's explore.

Primary Conversion Actions

Primary conversion actions are those that directly align with your campaign's goal. If your goal is for customers to make a purchase, for example, then the 'Purchase' conversion goal would include all the conversion actions where customers complete a purchase. These primary conversion actions are what you want to use for bidding optimization and reporting.

Primary actions appear in the 'Conversions', 'Conv. value' and similar columns in your default Google Ads reports and are used for bidding as long as the standard goal they are part of is used for bidding. This means that, if you set 'purchases' as the primary conversion action, all purchases resulting from the campaign will appear in your reporting, thereby giving you a clear and accurate understanding of how effectively your ads are driving sales.

Secondary Conversion Actions

On the other hand, secondary conversion actions are more observational and not directly used for campaign optimization. These are actions that can potentially lead to a primary conversion but aren't necessarily the main goal themselves. They could be actions such as signing up for a newsletter, clicking a specific link, or spending a certain amount of time on a page.

Secondary conversion actions are reported in the 'All conversions' column in your reports but are not used for bidding, even if the goal they are included in is used for bidding. The only exception is if the secondary action is part of a custom goal, in which case it can be used for bidding. This is important! If you notice that your primary/secondary conversion action settings don't work, check whether your campaigns have non-default Conversion Goals set up.

Secondary conversion actions can also be reported individually as custom columns - see below.

How to Update the Primary and Secondary Setting for a Conversion Action

To define or change which conversion actions are primary and secondary for a particular goal:

1. Sign in to your Google Ads account.

2. Click the tools icon.

3. Click 'Conversions'.

4. Find the goal that includes the conversion action you’d like to edit.

5. Click 'Edit goal'.

6. Next to the conversion action you’d like to update, click the drop-down and select either Primary or Secondary.

Reporting Individual Conversion Actions

It's often handy to report individual conversion action results rather than the totals. To do so, add them as custom columns to the reports.

  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  2. Navigate to the Campaigns, Ad groups, Ads, or Keywords page, based on where you want to add the custom column.
  3. Above the statistics table, you'll find the "Columns" drop-down button. Click on it.
  4. Select "Modify columns" from the drop-down menu.
  5. In the "Modify columns" pane, you will see a "Custom columns" option. Click on it.
  6. Click the "+Column" button.
  7. Here, you can create a custom column. You will need to:
  8. Name your column: Choose a unique and descriptive name so you can easily identify the column in the future.
  9. Select a metric: You can select from the list of metrics available or use a combination of them. The metrics are grouped by category for easier navigation. Pick "All Conversions" instead of "Conversions" if you'd like to include secondary conversion actions in the report.
  10. Apply a filter: Select the desired Conversion Action under the "Conversion action" dropdown list.
  11. After setting up your custom column, click "Save."
  12. Then click "Apply" to add the custom column to your statistics table.

For example:

Keep in mind that custom columns are account-specific, meaning they will only be available in the Google Ads account where they were created. Moreover, they are not available for all types of reporting, and there may be restrictions on the type of data you can use.

Always ensure you are fully aware of the data you are manipulating when creating custom columns to ensure you get accurate and valuable insights for your campaign.

The Importance for Able CDP Customers

For Able CDP customers, this distinction is crucial. By setting purchases as the primary conversion action, customers can ensure that the number of purchases and revenue seen in Google Ads reports matches the actual number of purchases attributed to Google Ads campaigns. This not only provides an accurate reflection of your campaign's effectiveness but also optimizes ad delivery based on the most valuable conversion actions.

To put it simply, primary and secondary conversion actions provide a more granular level of control over your conversion tracking. It allows you to observe and measure different kinds of customer behaviors, leading to better insights, improved bidding strategies, and ultimately, a higher return on your ad spend.

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