Introduction to SaaS Funnel Tracking
SaaS businesses present a unique set of challenges for tracking conversions in a sales funnel. This post breaks down a typical SaaS conversion funnel into common stages, highlighting common challenges of each and discusses tracking implementation that is able to resolve these challenges
Stage One. Website Visit
A visitor comes to the website from a search engine, ad platform such as Facebook Ads, Google Ads or Microsoft Ads, or an affiliate network.
At this point, attribution details such as UTM parameters, referrer URL, ad click ids, browser ids and other visitor parameters should be stored and passed to other domains as the visitor navigates between pages if necessary.
Why tracking visitor details matters
❑ Configure Google Analytics to link domains if several are used in the funnel.
❑ Store attribution details to associate with lead and customer on later stages.
❑ Verify that Facebook Pixel and other trackers are present on all landing pages and pages with contact forms.
Stage Two. Sign-Up
When a visitor uses contact or registration form to submit a lead, these details should be linked to the visitor and an attributed lead sent to CRM and ad platforms with attribution and source details.
Tracking cross-domain conversions is a particular challenge at this stage. Ad platforms’ own tracking scripts such as Facebook Pixel generally won't track these leads correctly as they won't have the original click id from another domain, although some conversions will appear attributed using IP address or similar smart guesses. It is strongly recommended that in case of multiple-page funnels that either span across several domains or may be accessed from different devices, server-to-server API integration is used to send lead conversions to ad platforms such as Facebook Ads or Google Ads or TikTok.
Why server-side tracking of SaaS funnel sign-ups matters
Tracking conversions to leads is the most essential metric for analyzing ad effectiveness. However, it’s also the one that may produce extremely misleading results if not configured correctly. For example, when a Facebook Pixel is used where a Facebook Conversion API integration should be used instead or when attribution details aren’t saved in CRM and not available in sales reports.
When sources of sign-ups aren't tracked correctly, they will be obscured from the Google Analytics and custom BI reports, preventing understanding of ROI of different channels, and the ad platforms won't know which of the paid clicks converted, hampering ad targeting.
The common issues when server-side tracking isn't used include tracking pixels not recording customer source when a multiple-domain funnel, with a separate landing page and sign-up domains are used, as well as not using additional customer details that ad platform's tracking script fails to capture. The latter is especially important for tracking funnels that use single page application (SPA) forms, such as React.js or Vue.js.
❑ Extend leads with attribution details such as UTM parameters including source and campaign name and referrer URL.
❑ Consider adding Google Analytics user id to attribution details that are stored to enable looking up complete customer journey in Google Analytics User Explorer or implement similar customer journey mapping functionality.
❑ Alternatively, send customer sources to your CRM or back-office tools, ensuring they're quickly accessible.
❑ Supplement front-end tracking such as Facebook Pixel with combined front-end and back-end attribution and appropriate integrations such as Facebook Conversion API or Google Analytics Measurement Protocol.
Verify that no duplication occurs but be vary that less advanced integrations may result in Facebook missing conversions due to its deduplication implementation.
Stage Three. Paying Customer
Once a subscription is started, or a payment is processed successfully, it should be attributed to the original website visit and sent as a conversion with value to Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, Google Ads and other analytics and ad platforms.
Conversion tracking that relies on in-browser tracking such as Google Analytics or Facebook Pixel tends not to work correctly even when a customer is redirected to the success page on each payment (which is almost never possible to achieve) and cause missing or duplicate conversions. The root cause of these issues is that actual purchase happens outside of browser, and the event of displaying a success page doesn't correspond to the purchase directly.
The correct solution is to attribute a payment system conversion to the website visitor and the ad click that produced the original lead and subsequently send the purchase conversion to the analytics and ad APIs. While conversion window differs and successful 14-day trials that can be reported in Google Ads with it the 30-day attribution window won't be available in Facebook Ads conversions reports when a 7-day setting is used, the properly attributed sources of the conversions can still be used to populate offline conversion sets that can be used to optimize targeting.
Different approaches can be used for tracking recurring subscriptions and upsells. Generally, it is useful to attribute all purchases to the original visitor, allowing to produce reports on real-life LTV in Google Analytics and ad platforms. Google Analytics 4 has advanced attribution options, allowing to associate purchases with the correct touchpoints intelligently, provided the necessary tracking data are sent and the conversion is traceable all the way back to the original visit's user id (rather than the "current" cookie).
Why tracking of subscriptions and payments matters in SaaS funnels
It’s common for SaaS conversion funnels to demonstrate different lead to sale conversion rates for different segments and channels; not tracking actual sales results in a portion of the ad budget being spent on ads that don’t convert, instead of being reallocated to provide growth from better performing channels.
Many SaaS companies resort to tracking sources only of leads, attempting to measure conversion to sales indirectly. It doesn't have to be this way. SaaS customers can be tracked throughout the entire funnel: from the first interaction to the revenue.
"A valuable insight we've got is that display ads aren't working [for us] at all... we've been wasting money for years on paid display ads. Before we'd be excited about every lead or email that came through, but after the last year we've determined that those don't convert at all. And so, we've been focusing on paid search, which does have return on investment."
—— Bryan Brinton, Co-Founder, Aluvii Software
❑ When a conversion event occurs in the back-office (closed CRM deal, successful Stripe payment etc), attribute it to the original ad click id and user id and send to conversion APIs of Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, Google Ads etc.
Areas for Further Consideration
This report is intended to provide a high-level view of SaaS conversion funnel challenges and give a roadmap for implementing successful tracking and analytics setup. There are business-specific details that aren’t covered in this report that should be considered prior to implementation, for example:
- What is considered to be a ‘purchase’ event in the system. Common choices are a CRM sale or trial sign-up, revenue such as Stripe payment and in-app activity that is expected to be invoiced in the end of the billing month.
- Attribution window that defines for how long revenue is attributed to the original marketing source. For example, Google Analytics has a default Campaign Timeout of 6 months, which can be changed up to 24 months.
- Whether conversion value depends on actual revenue or expected LTV. Some analytics services and ad platforms such as Facebook Ads allow to track both simultaneously and independently, whereas others such as Google Analytics E-commerce reporting don’t make distinction between different types of revenue and a choice has to be made, which one to use
How Able Can Help
While each of the recommendations from this report can be implemented in proprietary tracking scripts developed in-house, supporting them presents a challenge due to need to test both front-end and back-end tracking on multiple device types and browsers and integrate with analytics and ad platform’s APIs, which typically have deprecation schedules resulting in integrations having to be redone every couple of years, and invest in operations to monitor that the script tracks all events correctly and no third-party API errors occur. Or you could leverage a pre-built SaaS conversion tracking offered by Able.
Able is the ultimate funnel integrations' platform created by marketers and entrepreneurs who wanted a simple way to build proprietary funnels based on landing pages and web applications without having to program custom API integrations with Google and Facebook, configure complex integration services or resort to using landing page builders with limited flexibility.
Able CDP offers tracking, attribution and marketing API integrations out of the box, perfectly suited for SaaS sales tracking, eliminating the need for building custom tracking and attribution scripts, while allowing to leverage its APIs for more complex integration scenarios