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How to Link Google AdWords to Analytics: Set Up, Tips, and Best Practices

Picture this: It’s your favorite time of day – lunch time.

You open your fridge to find three ingredients: two slices of whole wheat bread, a jar of peanut butter, and some leftover jelly.

Now, knowing that you have both peanut butter AND jelly in the fridge, would you make yourself just a peanut butter sandwich?

Source: Giphy

Of course not. You make the most of life, so you whip up the world’s greatest combo – the PB&J sandwich – a lip-smacking combination that has stood the test of time against salt & pepper, bacon & eggs, mac & cheese.

The same principle applies here with Google Analytics and Google Adwords. They are respectively powerful standalone tools for any digital marketer, but they become 10x more useful when you sandwich them together. Today we show you why.

*Disclaimer:* If you keep peanut butter in the fridge, you’re still an idiot sandwich.

Why Connect AdWords with Analytics?

While AdWords already offers a ton of insight to ad performance, Analytics takes it a step further by providing audience behavior data on your website and landing pages. This identifies:

  1. Which pages have the highest and lowest session durations
  2. Which landing pages have the best and worst bounce rates
  3. Where people are dropping off

Still not convinced?

Analytics also identifies paths users take leading up to a conversion. Whether it be through paid search, affiliates, social networks, or an email newsletter, Analytics presents the data and indicates how effective your AdWords ads are alongside your other digital marketing efforts.

But wait…there’s more!

You can also use Analytics to link e-commerce transactions to create custom dynamic remarketing ads. This shows display ads of products shoppers viewed previously, so that they may return and complete their purchase. (Protip: make sure you have frequency capping setup beforehand!)

If you’re still not convinced, skip to the bottom of the article and read our recommended best practices on how to use AdWords alongside Analytics. But for the rest of you, let’s get right into how you can link the two together.

How to Link Adwords to Analytics

  1. Open Google Analytics
  2. Click Admin and choose which account and property you’d like to manage
  3. Under property, click AdWords linkingAdWords-Linking
  4. Click  + New Link Group New-Link-Group
  5. Select the accounts you want to link
  6. Enter your Link Group Title
  7. Switch on all sites where you want AdWords data
  8. Click link accounts

Optional Steps:

  1. Enable Google Display Network Impression Reporting: When you turn this on, you will be able to see static display ad impressions, rich media display ad impressions, above-the-fold views, trueview count, and much more.
  2. If you want to manually tag your AdWords links:Disable-Auto-tagging
    1. Click Advanced Settings
    2. Click “leave my auto-tagging settings as they are”

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How to Edit a Link Group in GA

Whether you linked too many accounts or accidentally linked the wrong ones, Google makes it easy for you to edit a link group. Here’s how:

  1. Open Google Analytics
  2. Click Admin
  3. Choose the AdWords property you want to manage
  4. Under property, click AdWords LInking
  5. Select your link group
  6. Click Edit in Select Linked AdWords Account section
  7. Check or uncheck boxes
  8. Click Edit in the Link Configuration section to turn Analytics linking on or off

How to Remove Link Between Analytics and AdWords

If you want to unlink all AdWords account in a link group, you can simply remove the link group. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Open Google Analytics
  2. Click Admin and select your property
  3. Under PROPERTY, select “AdWords Linking”
  4. Select the group you want to delete and click “Delete Link Group”
  5. Confirm by clicking “Delete” on the pop-up

How Do Google Analytics and Google AdWords Conversions Differ?

If you’re seeing a data discrepancy between Google Analytics and Google AdWords, you’re not alone. Our Director of Account Management, Mark Feigen breaks down the two key differences below:

Reason #1: Single Channel Attribution vs. Omni Channel Attribution

AdWords follows what’s known as a single channel attribution, meaning it’s tracking the performance of a single marketing channel – paid advertising through Google. Google Analytics is keeping track of Social Media, referral, organic, paid, and direct traffic, making it an omni channel attribution platform.

What’s the difference between single-channel and omni channel attribution?

If someone clicks on an AdWords ad, and then converts 2 days later by going directly to the site, AdWords conversion tracking will take credit, while Google Analytics will attribute that conversion to direct traffic. Google Analytics will give credit to whatever marketing channel started the session that resulted in a conversion. AdWords will take credit for the conversion so long as the conversion occurs within a specific period of time (the attribution window).

Reason #2: WHEN Does a Conversion Really Occur? Time of Click vs. Time of Conversion Attribution

If someone buys something, but nobody is there to see it, did that person really buy?

Of course they did. Money is money. But WHEN the person “converted” is a point of contention between AdWords’ time-of-click attribution and Analytics’ time-of-conversion attribution.

Another reason your AdWords and Google analytics conversion data may differ has to do with WHEN the conversion occurred. AdWords’ use of time of click attribution, means that if you click on an ad at 3:30pm today, but don’t buy until the next morning, AdWords will attribute the conversion to when you clicked, not when I bought.

Google Analytics uses time-of-conversion to report when a conversion occurs. Conversions that occur around midnight along with any conversion assisted by another channel.

Tips and Best Practices

Compare Your Performance to Industry Benchmarks

Google provides valuable data from over 1600 industries to provide accurate benchmarks so you can compare your performance to other businesses like yours. The only caveat is that you’ll have to share your data anonymously so it can also be added to the pool. Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Open Google Analytics
  2. Click Admin
  3. Under Account, click Account Settings
  4. Check the checkbox that says “Benchmarking” and hit save
  5. On the left side panel, click Audience
  6. Select Benchmarking and choose what type of benchmarks you’d like to see

Identify Highest Performing Keywords

Multi-Channel Funnels and Attribution Modeling are great advanced techniques to identify how your marketing channels are working together to bring in more customers. But if you want a quick indicator of what keywords are attracting new customers, use the “% new sessions” metric when reporting. This identifies the percentage of new users who are landing on your website through your keyword.

The higher the percentage, the more new users your keyword attracts. The higher the volume, the better.

Set up a Google Remarketing List

Dynamic remarketing lists creates detailed ads based on the pages and products a user looked at before. In order to do this, you must build a dynamic remarketing campaign, create a feed, set up your website tags, and create the dynamic display ads. It’s a bit of a process, but it’ll be worth it. Here’s Google’s guide on how to set up dynamic remarketing campaigns.

Find and Optimize Poorly Performing Landing Pages

Open the Google Analytics Landing Page Report and identify your pages that have glaringly poor bounce rates, average time on-site, and conversion rates.

You can get there by:

  1. Opening up Google Analytics
  2. On the left-hand bar, click behavior then site content
  3. Select landing pages
  4. Sort your landing pages by bounce rate, average time on site, pages per session, or conversion rates

Once you’ve identified your poorly performing landing pages, be sure to optimize for maximum quality score:

  • Keyword Relevancy: Use similar copy and the same keywords as your AdWords ad
  • Page Load Speed: Use this free GTMetrix tool to diagnose and optimize your page speed

Got any questions?

Feel free to drop us a comment or tweet at us at @AdHawk. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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About the Author

Journeyman of the wild wild west of Digital Advertising. Also doubling as an unofficial Taco Bell ambassador. Tweet at me @JonJmPark