When it comes to paid search, conversion tracking is the most important metric you’ll measure. Keeping tabs on the effectiveness of your ad buys will help you determine the kinds of content and keywords that are delivering the best ROI, so you can fine-tune your efforts and maximize your returns.
But there are many different PPC services through which you can place ads, and each platform uses a specific methodology to measure conversions. And as savvy digital marketers know all too well, measuring conversions across multiple PPC platforms is never an apples-to-apples comparison.
Let’s compare how two of the biggest names in PPC right now — Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads)and Google Ads — handle conversion tracking and see what insights marketers can take away from the key differences between the two platforms.
Single vs. multiple tracking codes
One key difference between Microsoft and Google Ads is how their respective conversion tracking codes are implemented on your site.
Ads offers marketers the option to sync your Google Analytics goals into your conversion reporting, and then to use this combined metric to measure the effectiveness of your PPC initiatives. (You also have the option to use a conversion tracking code unique to Ads in order to measure conversion actions.)
Microsoft, conversely, requires the use of a specific tag in order to track conversions, known as the Universal Event Tracking (UET) tag. The UET tag must be implemented across your entire website, and you’ll also need to create specific conversion goals within Microsoft Ads that will be tracked by the UET tag.
Microsoft Advertising attribution: The ‘as-it-happens’ model
Oftentimes, conversions will take place days (or weeks) after the customer’s last click or touchpoint, so it’s helpful to understand exactly how our dueling PPC services measure attribution.
With Microsoft Advertising, conversions are handled as discrete actions that are attributed to the date on which they occurred — we’ll call this the ‘as-it-happens attribution model.’ If a customer clicks on the first day of the month, and then converts on Day 15, Microsoft Ads will measure that conversion as an action that took place on Day 15.
With this model, your PPC teams will have an accurate reading of how much revenue or conversions you’re generating on a given day. However, this approach is most definitely weighted in favor of short-term results, since Microsoft Ad conversions aren’t recorded until they actually occur.
Google Ads attribution: The ‘last click’ model
The Google Ads attribution dashboard.
Conversely, Google Ads uses a different attribution model based on the date of the last click — thus, the ‘last click attribution model.’ This means that if a customer clicks on the first day of the month, but then doesn’t convert until Day 15, Ads will attribute that conversion to the Day 1 click.
For PPC teams, the Ads conversion tracking model can be something of a double-edged sword. On one hand, this provides you with a definitive jumping-off point, by which you can measure the precise final touchpoint that resulted in a sale.
But on the other hand, your Ads performance may at first glance appear to be worse than it really is (especially when compared to Microsoft), since conversions and revenue are both being measured retroactively. In cases like this, you’ll need to dig into your Ads or Google Analytics data to determine your overall short-term conversion performance.
PPC marketers should take their time with conversion tracking
As we can see from comparing the attribution models for Microsoft and Google Ads, there are advantages to both approaches. But if you’re using both at the same time as part of your PPC strategy, you’ll need to be more patient than if you were using just one of these platforms.
In today’s data-driven marketing world, there’s an understandable temptation to always act as soon as new data comes in. However, due to the difference in how Microsoft and Google Ads measure conversions, a rush to judgment may result in a skewed reading of your data, and lead to incorrect conclusions about your ROI.
When measuring performance between Microsoft and Google Ads, be sure that you’re comparing conversions across a broad timeframe. A long-term view of conversions (across several months, or longer) will offset this difference in how the two platforms measure conversions, giving you a much more accurate reading of how your PPC initiatives are performing.