Warning: Automatic AdWords Switch to “Optimize for Conversions”

By , February 7, 2012

Beware: Google will automatically change AdWords accounts to “Optimize for Conversions” instead of “Optimize for Clicks,” which could create huge problems for clients who have not properly implemented conversion tracking within AdWords.

Google announced the plan on its “Inside Adwords” blog in December, and has recently begun displaying an alert within the AdWords account interface, noting that the change will happen this month (February). To avoid the automatic switch, complete this form before February 14.

Many AdWords customers have tried to set up conversion tracking and optimization, but failed to properly implement it. The two most common problems are “over-counting conversions” (by treating certain pageviews or events as “conversions” when there is no financial transaction), and “under-counting conversion values” (by merely counting transactions, but not transaction amounts).

Until now, experimenting unsuccessfully with conversion tracking in Google AdWords hasn’t had any financial consequences, unless the advertiser has switched to “Optimize for Conversions.” But this month, Google will automatically switch accounts that are configured to “optimize for clicks” to instead “Optimize for Conversions,” which could result in dramatic changes that could turn profitable campaigns into money-losers.

I’ve never recommended using the Campaign Optimizer to “Optimize for Clicks,” because that method doesn’t track ROI (return on investment), but actually shifts activity to the lowest-value clicks. Advertisers who haven’t enabled optimization won’t be affected by the current change. But if you’ve chosen this option, you need to immediately review your AdWords account to see if conversion tracking might be an even worse option for you.

It’s extremely important to recognize that Google AdWords is constantly steering customers toward options which spend more money, but which often reduce ROI (return on investment). The current change (switching from “optimize for clicks” to “optimize for conversions”) is quite likely to increase ROI for customers who’ve properly configured conversion tracking within Google AdWords, but could financially ruin advertisers who aren’t aware of the new consequences from past experiments with AdWords conversion tracking.

Note that some advertisers use third-party tracking and reporting tools for conversion tracking, instead of using this feature within Google AdWords. Thus, even if you see reports that appear to reflect proper conversion tracking, it’s possible that this tracking is happening outside Google, and there may be invalid conversion-tracking set up within your AdWords account.

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