So you’ve got your Google Ads account all set up, and now you’re ready to start raking in the cash. Customers are going to be beating down your door in no time, right?

Well, maybe not. I’ve seen plenty of newbie marketers ignore primary and secondary conversion actions, and it comes back to bite them pretty much every time.

But what are primary and secondary conversion actions, and why on earth should you pay attention to them? That’s what you’re going to learn below.

What Are Primary Actions?

Think of the action you most want users to take when they come to your site. Is it buying your product? Picking up the phone and calling you? Whatever your goal is, consider that the primary action for your Google Ads campaign.

Primary actions influence Google’s AI, and they’re critical for bidding optimization and reporting. You can use them for bidding as long as you use the standard goal they’re part of for bidding, too.

What does this mean? Essentially, tracking primary conversion actions helps you optimize your Google Ads campaign. If you don’t do this, your campaign probably isn’t going to perform very well.

Wondering where to find your primary actions? Just head over to your Google Ads reports and look for them under the “Conversions” and “Conv. Value” columns.

clicking on call to actions on phone

What About Secondary Actions?

Secondary conversion actions can be important to your business, but they’re not quite as important as primary actions.

They can be things like clicking on a link, signing up for your newsletter, or downloading a free e-book. These things are great, and they could lead to conversions indirectly, but they shouldn’t necessarily influence your Google Ads campaign.

Secondary actions are for observation only, and they have no bearing on Google Ads AI or the optimization of your campaign. Think of them as simply “nice to know.”

Secondary actions aren’t used for bidding by default, but you can use them for bidding if you really want to. The only way to do this is by making the secondary action a part of a custom goal.

You’ll see your secondary actions in the “All Conversions” column of your Google Ads reports.

woman explaining a chart

Why They Matter

Why should you worry about primary or secondary conversion actions? It all sounds way too technical, after all, and you’d rather run your ads, sit back, and wait for customers to come rushing in.

Sad to say, it doesn’t really work that way.

Imagine you’re running ads without tracking primary and secondary conversions. You make a few sales, but you don’t know which ad led to those sales. If you’re not tracking conversions, you have no idea what worked and why.

Don’t you want an easy way to replicate your success? That’s what tracking primary and secondary conversions can do for you.

How To Change the Primary and Secondary Setting for Conversion Actions

Now that I’ve answered the question, “What are primary and secondary conversion actions?” you might wonder how to change them for your campaign. Here’s how to get it done:

  1. Sign into your Google Ads account, then click the Tools icon at the top of the screen.
  2. Click “Conversions” under the Measurement header.
  3. Find the goal with the conversion action that you want to change and click “Edit Goal.”
  4. Look for the drop-down menu next to the conversion action you want to update.
  5. Click the menu and choose either “Primary action used for bidding optimization” or “Secondary action not used for bidding optimization.”
  6. Click “Save,” and you’re all set.

How To Report Individual Conversion Actions

Why would you want to report individual conversion actions? The main reason why is that sometimes, you might want to see the results for specific conversion actions rather than the totals for all of them. That can help you really drill down into your campaigns and optimize them for better performance.

So how do you do it? Luckily for you, it’s a piece of cake, and I’ve got step-by-step instructions for you right here:

  1. Sign into your Google Ads account if you’re not signed in yet.
  2. Go to the Ads, Ad Groups, Keywords, or Campaigns page depending on where you’d like to add your custom column.
  3. Choose “Modify Columns” from the drop-down menu, then click “Custom Columns.”
  4. Click the “+Column” button to make a new custom column.
  5. Give your column a name. Make sure it’s descriptive so you can easily recognize it later on.
  6. Choose “Conversions” from the list of metrics. You can also combine the Conversions metric with other metrics if you want.
  7. Pick the action you want from the “Conversion Action” menu.
  8. Click “Save” and then “Apply.” You’ll see the new column in your statistics table.

frustrated man

Common Google Ads Conversion Tracking Mistakes To Avoid

So you fancy yourself a Google Ads master, do you? Even if you’ve been around the block a time or two with Google Ads, the odds are pretty good that you’re making at least one of the mistakes below.

Not Tracking Every Conversion Action

If your ultimate goal is to convince customers to buy from you, you might not think it’s worth tracking events that don’t end with people pulling out their wallets. That can be a big mistake, because even the smallest actions can have a ripple effect that leads to a purchase down the road.

Actions you should track (even if they’re not your primary conversion action) include:

  • Phone calls and requests for a callback
  • Downloading your e-book
  • Signing up for your newsletter
  • Filling out your contact form
  • Engaging with your chatbot
  • Requesting a demo
  • Scheduling an appointment

Not Tracking Conversions At All

If you’re not a total newbie to Google Ads, you’re probably scoffing right now.

“Of course I’d track conversions,” you say. “Who in the world wouldn’t?”

It sounds unbelievable, but there really are people out there who don’t bother tracking their conversions. I’d wager that those people probably aren’t doing too well with their campaigns.

If you’re one of those non-tracking people, what are you waiting for? Go set up tracking right now! Don’t worry; I’ll wait for you.

Tracking Non-Conversion Events That Don’t Really Matter

The opposite of tracking nothing is going a little too wild when it comes to keeping tabs on your metrics. Some people crave data and track every little action someone takes on their site, no matter how unimportant.

Quite frankly, this is a waste of time because these actions probably aren’t going to lead to conversions for you. Don’t track non-conversion events like:

This stuff is important, of course, but it has very little to do with conversions. If you must track these metrics, don’t factor them into the performance of your ad campaigns.

Tracking Every Single Conversion for Lead Generation

Tracking each conversion for lead generation can be problematic because you could end up with duplicate data that skews your reports.

Lead generation is great, obviously, but you can’t compare it to purchases. For instance, if someone buys from you 10 times, you get a return for each purchase. But if someone submits the same information to your website 10 times, you won’t get 10 times the return because you still only have one lead.

Thankfully, you can set the frequency of tracking during conversion setup. For sales, you want to choose “Every” so Google tracks each sale. For lead generation, pick “One.” Google will only track individual leads so you don’t wind up with duplicate data.

Tracking Every Phone Call, No Matter How Short

Phone calls can be a great metric to track. When you run an ad, it’s helpful to know which ads prompted people to pick up the phone and give you a call.

The problem comes when you track phone calls that don’t truly matter. I’m talking about really short calls during which users might ask a question and then hang up without converting. If a caller doesn’t take some action, like making an appointment or giving you their email address, it’s probably not worth counting the call.

Google lets you separate the wheat from the chaff by entering a minimum length that a call needs to be to count as a conversation. For some businesses, this number might be 60 seconds. For others, it could be three minutes or more. The minimum length you choose depends on your business and what you’re looking to achieve.

happy man and woman

Start Tracking Primary and Secondary Conversion Actions Today!

At last, we’ve come to the end of this guide. You know the answer to, “What are primary and secondary conversion actions?” and you’re better equipped to understand how those actions influence your Google Ads campaigns.

What comes next? I’d advise you to keep an eye on your primary and secondary conversion actions so you’ll have a good idea of how well your campaigns perform. That data can certainly be eye-opening, and knowledge, as they say, is power. So go ahead and put it to work for you!

Rodney Warner

Founder & CEO

Rodney’s two primary responsibilities are business development and marketing strategy. He produces highly effective marketing campaigns for our clients and works tirelessly to bring new opportunities to Connective and our connections. In his off time, he produces music, plays video games, enjoys his family, and eats way too much ice cream!

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