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Shop Talk: Mastering Offline Conversion Tracking

by Colling Media - December 01, 2023

Shop Talk Podcast Episode 3: Mastering Offline Conversion Tracking

In this episode of Colling Media Shop Talk, Doug Campbell and Senior Paid Search Manager Grant Warren delve into the nuances of offline conversion tracking, discussing the implications of third-party cookie deprecation and the strategic importance of leveraging first-party data for refined marketing campaigns. They explore practical steps for setting up effective tracking systems, the impact on campaign performance, and the competitive advantage it offers in a privacy-centric digital landscape.

Shop Talk: Mastering Offline Conversion Tracking

“By feeding the system clean first-party data, we’re teaching the algorithms what is most important to us to continue to go after the most cost-effective conversions.”

Grant Warren, Senior Paid Search Manager, Colling Media

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Full ‘Shop Talk’ Podcast Transcript: Mastering Offline Conversion Tracking

Voice Over (00:00):
Colling Media ‘Shop Talk’, the marketing podcast for Marketing Geeks, made by Marketing Geeks.

Doug (00:08):
Hello, and thank you for joining us for another episode of Colling Media ‘Shop Talk’. I’m Doug Campbell, president of Colling Media, and joining me today is Grant Warren. Grant is a Senior Paid Search Manager here at Colling Media. Thanks for being on the show today.

Grant (00:21):
Thanks for having me, Doug. It’s great to be here and love the topic that we’re about to discuss today.

Doug (00:26):
Yeah, that’s a great point. It’s actually a topic that I’ve always found really intriguing, which is not just conversion tracking in general, but sort of offline conversion tracking, and I know it’s become even more important recently. So, to kick us off here, can you just describe to us how advertisers typically track conversions on Google?

Grant (00:45):
That’s a great question, Doug. Google provides a great suite of products, including analytics as well as the Google tag to track what happens post-click, right? So on a website as well as what we’re going to dive into today, what happens offline in the offline world, so maybe it’s a sale that occurs in an office or over the phone. There are so many different ways to track all that, that it’s a lot for marketers, but very exciting times in the world of conversion tracking.

Doug (01:16):
Sure, yeah. And you mentioned Google Analytics and the Google tracking tag. My understanding of that is once somebody clicks, they go to a website, and then on that website, they take some action, right? They fill out a form, they buy a product, and they get to a certain place, a thank you page, a confirmation page, and you can either have Google Analytics send that data back to Google Ads, or you can put a Google tag, which is a third-party tracking cookie, on the thank you page, and that tells Google, “Hey, not only did they search for this and they clicked on this, but then they made it to the place on the website we needed them to get to.” And so we’re typically tracking it by making that sort of connection there. Is that accurate?

Grant (01:53):

Doug (01:55):
And now we’ve all heard about the death of third-party cookies. How is that going to impact that?

Grant (02:01):
That’s definitely a great question and one that a lot of advertisers, marketers, and agencies have been asking themselves, scratching their heads about. While in the short term it might present some challenges, it’s really an opportunity for us moving forward. With that, we’re looking at what we call first-party data now. So, ones that we’re acquiring on our site offline, emails, phone addresses, to really capture what’s going on post-click and getting the most results for advertising dollars.

Doug (02:33):
Yeah. So that makes a lot of sense. Obviously, we’ve been used to living in a world where we could just pass all that data back and forth using third-party cookies, but now it’s going to be incumbent on the advertiser to capture that first-party data.

Grant (02:43):
Absolutely, right?

Doug (02:44):
And I think this leads into something that we’ve been doing here at Colling Media for a while because it has other benefits downstream, but now everybody’s going to have to do it in some form or another, which is offline conversion tracking. What is offline conversion tracking?

Grant (02:58):
That’s a great question as well. With offline conversion tracking, you’re taking events that occur in the offline world. So say somebody submits a form, but then there are multiple steps within that consumer stage, right? So they might need a phone call, the sales rep might be reaching out to them. And as that individual moves further down that sales journey and maybe becomes a sale or makes a purchase offline, what we’re doing is taking that data and importing it back into ad platforms such as Google Ads to really refine and expand on our smart bidding strategies. It’s just taking the data that occurs offline, making sense of it, and identifying it with Google customer profiles in this instance, to capture what is occurring offline and what strategies are working online to facilitate what’s occurring in the offline world there.

Doug (03:59):
So that sounds exciting, but it also sounds like it could be complex, right? In the previous world, if you had Google Analytics and you had Google ads running under the same account, you were good to go. But what do they actually have to set up or track or do in order to get offline conversion tracking working?

Grant (04:20):
It all depends on the business goals, right? There are a couple of things. Obviously, you want to have a CRM in place so that we’re capturing that initial contact, right? So whether it’s a phone call or a form fill, capturing email, phone numbers, and first and last names. So you want to have that in place, obviously. And then ensuring that all the tagging is in place, right? So making sure that GA4 is passing that information and that the two platforms are really talking to each other. From there, it’s just making sense of that data and cleaning it up and putting it in a format that will leverage those user insights and help Google or Bing or any ad platform go after those consumers that are in their moments that led to the previous sales. So it’s taking a step with your CRM, making sure it’s all connected, working with your tech team or web development to make sure that the forms are capturing what they need, doing it in a privacy-centric mindset, and being mindful of the privacy concerns that people have nowadays.

Doug (05:36):
Sure, yeah. And that makes a lot of sense. You mentioned the things forms need to capture and being in a privacy-centric mindset. And I know Google and other platforms like Meta are now passing along a click ID too. So when I click on an ad and I come to a website or I make an interaction, they’ve assigned a unique ID to that click. So I can store that in the CRM as well, and then track that customer journey as you described, and send that information back so that Google knows what worked and what didn’t.

Grant (06:06):
Yes. What you’re referring to there is the Google click identifier, also known as the GCLID. It’s an alphanumeric string of numbers that’s attached to each ad interaction. So if we’re capturing that in an invisible form on one of our landing pages, we’re able to then pass that back to Google once that user becomes a customer. And so we want to track that back and really tell the systems that Google is pushing with their AI and machine learning that we want more customers like this because what’s going to be important in 2024 is going after that finite amount of leads, right? Because there are only so many, and we want to get in front of those users that are most likely to convert. And that offline conversion data is going to help refine and progress that learning.

Doug (06:57):
Okay, so now I’ve updated my forms or my CRM, and I’m storing the right data that I need to pass back, how do I actually get it back? I mean, I’m imagining I’ve got to go upload a spreadsheet, I think that’s an option, but there are other options too, right?

Grant (07:11):
Absolutely. Salesforce has a direct connection when speaking on Google. You can do that through Zapier connections. There are also Zoho and HubSpot connections that allow you to import that data seamlessly, and you set it on a schedule depending on the sales process or lead lifetime to get it back into the system and allow the machine learning and those algorithms to learn from that data.

Doug (07:48):
Okay. That’s great. So there are intense ways to do it with spreadsheets and APIs and all those sorts of things. But if you’re tracking it in a CRM and you’re using a large familiar CRM, there might be a connector out there that’ll just do the heavy lifting in terms of passing that data around. So you can get that. So now I’ve got offline conversion tracking set up, I’m tracking the right click IDs and I’m tracking names and emails, and I’ve got it linked into my CRM, and I’ve got my CRM set up to pass that data back to Google, how does that actually impact the performance of my campaigns?

Grant (08:21):
That’s another great question, and really that’s something that in the last few years, marketers, especially within Google and paid search, where there is a lot of investment and that investment can go quickly, and there’s a lot of data being accrued. So, by feeding the system that clean first-party data, we’re just teaching the algorithms what is most important to us. So, if it’s offline conversions that lead to a sale, we want to be able to track those different stages. And by working with our partners and our advertisers, what we do is develop that lead journey sale there. And what that looks like is, how many MQLs do we need to get to an SQL and placing values on those and really being correct with that information. And having it valid, what that’s doing is just allowing these smart bidding strategies that Google is on top of, and a lot of marketers have been embracing, to refine and continue to go after the most cost-effective conversions that are likely to lead to that purchase or that initial lead there.

Doug (09:38):
Sure, yeah. And there’s a lot to unpack in what you just said across different types of automated bidding strategies. It opens up a lot of really cool possibilities in the sense that I cannot just optimize for leads, right? If you’re just optimizing for I got this many leads from this set of ads as opposed to No, I got this many sales, right? Or I got this many scheduled appointments or whatever it is that you can track in your CRM that doesn’t happen online. And you mentioned the journey from a marketing-qualified lead to a sales-qualified lead, and we can now assign values to that so we can then say, Hey Google, I don’t just care about how many sales I get, this sale is worth more than that sale, and so I want more of these and fewer of those so you can start bidding for your optimal return on ad spend or maximizing the conversion value that’s coming out of this.

Grant (10:31):
Absolutely. It’s one of the great things with that, and like you just touched on, being able to identify the different points in that funnel or within that journey. And maybe there’s an example of we’re getting too many dental assistant leads for an education client, but they’re not turning into appointments or enrollments and starts. And so by having that first-party data and having those different stages identified, we’re able to target maybe the appointment stage, and so that we’re getting less qualified leads. We might be investing a bit more to get those qualified ones, but we’re going to see our conversion rates increase with there as well as the offline to really push those individuals through the process.

Doug (11:15):
Yeah. And I think it’s a really interesting point because that’s why we’ve embraced it over the last several years, the opportunity to optimize not just for quantity, but for quality, and really targeting a return on ad spend, and really providing that holistic approach as opposed to just marketing’s job is to drive the clicks to the website. What happens after that isn’t our fault. But really embracing that marketing needs to deliver a return and this gives us the tools to do it. Absolutely. And I think it’s really interesting because with the death of third-party cookies, you are going to get to a point where the online checkout, even though it happens online, still needs to be passed back with a similar method. We’re still going to have to track these click IDs and find a way to send that data directly back to Google because the third-party pixel that we used to use isn’t going to be able to. So even though cookies aren’t dead, we still need to start doing this so we can get the right value, we can get the right quality, we can get the right signals to train the AI. And as cookies start to phase out, we need to start figuring out how to do this so that we know how to do it for the traditional online conversions because those are going to have to go through this sort of pathway going forward.

Grant (12:21):
That’s correct. You bring up a good point there with all of that in that, preparing for this, and especially with 2024 coming upon us, what we’re going to be looking at is advertisers that have embraced this technology will be one step ahead of their competition. And so, working with our partners and anybody out there, we welcome you to have a discussion with us, to really get a nice lay of the landscape, and to be able to have your marketing with this type of offline conversion tracking, paint a picture for you so that shareholders are in the know, stakeholders have a position there and they can understand it and the results will then speak for themselves as you continue to refine that.

Doug (13:06):
That’s fantastic. Thank you so much for joining me here today. So, as you heard, offline conversion tracking is a thing. It’s valuable, it’s important, and there’s some setup involved, but if you’ve got the right pieces in place, it can be incredibly valuable for your campaigns. And with the death of cookies on the doorstep, it’s going to become necessary for basically all of your campaigns. So again, thank you so much for joining us today, Grant, thank you for listening in as well. For Grant Warren and the entire team here at Colling Media, I’m Doug Campbell.

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