Make Google AdWords Campaigns More Effective with Smart Goals


This week’s #MetricsMonday looks at how you can harness the power of Google Analytics data to more effectively target users in your existing AdWords campaigns.

Easy to implement, Smart Goals are a great tactic for those looking to optimize campaigns, but who may not have the time or knowledge of how to do a full conversion analysis.

What does Smart Goals allow me to do?

If you’re a small business and not measuring conversions in Google Analytics, Smart Goals allows you to focus on your most valuable visitors. Think of it as an easy workaround if it seems too daunting to enable e-commerce and conversions on your website.

Simply put, Google explains that Smart Goals “help you identify the highest-quality visits to your website and optimize for those visits in AdWords.”

How do Smart Goals work?

Google applies “machine learning across thousands of websites that use Google Analytics and have opted in to share anonymized conversion data.” It uses anonymized data on factors such as session duration, location, and device to determine which visitors are most likely to convert. Given this starting point, Smart Goals then applies this knowledge to your website.

Instead of using data just from your website, Smart Goals references data from a multitude of sites to make marketing efforts more effective.

By better understanding those visitors that are most likely to convert, you can optimize your AdWords campaigns with the overall goal of increasing conversions.

What do I need to do before enabling Smart Goals? 

First, you’ll need to link both your Google Analytics and Google AdWords accounts. Below are the steps to linking your Google Analytics with Google AdWords:

  1. In Google Analytics, click on the Admin tab.
  2. Select your Analytics account.
  3. Select the property you want to connect in the Property column.
  4. Click AdWords Linking.
  5. Select your AdWords or AdWords MCC account.
  6. Click Continue.
  7. Select the Views in which you want AdWords data to appear.
  8. Click Link Accounts.

Second, you’ll need to ensure that data sharing is selected for Google products. This can be found under the Account Settings tab.

To enable Smart Goals, you need to connect your Google Analytics and AdWords accounts. Under Account Settings in GA, select data sharing.

How do I set up Smart Goals?

Smart Goals can be enabled from your Google Analytics Admin tab.

  • On the Admin tab, click Goals under the View column.

Enable Smart Goals from Google Analytics > View > Goals.

  • Select New Goal.

Select New Goal button to create a Smart Goal in Google Analytics.

  • Select Smart Goal.
  • Name your Smart Goal and Save.

Name your Smart Goal in Google Analytics setup.

After setting up Smart Goals in Google Analytics, your next step is to import this data into Google AdWords.

  • In AdWords, click on the Tools tab and select Conversions.

Select Conversions in Google AdWords when setting up Smart Goals.

  • Click on Google Analytics on the left side of the screen.

In Google AdWords > Conversions > select Analytics.

  • Select the Smart Goal.
  • Click Import.

Once set up, this will allow AdWords to import data from Google Analytics.

How will Smart Goals help optimize my Google AdWords campaigns?

Once they’re set up in both Google Analytics and Google AdWords, Google recommends letting Smart Goals run for up to two weeks to gather a sufficient amount of data.

Google outlines the following example in their Smart Goals tutorial:

“You spent $2,000 in AdWords over the past two weeks and have 80 Smart Goals conversions. Therefore, the average CPA for a Smart Goals session during that time period is $25 ($2,000 / 80 = $25). This is the average cost for you to acquire a session with a high likelihood to convert, based on the Smart Goals model.”

The example above shows that, when using Google’s anonymized data, the CPA most likely to convert for this example is $25. This will allow for a baseline that shows where your CPA should be.

Across AdWords, is your CPA above or below your average CPA for Smart Goals? This is crucial to ensuring you’re properly optimizing your campaigns. Smart Goals can be viewed as a success barometer against which you can measure all your campaigns.

Google does recommend running Smart Goals in conjunction with a Target CPA, which is an automated bid strategy. Depending on your AdWords prowess and the time you have to dedicate to AdWords, manual bidding is also an option. I recommend using the bid strategy that fits your skill level and availability. Manual bidding can be more effective, but only if you can dedicate time and resources toward it.

Where can I view Smart Goals performance? 

As with other Google Analytics goals, you can view performance in relation to all site traffic as well as other goals or segments.

  1. In Google Analytics, select Conversions on the left side of your screen.
  2. Click Goals.
  3. Select Smart Goals.

View performance of Smart Goals in Google Analytics from the Conversions > Goals Report.

This report will show you how Smart Goals traffic compares to other traffic on your website.

You can also add your Smart Goals data to any custom reports you may have previously created.

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