Understanding Conversion Paths in Google Ads (Adwords)

You can understand conversion paths in Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) via ‘Paths’ reports.

In order to view and use the ‘Paths’ report in Google Ads, follow the steps below:

Step-1: Setup conversion tracking in your Google Ads account.

Step-2: Make sure that your Google Ad account has collected at least 30 days of conversion data from search network ads in your Google Ads reports. Otherwise you are most likely to draw wrong conclusions from your analysis.

Step-3: In your Google Ads account, click on the ‘Tools’ tab and then click on the ‘Search Attribution‘ link under the ‘Measurement’ section:

You can then see the various ‘Paths’ reports on the left hand side:

Google ads provides following three paths reports:

  1. Top Paths report
  2. Time Lag report
  3. Path Length report

But before we dive into these reports, you need to understand the concept of  ‘conversion paths’ in the context of Google ads.

Introduction to Conversion Paths in Google Ads

In the context of Google ads, a ‘path’ corresponds to ‘Conversion Path’.

Google Ads conversion path is the sequence of ad clicks and/or ad impressions that lead up to conversions.

It is the path that your customers took to complete conversion actions.

Following is an example of Google Ads conversion path:

generic impression > generic click > generic impression > brand click => Conversion

Note: The conversion path is created for each conversion action recorded by Google Ads.

Categories of Conversion Paths in Google Ads

There are four categories of conversion paths in Google ads:

  1. Click Paths
  2. Transition Click Paths
  3. Impression Paths
  4. Transition Impression Paths

Introduction to Click Conversion Paths

Click conversion path is a sequence of ad clicks on a search network ad that lead up to conversions.

A click path can be set at the keyword, ad group and campaign level.

So we can have following different types of click paths:

  1. Keyword Path (Clicks) – sequence of keyword clicks that lead up to conversions.
  2. Ad Group Path (Clicks) – sequence of ad group clicks that lead up to conversions.
  3. Campaign Path (Clicks) – sequence of campaign clicks that lead up to conversions.

Keyword click is an ad click resulted from the keyword you are bidding on.

Ad group click in an ad click counted for a particular adgroup.

Campaign click in an ad click counted for a particular campaign.

You can see the click conversion paths in the ‘Top Paths’ report in Google Ads account:

Example of Keyword Path (Clicks): keyword-1  > Keyword-2 > … keyword-n -> CONVERSION

Example of Ad Group Path (Clicks): adgroup-1  > adgroup-2 > … adgroup-n -> CONVERSION

Example of Campaign Path (Clicks): campaign-1  > campaign-2 > … campaign-n -> CONVERSION

Introduction to Transition Click Conversion Paths

Transition clicks conversion paths do not take repeated ad clicks on a conversion path into account.

That is the only difference between the transition click conversion paths and the regular click conversion paths.

For example,

If the regular click conversion path is:

keyword-1  > Keyword-1 > keyword-2 > keyword-2 > keyword-2 > keyword 3-> CONVERSION

Then the equivalent transition click conversion path would be:

Keyword-1 > Keyword-2 > keyword-3 -> CONVERSION

A transition click conversion path can also be set at the keyword, ad group and campaign level.

So we can have following different types of transition click paths:

  1. Keyword Transition Path (Clicks) – sequence of unique keyword clicks that lead up to conversions. Any keyword clicks that were repeated on a conversion path are not taken into account.
  2. Ad Group Transition Path (Clicks) – sequence of unique ad group clicks that lead up to conversions. Any adgroup clicks that were repeated on a conversion path are not taken into account.
  3. Campaign transition Path (Clicks) – sequence of unique campaign clicks that lead up to conversions. Any campaign clicks that were repeated on a conversion path are not taken into account.

You can see the Transition click conversion paths in the ‘Top Paths’ report in Google Ads account:

Introduction to Impression Conversion Paths

Impression conversion path is a sequence of search network ad impressions that lead up to conversions.

An impression path can be set at the keyword, ad group and campaign level.

So we can have following different types of impression paths:

  1. Keyword Path (impressions) – sequence of keyword impressions that lead up to conversions.
  2. Ad Group Path (impressions) – sequence of ad group impressions that lead up to conversions.
  3. Campaign Path (impression) – sequence of campaign impressions that lead up to conversions.

Keyword impression is an ad impression resulted from the keyword you are bidding on.

Ad group impression in an ad impression counted for a particular adgroup.

Campaign impression in an ad impression counted for a particular campaign.

You can see the Impression conversion paths in the ‘Top Paths’ report in Google Ads account:

Example of Keyword Path (impressions): keyword-1  > Keyword-2 > … keyword-n -> CONVERSION

Example of Ad Group Path (impressions): adgroup-1  > adgroup-2 > … adgroup-n -> CONVERSION

Example of Campaign Path (impressions): campaign-1  > campaign-2 > … campaign-n -> CONVERSION

Introduction to Transition Impression Conversion Paths

Transition impressions conversion paths do not take repeated ad impressions on a conversion path into account.

That is the only difference between a transition impression conversion path and a regular impression conversion path.

For example,

If the regular impression conversion path is:

keyword-1  > Keyword-1 > keyword-2 > keyword-2 > keyword-2 > keyword 3-> CONVERSION

Then the equivalent transition impression conversion path would be:

Keyword-1 > Keyword-2 > keyword-3 -> CONVERSION

A transition impression conversion path can also be set at the keyword, ad group and campaign level.

So we can have following different types of transition impression paths:

  1. Keyword transition Path (impressions) – sequence of unique keyword impressions that lead up to conversions. Any keyword impressions that were repeated on a conversion path are not taken into account.
  2. Ad Group transition Path (impressions) – sequence of unique ad group impressions that lead up to conversions. Any ad group impressions that were repeated on a conversion path are not taken into account.
  3. Campaign transition Path (impressions) – sequence of unique campaign impressions that lead up to conversions. Any campaign impressions that were repeated on a conversion path are not taken into account.

You can see the Transition Impression conversion paths in the ‘Top Paths’ report in Google Ads account:

The ‘Top Paths’ Report

The ‘Top Paths’ report show the top conversion paths (in terms of conversion volume or conversion value) your customers took to complete conversion action(s) on your website.

These conversion paths can be:

  1. Click Conversion Paths
  2. Transition Click Conversion Paths
  3. Impression Conversion Paths
  4. Transition Impression Conversion Paths

Click on the ‘Conversion Action’ drop down menu to see the ‘Top Paths’ report for a particular conversion action:

Click on the ‘History Window’ drop down menu to select a history window other than 30 days:

The period of 30 to 90 days prior to conversion action is called the ‘History Window’.

The ad clicks and ad impressions which were recorded within the history window are considered for getting credit for a conversion action by Google ads.

Click on the ‘Path Length’ drop down menu to change the conversion path length:

Path length (or Conversion Path Length) is the number of ad clicks and/or ad impressions it took for your website visitors to convert.

The ‘Time Lag’ Report

Through the ‘Time Lag’ report you can determine, how long (days or hours) on an average it takes for your website visitors to complete a conversion action on your website after the following:

  • The first impression of a Search Network ad (From first impression)
  • Their first click on a Search Network ad (From first click)
  • Their last click on a Search Network ad (From last click)

 

Click on the ‘Conversion Action’ drop down menu to see the ‘Time Lag’ report for a particular conversion action:

Similarly, you can click on the ‘History Window’ drop down menu to select a history window other than 30 days for your ‘Time Lag’ report.

The ‘Path Length’ Report

Through this report you can determine the average number of ad clicks or ad impressions it took for your website visitors to complete a conversion action on your website.

This report has got two tabs:

  • Clicks before conversion
  • Impressions before conversion

The ‘Clicks before conversion’ tab report on the ad clicks which were recorded prior to conversion action on your website.

The ‘Impression before conversion’ tab report on the ad impressions which were recorded prior to conversion action on your website.

The ‘Ad Clicks per conversion’ metric represents, how many times users clicked on your ads on an average before completing a conversion on your website:

The ‘Ad clicks per conversion’ metric is calculated as:

Total number of ad clicks on conversion paths / number of conversions.

The ‘Ad Impressions per conversion‘ metric represent, how many times users saw your ads on an average before completing a conversion on your website.

The ‘Ad impressions per conversion’ metric is calculated as:

Total number of ad impressions on conversion paths / number of conversions.

Click on the ‘Conversion Action’ drop down menu to see the ‘Path Length’ report for a particular conversion action:

Similarly, you can click on the ‘History Window’ drop down menu to select a history window other than 30 days for your ‘Path Length’ report.

Conversion Paths Across Multiple Google Ads Account

If you use multiple Google ads account and you want to simplify conversion tracking and consolidate data across all of your Google ads accounts then you should be using ‘cross account conversion tracking’.

As the name suggest, through ‘cross account conversion tracking’ you can track  conversions across multiple Google Ads accounts.

When using the cross account conversion tracking, use the ‘Search Attribution’ reports in your manager account to see the conversion paths across multiple Google Ads account.

As such, a traditional MMM model is not suitable for carrying out digital marketing mix modelling aka attribution modelling.

Other Articles Related to Attribution Modelling in Google Ads

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  5. Data Driven Attribution Model in Google Ads (Google Adwords)
  6. Setting up Data Driven Attribution Model in Google Ads (Google Adwords)
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My name is Himanshu Sharma and I help businesses find and fix their Google Analytics and conversion issues. If you have any questions or comments please contact me.

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