AdWords Postback URL [HACK]

Every affiliate marketer that has ever tried to run campaigns on AdWords knows that there is not such a thing as an AdWords Postback URL.

And despite this huge limitation, affiliates are still considering AdWords to be the best traffic source.

Google Ads Integration
As of June 2019, TrackingDesk service has been discontinued. Tracking Google Ads Affiliate Conversions can be done with the service:

The AdWords Postback URL (the story of a growth hack)

AdWords is perhaps the best traffic source, but it is also the most demanding.

Google is a strict and cruel company to deal, especially when it comes to affiliate marketing.

Their policies are severe and unforgiving, and at the same time, you have to be technically quite savvy to build your marketing stack in a way that will comply with those ever demanding policies.

In other terms, if you want to ride on their wave, you need to work hard and professionally.

The technical challenges can be summarized here:

  • The URL Tracking Template
  • The URL Parameters
  • Auto-Tagging + Google Analytics integration
  • Bidding adjustments
  • Conversion tracking

Did you notice that all those points are about data? Everything you run on AdWords is about DATA. 

The data generated by your campaigns, not only serves you, but it is also used by Google to establish your QualityScore and optimize your campaigns.

One of the important piece of data they will use is the engagement of your visitors with your site and the offers you sell. This engagement is what we are all looking for, and is mostly known as Conversion.

So if you can’t feed Google with your conversion data, you are basically leaving tons of money on the table, as your competitors will certainly not fail at jumping in with their data and will have an open road to more traffic, cheaper clicks, and more conversions.

Since there is no AdWords Postback URL (except in AnyTrack), your only option is to use the Offline Conversion Tracking method.

Offline Conversion Tracking: The Basics

Offline conversions are happening beyond the scope of your website or landing page. In most cases, they happen in the backend of your advertiser or over the phone. Consequently, the AdWords conversion script or the Google Analytics code, doesn’t load and your campaigns performances are not updated. Sadly, when your AdWords account is not updated, you do not benefit from the powerful optimization AdWords can provide.

But along the way, you have other extremely important features that you are missing on.

One in particular: The QualityScore.

Quality Score is Google’s rating of the quality and relevance of both your keywords and PPC ads. It is used to determine your cost per click (CPC) and multiplied by your maximum bid to determine your ad rank in the ad auction process. … The relevance of each keyword to its ad group. Landing page quality and relevance.WordStream

The higher your quality score is, the better you will be positioned in the auction. Cheaper clicks, better traffic, more conversions… The advantages are very clear!

For the above reasons, Google provides an interface which allows you to upload conversions, following a very strict, methodic, annoying, manual, heavy and procedural process…  I don’t know how you feel about manual work, but I personally hate it!

How do you upload Offline Conversions

Relax, we’re not going through that thing again!

Here is the illustration produced by AdWords, which gives you a good idea of what it is.

How do you “hack” the Offline Conversion Tracking?

There are a few steps you need to take before this process is fully streamlined and automated.

The Tools of the trade!

Use AnyTrack to automate your conversion tracking with Google Ads and your affiliate networks.

Do I need to mention that you need a working AdWords account and some campaigns?

  • A TrackingDesk account
  • A Zapier account
  • An AdWords account
  • A Google Sheet account

Setup the conversion in AdWords

  1. Go to your AdWords account and open your Conversion Settings.
  2. Add a conversion and select the “import” option.[spacer height=”20px”]
  3. Select “Other Data Sources or CRM”
    • Track conversions from Clicks and Continue[spacer height=”20px”]Conversion type[spacer height=”20px”]
  4. Define the Conversion name and settings – You can write /select what makes sense to you.[spacer height=”20px”][spacer height=”20px”]
  5. Set the conversion value settings – As an affiliate, it is quite common to have variable conversion values. TrackingDesk will send the offer payout value, which will vary depending on which offer you are promoting.[spacer height=”20px”][spacer height=”20px”]
  6. Set the attribution model[spacer height=”20px”][spacer height=”20px”]
  7. Create an Continue
  8. You are now prompted to prepare your import file.
    A real headache! But, we’ve prepared the AdWords offline conversion template for TrackingDesk that you should copy and use.
  9. Schedule your conversion import.[spacer height=”20px”][spacer height=”20px”]
  10. Add a Schedule and Select Google Sheets[spacer height=”20px”]
  11. You will be prompted to select the Google Sheet file you have saved at step #9 [spacer height=”20px”]
    Keep in mind that if you do not follow meticulously every step, your conversion import WILL FAIL.[spacer height=”20px”]
  12. Set the Frequency and the import time.
  13. Share the Google Sheet with the Google Account shown on your screen (not the address provided in our screenshot). [spacer height=”20px”][spacer height=”20px”]
  14. Save & Preview – You will see some real data only if / when conversions have been added to Google Sheet.[spacer height=”20px”]

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What is Zapier and how do we use it?

“Zapier is an online automation tool that connects your favorite apps, such as Gmail, TrackingDesk, MailChimp, and over 1,000 more. You can connect two or more apps to automate repetitive tasks without coding or relying on developers to build the integration.”

One of my favorite apps within Zapier is the “WebHook”. It’s commonly used by developers to capture data sent to a URL. Yet, Zapier has turned this Webhook into a very powerful app, that allows you to capture and send data to other applications. In our case, we will send the data to a Google Sheet.

Zapier TrackingDesk Integration
As of November 2018, TrackingDesk is the first conversion tracking platform integrated in Zapier. The integration allows you to send conversion data to over 1000 tools, and receive conversion data from 1000 tools such as Shopify, WordPress or  Hubspot.

The Webhook URL provided by Zapier will be used as the “Adwords postback URL” in TrackingDesk.

This section is probably the most technical part of the setup, and if you follow the guidelines, you should not encounter any troubles.

NB: Read through the Zapier TrackingDesk integration documentation.

Before you get started you need to open an account with Zapier (they have a free plan and free trial)
  1. Create a Zap
  2. Select Webhook
  3. Choose the Trigger: Catch Hook (it means that the Webhook will “react” when it is called)
  4. Skip the Next step and Copy the Webhook URL into a notepad
  5. We are going to configure the Webhook to capture data sent from TrackingDesk when a conversion occurs. The Webhook url function is to capture data that is appended to the query strings.For instance, if the webhook URL looks like:[spacer height=”20px”]
    The query strings and their values will be:
    – gclid=023012830128301238
    – revenue=21
  6. The values that we need to send to Google AdWords via the Google Sheet are the following:
    • gclid
    • conversion name
    • conversion value
    • currency
    • conversion time
  7. Here is the AdWords Postback URL (aka Webhook) as it needs to be set up in TrackingDesk*TS_var_7*&revenue=*payout*&timestamp=*iso8601*
    • TrackingDesk will send into the placeholders the following data
      • *TS_var7* the Google Click ID (gclid)
        Note that this is the Alias used in the Traffic Source, but if you have configured the gclid to associate with a different alias, for instance, var_1, then you should use the appropriate placeholder – *TS_var_1*
      • *payout* the conversion value
      • *iso8601* the conversion timestamp
    • Zapier will capture the data so that we can further manipulate it.
      Quick reminder: The data that needs to be sent to the Google Sheet is
      • gclid – the Google Click ID
      • conversion name
      • conversion value
      • the currency of the conversion value
      • the conversion timestamp
  8. Navigate to your TrackingDesk account and edit the traffic source which we have previously set up.
  9. Paste the full webhook URL (which is now the AdWords Postback URL) into the postback URL field / Activate and Save the Traffic Source. [spacer height=”20px”]
  10. Now we need to send data to Zapier in order to “teach” Zapier how to handle the conversion data.

    We have 3 ways to send data.

    1. We wait for a conversion to kick in (not recommended)
    2. We trigger real a conversion manually (you click on your ad or you upload a conversion via the manual import)
    3. We take the Webhook URL and we update the placeholders with some dummy data and hit the URL (in case you are an expert)
  11. Let’s take option #2
    1. Check your  AdWords Campaigns Analytics in TrackingDesk analytics and open the conversion report
    2. Copy an Event ID which has triggered a conversion (the first column) 0161c955c68e0a1301000001
      1. Make sure it is associated with a Google Click ID
    3. Open the Manual Conversion Import screen
    4. Paste the Event ID in the form and add a conversion value 0161c955c68e0a1301000001, 7
    5. Import the conversion (the import will trigger the AdWords Postback URL with the following data)
      [spacer height=”20px”]
  12. Back to Zapier – Press the button “I did This”
  13. Zapier now receives the data that was fired by TrackingDesk into the Webhook
  14. Click on Continue so you can complete the Zapier configuration
  15. Choose an App and search for Formatter by Zapier (We use this function to reformat the timestamp into a format that AdWords accepts)
  16. Select the Date and Time Option and click Continue
    [spacer height=”20px”]
  17. Select Format and pick which input value you want to format[spacer height=”20px”]
  18. Select the new timestamp Format
  19. Set the timezone (UTC)
  20. Now press the Continue button which will lead you to select the application you want to send the data to (in our case: Google Sheet)
  21. Search for Google Sheet
  22. Select which action you want Zapier to perform – Create a Spreadsheet row – and click Continue
  23. Select which Google Sheet account you want to use and continue
    If you have already connected your Google Sheet account, you can select it, if not you will need to connect it via your Google Account.
  24. Edit what Zapier calls the Template [spacer height=”20px”]
    Each field of the template comes with a drop-down menu option, which allows you to select the entities or data you want to use. For example, you can select which Google Sheet will be used, which spreadsheet. Then you can select the data collected by The Adwords Postback URL (Zapier webhook) in the previous steps. You can also elect to manually add certain data.
    [spacer height=”20px”]
    1. Select the spreadsheet 
    2. Select the worksheet – When the worksheet is selected, Zapier will load the columns titles
    3. Google Click ID Column – Pull the drop down and select the Google Click ID Value from the first step
    4. Conversion name – Write the conversion name you have set in your Google AdWords account (step #5)
    5. Conversion time – Select the Time that was the result of the Format step
    6. Conversion Value – Select the conversion value from the first step
    7. Conversion Currency – Write USD
  25. Click Continue
  26. You should have a confirmation screen showing the data that has been sent to your spreadsheet.
  27. Click Finish, name your Zap and Turn it on.

From now on, all conversions generated by this traffic source will fire the Adwords Postback URL, which will trigger the Zap.

In your Zapier account, you will have the possibility to view the history of each trigger. It is very useful in case you see some errors or the data is not sent properly.

Take away

Google Ads Integartion
As of December 2018, Google Ads is fully integrated in TrackingDesk so you don’t have to go through the Postback URL “hack”. Yet, you can still read through the post to learn more about how affiliates use Zapier to improve your marketing data flow.

You’ve heard about Data Driven Marketing in some of our posts and probably in other blogs. And while it might be easy to “conceptualize” what Data Driven Marketing is, it’s not always obvious to see it happening. Zapier is a great tool that allows you to put Data at the center of your marketing tactics and strategies.

I strongly recommend you to learn more about Zapier to see how it can play a role in your workflows. Whether you work with email marketing, lead generation, social media or need to put some order in your bills, Zapier can automate plenty of those tasks and save you countless hours.

ps: If you know someone advertising on AdWords, chances are that this post can save her / him countless of hours, so don’t be shy and Share it;)

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