by Jennifer


Google Analytics, Internet Marketing

Where Conversion Data is Missing, Use Smart Goals to Optimise AdWords Campaigns

The name gives it away – but at ConversionWorks, we’re all about driving conversions. We constantly strive to get more for our customers, whether it’s transactions, registrations, enquiries or phonecalls. For the PPC team, this means gaining insight into the performance of paid marketing channels using real conversion data and optimising the activity accordingly.

But what if no such data is available – if for example, no conversion tracking has been configured? This is often the case for smaller advertisers, particularly where website engagement is infrequent.

Google has a solution, which we like to think of as the next best thing to conversion tracking: Smart Goals.

With Smart Goals enabled, it is possible to identify high-quality visitors to a website and optimise for those visits within AdWords. This means that in the absence of conversion data, rather than throw money blindly at AdWords in the hope that it will drive a positive outcome, it is now possible to see which keywords and ads are driving quality traffic, and which keywords and ads are wasting money.

In Google’s words: “the easiest way to think about Smart Goals is that they reflect your website visits that our model indicates are most likely to lead to conversions”.

How do Smart Goals Work? 

Google uses machine learning across thousands of websites to generate signals that correlate with visitor propensity to convert. These signals are then applied to any website in the form of Smart Goals. Signals that are examined in determining visitor quality include session duration, pages per session, location, device and browser.

Smart Goal Requirements

Advertisers must meet the following requirements for Smart Goals to be enabled:

  1. AdWords and Google Analytics accounts must be linked
  2. The linked AdWords account must have had at least 1000 clicks over the last 30 days
  3. The reporting view must not exceed 1 million hits per day
  4. The Data Sharing setting ‘Google products and services’ must be enabled for Google Analytics


    Setting up Smart Goals is easy. Within Google Analytics, simply select the Admin tab and click Goals. Click +NEW GOAL, select Smart Goal and give it a name. You will then need to import the Smart Goal into AdWords.

    AdWords Optimisation

    Smart Goals will only begin showing in AdWords from the time they are imported (historical data will not be included). You will therefore need to wait several weeks, or until sufficient data has accumulated, before making any optimisation decisions based on that data.

    It will then also be possible to set a target CPA bid for Smart Goals by switching on Conversion Optimiser, if you choose to do so.


    Although historical data for Smart Goals is not included in AdWords, this is not the case with Google Analytics, which shows retrospective data from October 15 onwards. This presents a valuable opportunity for re-engaging with high-quality, previous visitors of your website via remarketing, by creating an Audience in Google Analytics.

    Simply navigate to Admin > Remarketing > Audiences > click +New Audience > select View and AdWords account > select Smart List under Define Audience:


    Advertisers should be aware that there are a number of limitations with Smart Goals, including the inability to customise or configure goals. For a full list of limitations, please refer to Google Support.

    A Final Word

    Bear in mind that it is possible to see data for traffic that has resulted in a Smart Goal completion (versus traffic that has not) before setting up Smart Goals. This is useful as it will indicate whether or not optimising for Smart Goals will in fact be of value for your campaign, based on the benchmark data provided.

    Within Google Analytics, navigate to Conversions > Goals > Smart Goals.

    In the example below, we can see that visits where a Smart Goal has been completed are highly engaged – they don’t bounce, they spend a long time on the site and they view many pages per session:

    In this instance, optimising for Smart Goals (in the absence of conversion data) would be likely to lead to an increase in high quality traffic to the site.


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