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Google Rolls Out Keyword Conversion Tool

Google on Thursday introduced a new tool to allow its 150,000 keyword advertisers to track conversions from the clicks they receive on their Google ads.

The new conversion-tracking tool is free to advertisers, allowing them to insert a line of JavaScript into their Web pages to track whether users arriving via keywords convert. In addition to purchase conversion, advertisers can track if a user signs up for a newsletter, views certain pages, or qualifies as a sales lead by giving contact information. As an additional benefit, advertisers can have the value of each conversion sent back to Google and included in their reports.

Mobile-device software seller Iambic, one of the first AdWords' advertisers to use the conversion-tracking tool, said it would allow the company to better allocate its $1,500 per month AdWords budget.

"We couldn't figure it out," said Iambic's director of marketing, Sebastian Dijmarescu, of the return from AdWords' campaigns. "It was a guessing game."

Dijmarescu said the conversion tracking allowed him to see clearly which keywords were working best. Google's campaign management reports carry a keyword campaign's conversion rate and cost per conversion.

"The more we can do to improve the relevancy, the more users pay attention, and the more clicks we can deliver to advertisers," said Salar Kamangar, director of product management at Google.

The conversion tool could help advertisers decide whether to opt out of Google's contextual advertising program, AdSense. Some search engine marketers have complained that keywords served on content pages have much lower conversion rates than those on search pages. AdWords customers are automatically enrolled in AdSense unless they opt out.

Kamangar said Google would also use the conversion data to gauge the performance of keywords. While he said the data would not initially be used in determining rank, he did not rule it out in the future.

"It's a quality signal," he said. "We're always open to new quality signals about which ad we show in what order."

Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Watch (which is owned by the parent company of this site), said such data could show quickly how robust the return is for keyword advertising.

"I suspect the main thing Google might do is watch to see if they can determine that clicks are converting well beyond what they cost," he said. "If so, they might decide to up minimum bids on certain terms."

Users clicking on a keyword have a cookie downloaded to their computer that allows Google to record conversions. The cookie, tied to each keyword, expires after 30 days, meaning Google can see if a conversion took place after the initial visit.

In an attempt by Google to head off any Big Brother privacy concerns, advertisers will carry a visible logo with "Google Site Stats" on the pages that track conversions. Visitors can click on the logo for an explanation of the tracking and send Google a message with any concerns. Google said the cookie will not have any personally identifiable information, and said it would not create profiles of searchers buying habits. Some have raised concerns, though, that brand-conscious advertisers might hesitate to put a Google logo on the pages of their e-commerce sites.

"We wanted to be very conservative and come up with the most privacy-sensitive implementation possible," Kamangar said.

The conversion-tracking tool is part of the race to provide deeper analytics by paid search providers. Google rival Overture Services in January bought analytics company Keylime Software in order to buff up its own analytics. Second-tier player FindWhat.com rolled out its own ROI-tracking tool in March.