Smart Goals in AdWords

It’s mainly aimed at small to medium sized companies and to aid those without conversion tracking. However we don’t believe it’s all it’s cracked up to be…
One interesting requirement is that for an advertiser to be able to set up Smart Goals in their Analytics account they must receive a minimum of 500 clicks from AdWords over a 30 day period to ensure validity of the data.
But, let’s backtrack – what are Smart Goals? Smart Goals essentially count website visits that show a certain level of engagement as a conversion. They use machine learning to examine your website visits and then based on a range of signals (e.g. Session duration, Pages per session, Location, Device and Browser) decide which visits are of the most value to you. Smart goals can then be imported into AdWords data and traffic optimised towards them.
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On paper, this may sound like a good idea, but in reality it may not be…
Smart Goals are much “softer” than other more standard conversions. Unlike leads or transactions, which you know provide definitive, measurable value to your business, Smart Goals are a machine’s best guess at defining website visits that show signs of being valuable.
Engagement metrics differ from business to business. You are putting complete faith in an automated system. The real damage can occur when these conversions are paired in AdWords with certain bidding strategies where you allow Google to bid on your behalf based on the likelihood of a conversion.
Essentially, you’re giving Google full control to bid what they want in order to earn traffic that they decide is valuable to you based only on user engagement metrics.
There are several other limitations: You can’t customise your goals, you can only have one smart goal per analytics view, it can’t be used for mobile app view, and doesn’t support view through or cross device conversions. When you consider that AdWords represents around 96% of Google’s annual revenue it’s no surprise they’re looking for ways to encourage users to spend more.
Smart Goals should never be used as a replacement for conversion tracking; standard goal and conversion tracking should always be a priority. We suggest you always track conversions and base decisions on your own real data when you can do it yourself or by using an agency.

Written by Shannon May