What is the GCLID and how can you use it?

GCLID ad reception

90% of all web searches happen on Google which means, if you’re a marketer, you need to understand Google’s capabilities inside and out. Understanding the GCLID is an essential skill for any marketer, particularly those looking to get the most out of their pay-per-click marketing.

As a lead generation tool, Google Ads can’t really be beaten. Whether you’re looking to target high search intent keywords in the awareness, consideration or decision stage, Google Ads is a vital tool to getting that user onto your website.

Using Google Ads, you can create highly targeted adverts and push them to a segmented audience of your choosing. But whether you’re new to Google advertising, or a seasoned PPC expert, understanding the GCLID and its impact on your performance, is essential.

 

What is GCLID and what does it do?

GCLID, or Google Click Identifier, is an essential component when tracking your Google Ads campaigns. GCLID is a unique tracking parameter that Google Ads uses to transfer between your Google Ads account and your Google Analytics account.

The GCLID, or auto-tagging, is a default feature of Google Ads that takes out the work of tracking for advertisers. When the feature is turned on, Google adds the GCLID parameter to your URL every time a user clicks on your ads.

Here’s where to turn GCLID, or auto-tagging on, in Google Ads:

gclid autotagging setup

 

The GCLID tracks a wealth of information, including:

  • Traffic source (e.g: search engine result, website page etc)
  • Campaign
  • Ad group
  • Keyword, or keywords
  • Search Query
  • Time of day
  • Keyword positioning

This information is vital to understanding which ads and keywords are working, and which ones aren’t.

 

Why you should use GCLID to track paid campaigns

Keeping track of the success of your Google Ads campaigns is key to ensuring you’re getting the most out of your budget, or ROAS (return on ad spend). With your budget at stake, you want to be sure that your advert is reaching the right audience and encouraging them to take the desired action, right?

And remember, Google has conversion tracking you can set up that will help you measure your most valuable actions. That way, you can report on the success of your Google Ads based on revenue, not just clicks and impressions.

 

Here’s how to get started with PPC conversion tracking and what you can measure.

 

How to add GCLIDs to your URLs

To make sure your GCLID tracking is working, you just need to enable auto-tagging in your Google Adwords account. Here’s how to check it’s set up correctly, and enable auto-tagging:

Sign in to your Google Ads account. In the left page menu, click Settings.

You’ll automatically see your campaign settings. Select ‘account settings’ in the left-hand menu.

Click the Auto-tagging section. To enable auto-tagging, check the box next to “Tag the URL that people click through from my ad.”

gclid autotagging selection

Click Save. You’ll see it now says that auto-tagging is on. #

 

Do you use offline conversions, such as phone, email or store visits? Then you’ll need to make sure you’re set up for offline conversion tracking too. Here’s how to optimise your Google Ads campaign with offline conversion tracking.

 

How to check if Google Ads auto-tagging works

Now auto-tagging is all set up, you would expect to see the GCLID tags coming onto your paid advert URLs, right?

If you’re not seeing the GCLID parameter appended to your URLs once the page is fully loaded, then it’s likely that your website isn’t handling the parameter properly. Google has some simple steps for you to follow to check if your auto-tagging is working.

So your GCLID isn’t preloading onto your paid adverts? Check out Google’s advice on how to troubleshoot this issue.

 

The limitations of the GCLID

Don’t get us wrong. The GCLID is an amazing tool for marketers to use to fully understand the impact of their ads. But, there are a few shortcomings to using the GCLID:

 

Independent view

Ok great, you’re tracking your Google Ads using the GCLID. But now what? The GCLID only works for Google Ads traffic.

That means that your organic social traffic, your organic search traffic, and even your Microsoft Ads traffic, is going untracked.

While the GCLID is a great way to begin to monitor your individual ads’ impact on your bottom line, it’s only the very beginning of a solution to fully understanding your marketing mix.

 

Setting up

Setting up your GCLID is easy – we saw how easy it was a few paragraphs above. But the GCLID on its own isn’t enough.

Particularly if you’re relying on offline conversions, then you’re only getting a limited view of the real impact of your adverts.

First, you’ve got to set up conversion tracking. If you’re monitoring offline conversions, then that’s more setup as well as manual uploads of data on a regular basis. Finally, there’s adding in revenue data, which can require developers, and is generally quite tricky and convoluted to get done right.

 

Long sales cycles

The GCLID can support you to pinpoint key actions on your Google Ads (once you’ve set up all the tracking), to help you further improve your ad performance. But what about businesses who tend to see a much longer sales cycle?

Google Analytics and Google Ads can only track and monitor performance for a maximum of 90 days. So, if your sales cycle takes over 3 months, then that’s more data that’s being completely lost.

So, what’s the solution?

 

Marketing Attribution to connect sales and marketing data

There’s definitely a need for GCLID. In fact, we use it to track your Google Ads in our own marketing attribution tool. However, we can track and store data on a user who originated from a paid advert for much longer than Google Ads can.

Here’s what else Ruler can do to help you track not just your PPC adverts, but your marketing as a whole:

 

Track and record calls, forms and live chat:

Our marketing attribution tool can trace and record phone calls, form submissions and live chat sessions. This means, you can see exactly how many of each are coming in, and you can also playback calls to understand lead quality and sales team delivery.

 

Assign revenue to your marketing:

Proving marketing ROI is no mean feat. However, we make it easy. Our solution is easy to set up, and once it’s up, it’ll work on its own in the background.

It’ll track every user to your website, and store their data.

When a user converts, whether by phone, email or chat, Ruler will fire all the data its stored on that user, over to your CRM. There, you’ll be able to see the full customer journey directly in your customer relationship management system.

Then, when your user purchases – whether that takes a month or a year – Ruler will fire all the revenue data inputted into your CRM, back into your analytics tools, so you can attribute real revenue to your marketing campaigns, channels and keywords.

The screenshot below highlights the revenue generated from offline conversions which came from a Facebook ad.

tracking facebook ads google analytics - track revenue step 4 - www.ruleranalytics.com

 

Long sales cycles are no longer an issue:

Ruler Analytics isn’t restricted by a 90 day limitation. This means, if you usually see a longer sales cycle, then your data will not be lost.

So if a user converts into a lead, but then sits in your CRM for six months to then become a sale, Ruler can still track their data and push it into the relevant systems. This allows you to keep track of ongoing leads, and get a real ROI on your marketing campaigns.

And remember, you can choose a specific lookback window too. So, if you’re running a campaign, you could look at changes to revenue and conversions during the campaign period only.

 

And there you have it. GCLID is a vital part of tracking your PPC campaigns. But by using a marketing attribution tool like Ruler Analytics, you can understand your marketing as a whole, you can see your ads role in the full marketing cycle and you can easily attribute offline sales to allow you to connect the dots between your revenue and your marketing.

Find out more about Ruler Analytics by booking a demo where you can see how our solution will work for you and your business, no matter your industry.

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Written by

Digital Marketing Manager at Ruler Analytics with experience in SEO, content marketing and social. After working both in-house for a travel firm and at an agency, I help people (who used to be me) attribute their revenue to their marketing efforts.