Adwords Smart Goals – Thanks.. for not making it automatic

You may have seen the account alerts to activate Smart Goals in your Analytics and might still be wondering whether its a good idea or not.

In short, it’s Google’s way of getting advertisers to set up Adwords tacking via Analytics, based on historical data from Google’s pool of Analytics users who are sharing their data anonymously.

ie it will give you an idea of who Google thinks are high performing users. A clever guestimate.

Should you use it?

Scenario 1: if you have been running your campaigns for a while and have not implemented any tracking.. well its highly unlikely you will get your act together so maybe you should try it out.

Scenario 2: If you are already running conversion tracking, whether it be revenue, downloads, forms submits then it’s probably not going to add much insight to your campaigns.

How does it work?

It works on ‘machine learning’ from Google’s Billions of Analytics interactions (thousands, millions or billions.. lets just say its a bucket load of data.. trust me). Using this data Google has decided on what it feels is ‘performing’ metrics that are likely to lead a user to convert.

Google uses a host of metrics to work out whether a user is likely to convert, taking into considering session duration, pages per session, location, device and browser.

So its basically Google saying:

“ok so you don’t want to implement proper tracking, leave it with us and we will tell you who is likely to convert based on what has happened in the past”.

Whether you think this is the right way to go about it that’s up to you but personally, I am not a fan of ‘guess work’, ‘hunches’ or ‘gut feelings’. I like real measurable data and to me, this isn’t quite what I’m looking for in terms of measurement.

What is reported on?

Everyone else seems to be posting this screenshot so I’m going to do the same (maybe cause those writing these posts just want to write about it and not ever use it! – me being one of them)

Smart Goals for Adwords report

In case you can’t see if very well the dimension is called ‘Smart Goal Complete’ with the results being quite robust: ‘Yes’ & ‘No’. (yeh bit of sarcasm intended there).

In this example those with Smart Goals have an average Bounce rate of 0%, Pages per session of 59.18 and Avg. Session Duration of 30:10 minutes. Right.

I don’t know about you but the data here is pretty obvious. I’m hoping this is an exaggerated demo cause I’m thinking the most talented minds in the world could come up with a better algorithm for Smart Goals than this.

To me the above logic works something along the lines of:

  1. Thousand pages per visit?
  2. 0% bounce rate?
  3. Website visit duration into the hours?

If you answer yes to the above then its a goal!

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen and Analytics account that works like this.. otherwise we would never have conversions! Anywho.. I’m sure (hoping) its a work in progress.

Setting it up

The funny thing is you still actually need to set up a goal!.. and then link it with Adwords. So you still need to do 75% of the work! However in this case you don’t need to add any additional script to your site or any conversion tracking.

My advice is to get some help setting up the tracking! If you are going to do most of the effort you might as well do a quick Destination > /thanks.html.. > Save. Then pull that data into AdWords right?


I think its great that this tracking is not auto enabled! I know I have been a bit tongue in cheek but I can see how it would benefit some web masters who want to save the 23 seconds of additional work to have Analytics tracking properly.

After reading Wordstream’s and why people need it I agree in that a lot of advertisers do not have tracking installed.

Saying that the Smart Goals actually get you to create a goal.. the whole thing pretty much.. you still need to do the 3 steps and then link back into Adwords. See below my quick test setup:

Smart goals setup in Analytics

The only thing I didn’t do was add the destination page in the goal description to create a very basic, yet effective setup. I’m not talking OnClick tracking, revenue, video views etc.. just a basic thank-you page type setup which most websites can do with little fuss and effective transparency.

I do appreciate the thinking behind this on Google’s end and I’m sure the data they have is mind boggling and leads to amazing insight however I’m not convinced the current setup and approach is easy enough to fix the tracking issues faced by current, non-savvy web masters.