Google Ads Conversion Tracking Post IOS 14

May 20, 2021

Many marketers were affected by the disappearance of GLCID parameter in Google Ads paid traffic after the April 26th update. To comply with Apple App Tracking Transparency restrictions, Google had to start sending WBRAID and GBRAID parameters instead, providing anonymised way to track ad conversions. In this post we'll discuss the implications, what it means for tracking and how Formsable can be used to keep tracking conversions for Google Ads traffic without GLCIDs.

Background

Apple forced app vendors to stop sending identifier that can be uniquely traced to a user. To solve tracking needs, Google replaced it's old Google click identifier (GCLID) with new parameters that can't be used to identify user.

This meant that all old ways of tracking conversions such as Google Ads API integrations sending GCLIDs won't work for paid traffic coming from IOS native apps such as YouTube.

Official Google announcement said following:

We recently introduced a new URL parameter to help comply with Apple’s policies and help you measure the results of your ads on iOS. This new parameter will help you attribute conversions back to your ad campaigns and works with conversion modelling to give you accurate measurement on iOS.
To support this new parameter, the global site tag (gtag.js), Google Tag Manager (gtm.js) and where a Google Analytics property is linked to a Google Ads account, Google Analytics (analytics.js) will set a new first-party cookie on your domains by default. This cookie will attribute conversions back to ads subject to ATT policies. As always, you can opt-out of first party cookie tracking at any time by disabling conversion linking in your respective configuration.

While the announcement seems last-minute and Google Ads still isn't providing explicit instructions on the best practices for tracking Google Ads traffic without GCLIDs, Formsable came up with a solution that is compatible with the new tracking approach.

Solution

While it isn't possible to send WBRAID and similar new parameters to Google Ads API directly, Google provides an indirect way to track them.

For front-end tracking, a Global Site Tag must be installed according to the latest instructions. In addition to tracking, Global Site Tag serves important function, setting up a first-party tracking cookie and associating it with WBRAID / GBRAID parameters on Google servers.

Formsable tracking captures Global Site Tag / Analytics first-party Client Id and associates it with the customer.

It also sends a conversion to Google Analytics Measurement Protocol API whenever a conversion happens. It's important to add that even when a conversion happens offline or on the back-end, Formsable attributes it to the previously recorded Client Id and sends Purchase conversion to Google Analytics, which treats it effectively as an online activity.

This allows Google to utilise its conversion modelling in the same way it can do it for a regular online activity.

Once this is set up, Conversion Import can be used to load conversions from Google Analytics to Google Ads. According to Google, these imported conversions will be attributed using conversion modelling that should work even when GCLID parameters is missing: "Reports based on your imported conversions data may include modeled conversions as estimates in cases where Google can’t observe all conversions. These are based on aggregated and anonymized data."

This should allow to recover attribution for most of the conversions and have them displayed in the Google Ads reports correctly. This can be achieved by tracing the conversion attributed to Client Id by Formsable back to the original WBRAID and attributing it based on the WBRAID allocation logic Google Ads used. While its unclear what percentage of IOS traffic exactly this approach can attribute, it's the best option available at the moment for tracking IOS conversions in Google Ads.

For accounts with sufficient traffic, activating Google Signals can improve conversion tracking even greater.

P.S.

In addition to the Google Analytics / Global Site Tag integration described above, Formsable integration with Facebook Conversions API solves tracking of Facebook IOS traffic without FBCLIDs by sending Facebook Pixel browser id, as well as, optionally, personal data that can be used for matching.