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Why Google Ads Attribution Is Failing and How to Work Around It

Google Ads doesn’t always have a stronghold on all things marketing. It’s ironic that there are glitches within its own attribution tracking that we here at Solutions 8 have the know-how to navigate. It’s our pleasure to send this valuable information your way.

John Moran gives us his insight into this curious phenomenon.

“I want the world to know this,” says John. “I think that this is something that maybe some agencies have been combating.”

The curiosity that other marketers might be seeing is that Google is losing its tracking capability more and more frequently. 

google ads confusion

John goes on to say, “Google’s not gonna mention this, you’re not gonna hear about it anywhere else, but we’re starting to see this more often. When we run on MER, you look at good non-brand cold traffic scalable campaigns.”

So, where is Google Ads tripping up exactly? It would appear Google is not giving proper credit to where we know it should be.

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First Click Attribution

You can use as many different attribution models as you like. We do. First click, last click, time decay, linear, it doesn’t really matter. They’ve all been working less efficiently lately and acting more under the umbrella of last-click attribution. 

“What I mean by that is we have actually seen this more and more recently, that one click attributed campaigns that are designed to be one click attributed campaigns whether it’s standard shopping or inbound search, DSA, whatever it may be. When it doesn’t remarket its own traffic, it does not allow for much credit.”

mer image

And this is where the MER (media efficiency ratio) now comes into play. All cash in, all cash out. That seems to be the norm lately since Google Ads is giving less attribution to the actual campaigns that are working and more toward what just happened recently. It’s a replica of what’s happening in analytics.

Is standard shopping struggling?

We’re going to take a close look at this client here which is using Google Ads conversion tracking. Let’s use an actual first-click attribution. You’ll be amazed as we take you through it. This emphasizes the importance of MER in recent times.

“So I’ll prove it to you here,” John guides us. “If I go into the changed history of this client and we look at today, for example, you’ll see that we went for first click to data-driven on the purchase conversion action. I did that at one o’clock today, it’s only four-thirty, so it’s not that long ago.”

And this is what we can observe in the campaign in the last three days. A quick example shows that everything is working well. There are 2,400 in, and 8,700 out. That’s a good ROAS at 361. Now for the interesting part. Standard shopping actually has zero conversions and zero conversion value for $247.

That’s an oddity since we’re using Northbeam, the attribution tool that shows converting paths that come under click only. It is clear that in the last three days, from January 1st to the third, standard shopping had a click and then came back through what is called the search purchase intent.

One person took that one path and spent $254. So we know this person came into the brand new campaign that just started and got a click and a conversion. It was running on the first click during this time. Clearly, the first click should have given all the attribution back to standard shopping. It did. It gave all of the attributions to the search purchase intent, which is still doing really well.

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However, the campaign now looks like it spent $247 and made zero cents. As we mentioned above, Google Ads is losing its ability to track accurately. You’re going to see an increase in efficiency regardless of what Google Ads says internally.

Why accurately tracking conversions is important

All the good marketers out there have undoubtedly been scratching their heads lately and asking themselves a series of questions. 

Why is brand the only thing that is working? 

Why is my remarketing actually working a little bit less? 

Why is it more last click attributed where YouTube and Standard Shopping campaigns are more first click attributed networks?

Important networks are starting to lose their efficiency. Solutions 8 can confirm this. That’s what we’ve seen as well.

“We’ve gotta go back to our roots,” says John. “We know that if they’re relevant search terms, if it’s good traffic, if they have the right audience, if the demographic is good, there’s an affinity in the market audience, it may be, that will usually result in sales regardless of what Google Ads says, because Google is not attributing properly.”

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As a result, the ad attribution platform, Northbeam has become more reliable to us recently.

What you're doing is still working!


Google seems to be turning into iOS while we, on the other hand, have enhanced conversions on. We have a 90-day attribution window that uses first-click attribution. Overall, things are getting a little lackluster of late. A campaign like Performance Max tends to over-attribute itself. It potentially starts stealing more of the good wholesome Standard campaigns that people have been running.

Lack of proper credit

“I saw this today,” continues John, “and I want the world to know. I think that this is something that maybe some agencies have been combating clients lately by saying, no, no, no, this is working. Don’t turn off that ROAS. It is not realistic, or that CPA is under-attributed.”

This is simply a good indicator that Google Ads is not having the proper credit attributed to where we know it should be. Hopefully, this makes you think differently about your campaigns and think differently about cold traffic generally.

Don’t despair

All is not lost. It is still pretty scalable even though Google says you are a bad marketer.

We want to dive right into another pertinent topic already mentioned in this blog. The discussion topic is MER. What is MER? Think of it as company ROAS. That’s right! All cash spend out on paid media versus all revenue in. Take a look at this video to see just what MER can do for you.


Jani is a copywriter at Solutions 8 with a passion for short stories, dancing under the stars, and 80s pop music. Her soul’s purpose is to turn herself into a masterpiece. Her future is filled with green fields, flowers, sunshine, and poetry.

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