Should I Use One-Per-Click Or Many-Per-Click Conversions?

I’ve been in this business long enough to remember the good old days. Men were men, women were women, and we only had one conversion type to pick from in Google AdWords. And I had to walk to my PPC agency job uphill both ways! Kids these days have all sorts of crazy conversion events to pick from: one-per-click, many-per-click, and even view-through conversions. But which one really measures the success of your AdWords account?

For this post, we’ll just focus on the two most commonly used conversions: one-per-click and many-per-click. View-throughs can be handy for display network campaigns, but you won’t see any stats for them in your search network campaigns.

First, some definitions. A one-per-click conversion measures when an individual user clicks through an ad and completes your defined conversion event (purchase, lead form completion, newsletter signup, or whatever else you created). Many-per-click conversions happen when that same user clicks through, enters your site, and then completes multiple conversions upon their visit.

Here’s an example. Let’s say User A clicks through an ad and visits your t-shirt site. On their first visit, they purchase one shirt and complete a conversion. A couple days later they receive their shirt and are so pleased with how soft and comfortable it is that they go back to your site (without clearing the 30-day AdWords cookie from their browser) and buy another one. In this scenario, you would have a single one-per-click conversion (since there’s only one user) and two many-per-click conversions (since there are two purchase conversion events).

An easier way to think about it would be that one-per-click conversions measure customers and many-per-click conversions measure transactions. So if it’s important for you to know how many new customers you have, use one-per-click conversions as your success metric. If you’re more concerned with how many transactions are completed (regardless of whether they come from each customer making a single transaction or a single customer making many transactions), then use many-per-click conversions.

Of course, in an ideal situation you should be using both conversion types to better understand how transactions are happening. But it’s likely that you are working for a non-AdWords-savvy boss or client that is just concerned with whether conversions are going up. Rather than have to explain the subtlety of conversion tracking every time you have a conversation, sometimes it’s better to just pick one to be the most representative of your success. Just don’t switch back and forth between the types on your reporting! A sudden switch from many-per-click reporting to one-per-click could make you look pretty bad, even if the account is performing as well as it ever did.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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