Google’s “Smart Goals”: Are Smart Goals Really That Smart?

goalLast week, Google unveiled what they are referring to as “Smart Goals” for advertisers who currently don’t have conversion tracking. Many AdWords accounts rely on either a conversion pixel from AdWords to track conversion activity, or they import Goals that they have created in Analytics. However, there are thousands of advertisers who do neither and there was never an offering to assist until now.

What are Smart Goals?

This is a mechanism that acts as a bridge between your Analytics and AdWords audience behavior. Per Google, “Smart Goals help you identify the highest-quality visits to your website and optimize for those visits in AdWords.”

Sounds kind of hocus pocus-y, doesn’t it?

Google generates these goals using data aggregation across thousands of websites that have Analytics installed already. They are sites that have given permission for Google to study and utilize the anonymous conversion data. They mash all that up and find correlations between user behavior and the likelihood that they’ll convert…things like user location, pages per session, etc. The algorithm then uses that information to look at your visitors, and when they reflect that same behavior it’s assumed they’re more likely to convert.

How Do You Create Them?

When you log into Analytics, go to your Admin section and then click “Goals.” You’ll see an option for “Smart Goals.” Select that, and you’re done. You can check out what Smart Goal behavior will be based on ahead of time if you’d like, by going to the Conversions section of Google Analytics. There’s a Smart Goals report that will show you the engagement level of the audience:



Does It Work Differently In AdWords?

Yes and no. It’s still treated as a conversion, so you can do things like set a target CPA, just as you would any other “normal” conversion in AdWords. You import it like you would any other conversion into AdWords:


However, there are some features that it doesn’t support like view-through conversion counting.

This Is Trusting Google a Lot. Are These a Bad Idea?

It depends on who you ask! There’s been a lively debate occurring amongst the PPC community about the merits and pitfalls of having something like Smart Goals. They are far from perfect, with some of the notable drawbacks being that they are customizable in ANY way, and not all features are supported, such as Smart Goals being counted for view-through conversions. They also can only be used for website views and not anything related to app behavior.

Curious to read some opinions? Read why Wordstream thinks this is a worthy additional tool, and why others don’t.