The ultimate guide for Google Click ID (GCLID)

Some users click on an ad but never buy anything. This is a huge waste of money for advertisers. How can they make sure they get the best value for their money? The answer is to track the behavior of users when they have clicked on your ads to understand them better.

Advertisers can use GCLID to get better insights into their ads. If you want to improve the performance of your campaign, you need to understand it well. It helps you to know if your ads are performing well. If your ads are not generating leads, you’ll know why and can fix the problem.

In this article, you’ll learn how Google Click ID (or GCLID) works, what you need to get started, and how to install, test, use, and troubleshoot GCLID in Google Analytics.

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    What’s GCLID?

    GCLID (Google Click Identifier or Google Click ID) is a tracking parameter that allows you to transfer information between your Google Ads and Google Analytics accounts so that you can monitor your Google Ads campaigns. Thanks to the GCLID, you can collect information about people who visit your website by clicking on your ad. The GCLID is a long slice of code behind your URL. Besides, it’s available in different versions as FBCLID and MSCLID also on Facebook and Microsoft.

    Every Google Ads account automatically tags URLs. If you enable this, Google will automatically add the tracking parameter GCLID to your target URL when someone clicks on your ad.

    For example:

    Which information the GCLID sends?

    You need this data to analyze the effectiveness of your pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and report on the results of your financial investment in traffic.

    • Keyword data
    • Match type
    • Medium
    • Page data
    • Landing Page
    • User details
    • Traffic information
    • Source
    • Conversion tracking
    • And more…

    Why should you track your paid search campaigns with GCLID?

    Companies invest in advertising to increase their profits. However, sitting down after advertising and waiting for it to turn a profit won’t get you anywhere. Tools like Google Ads and Google Analytics collect and deliver more data than a human could. To get valuable conversions, you should always analyze ad results to find out what works well and what needs improvement.

    That’s why GCLID enables you to analyze all types of ad clicks and many behaviors like ad clicks, keyword targeting, and time spent on the website. This way, you don’t have to create many long URLs. The data is automatically sent to your Google Analytics account. With this data, you can increase your conversions without making mistakes and save time at the same time.

    Handicaps of GCLID

    While GCLID provides us with various conveniences, it also has some drawbacks, of course. It’s very helpful that it provides us with so much information, but how can we be sure that this information is correct? Many users go to websites they’re not interested in and click the same link more than once. There is also click fraud. However, it gives us clearer data about the accuracy of the data you get with auto-tagging.

    How to enable it

    The ultimate guide for Google Click ID (GCLID)
    • Go to your Google Analytics account. Then you’ll see the Admin section in the left corner. To link between two accounts, follow Property → Product Links → Choose Google Ads Links and complete it. Plus, you can check whether the link is completed or not in your Google Ads account on the Linked Accounts page.
    The ultimate guide for Google Click ID (GCLID)
    • Enable auto-tagging in Google Ads. Go to Overview → Settings → Account Settings → Auto-tagging (enable it). The GCLID will be automatically appended to the end of your URLs when someone clicks on your Google Ads.

    Read more to learn in detail about adding GCLID to GA4 and Google Universal.

    How to track offline conversions

    It’s important to set up for online conversions. Otherwise, you can’t figure out which campaigns are more effective with your offline conversions. There are two different offline conversion tracking options.

    1. Import offline conversions directly into your Google Ads:

    First of all, you need to set up an offline conversion goal in Google Ads.

    The ultimate guide for Google Click ID (GCLID)
    • Go to “Tools & Settings” → Measurement → Conversions.
    • Then click on the “+ new conversion action” field.
    • Select “Import”.
    • Select “Other data sources or CRMs”.
    • Select “Track conversions from clicks”.
    • Set a “Goal and action optimization”.
    • Enter a conversion name.
    • Choose a value from three options.
    • Chose how many conversions to count per click or interaction. You can choose the “Every” option if you sell products. However, you can also choose the “One” option if your goal is to generate leads. Otherwise, you’ll get twice the value if the same person fills out a form more than once.
    • Choose your click-through conversion window and your attribution model. Then create!

    Now you can import the offline conversion:

    The ultimate guide for Google Click ID (GCLID)
    • Go to Measurement → Conversions.
    • Click on “Uploads”.
    • Click on the plus button and “View templates”.
    • Find the templates for “Conversion from clicks” and select a template format to download.
    • Then go back to the previous page and choose your format under “Source”.

    2. Conversions from calls:

    Calls can be tracked as conversions in the Google Ads dashboard. In order for you to track calls, a user must call your ad’s forwarding number via the call extension. To submit these conversions to Google Ads, you need a Google forwarding number.

    The ultimate guide for Google Click ID (GCLID)
    • After following Tools and Settings → Measurement, choose “Phone Calls” instead of “Import”.
    • Select “Calls to a phone number on your website”.
    • Then enter the required information in order.
    • In the “Call length” section, select the minimum length that a phone call must take to count as a conversion.
    • After you create the conversion, you need to set up tags to add it to your website. You can use these instructions from Google. Upload your tag to your website and check that your phone number looks correct.

    What’s the difference between manual tagging and auto-tagging in Google Ads?

    In the past, Google Ad and Google Analytics were not linked. Therefore, it was necessary to manually add UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) codes to each URL to analyze campaign performance. Whether GCLID or manual tagging, both certainly provide us with valuable insights. However, with manual tagging, you need to make sure they’re identical. Furthermore, it’s both time-consuming and the margin of error is high.

    If you still decide to use manual tagging, keep in mind that manual tagging overrides GCLID’s automatic tagging. In addition, manual tagging provides information such as medium, campaign, source, content, and keyword. With GCLID, you can consolidate all reporting functions in a single place.

    How to decode the GCLID parameter 

    Protocol Buffers is a binary format that works better than JSON and XML serialization. It’s a data transfer protocol that Google often uses for data communication within the company. Thanks to binary serialization, it takes up less space. So, GCLID parameters are encoded in protocol buffers and then in (a version of) Base64. 

    If we look at what the GCLID contains, we see three numbers in the code. The first refers to the Unix timestamp, a numeric method of recording the date and time. We don’t know what the second parameter is, it only shows the range of values. The third parameter also appears to be a random value. However, the 2nd and 3rd parameters of two different GCLIDs may have the same value for the same display. In other words, we guess they are related. Finally, we can only make estimates on the last two parameters.

    It’s possible to decode your GCLIDS with a PHP.

    Isn’t GCLID working well?

    To ensure that GCLID works correctly, you should pay attention to several important details. First, your tracking code may be broken. If that is the case, you must re-upload it correctly. Plus, it’s fine to do the manual tagging, but pay attention to details like the capitalization and formatting of the UTM parameters. Then, don’t forget to link your Google Analytics and Google Ads accounts.

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