AdWords PPC: Understanding Hard & Soft Conversions

Most businesses utilizing Google AdWords campaign management services are already aware of its potential for generating massive amounts of online leads. But few realize (or choose to ignore) the single most important factor to return-on-investment: quality of lead. Unfortunately, many AdWords managers focus too much on quantity, and too little on quality. This sad fact results in many AdWords PPC campaigns underperforming and costing businesses hundreds, thousands and even millions of dollars each year.

Implementing conversion tracking, and clearly defining hard and soft leads, is the critical key to improving the successes of your search advertising campaigns… and it’s not a difficult task.


Conversion Tracking is a feature of Google AdWords that allows you to insert snippets of code on your website and track what happens after a customer clicks on your ads. This enables you to see whether an ad led to an online purchase, a request for quote, a general inquiry, a newsletter sign-up, etc.

By tracking these actions (conversions) you’ll know which ads, keywords and campaigns perform the best and bring you business. It also allows you to determine the low performers and, thus, help you invest more wisely and boost ROI.

That said, it is easy to see why conversion tracking should be mandatory in any PPC campaign.


This is where many get tripped up. What do you call a conversion? What user action is important to you and your business? This is also where many AdWords managers do themselves and their clients a disservice. You see, conversions aren’t easy to come by, and clouding reports with unclear conversion definitions often leads to inaccurate measures of campaign profitability.

Hard Conversions Vs. Soft Conversions
When crafting a search advertising campaign (and many other types of digital marketing campaigns), it is of the utmost importance that everyone involved understands how conversions are defined, and what their value is to the advertising project. The very first set of definitions should be those of hard and soft conversions:

  • Hard Conversions — Simply, these are strong leads that present the greatest chance for a purchase, or some other defined goal that is vital to your campaign’s overall success. For many of Shimmer’s clients, hard conversions are:
    • Request-For-Quote Form Submission Via The Client’s Website
    • An Online Purchase (e-commerce)
    • An Ad Related Phone Call (e.g., Get Started With A New Subscription, Phone Orders, etc.)
    • Request For Consultation
  • Soft Conversions — These types of conversions typically represent an interest in product or service from visitors seeking more information before making a purchase decision. While valuable, soft conversions usually require time and nurturing before reaching the end goal. Unfortunately, soft conversions have a smaller chance of reaching the finish line than the above hard conversions. At Shimmer, typical soft conversions include:
    • Views Of A Specific Web Page
    • Catalog Downloads
    • General Email Inquiries
    • Video Views

While all of the above conversion types are valuable, a clear definition between hard and soft types will help to determine appropriate conversion acquisition cost and provide a truer picture of return-on-investment. That is, hard conversions may be granted higher bid prices and better positioning due to their greater chance of reaching the end goal.

For more information regarding PPC conversion metrics, or to see our AdWords services details, view our Google AdWords Management page. For questions or comments, feel free to give us a call or send a message: