A Deep Dive into Ad Ops and Why It’s Important for Your E-Commerce Business
Ad ops, or ad operations, refer to the systems that deliver only online advertisements. Even more important? This phrase is all about how you measure the results of those ads.
It’s not always as easy as it seems. In 2021, only 50% of advertisers were happy with how they measured their sponsored search campaigns. Search ad spending eclipsed $86 billion in 2021, and if those rates keep up, advertisers will spend about $111 billion on sponsored search alone in 2023.
Without adequate ways to measure the conversions those ads generate, that leaves well over $50 billion of sponsored ad money that isn’t optimized.
Fortunately, you can still enhance your ad ops in a digital age where first-party data reigns supreme. Here are some of the ways you can use ad ops — and why it matters for your e-commerce business.
Google Tag Manager How-Tos
Google Tag Manager is a free offering from Google which lets you add marketing tags — think little snippets of code — without having to dig in and modify the HTML itself. In other words, it’s the “no-code” approach to adding marketing tools like a pixel.
Here are a few of the most common Google tags people use:
- Google Analytics tracking code. Without this, you won’t collect data on incoming traffic in your Google Analytics account.
- Facebook / Meta pixels. These pixels give you the ability to track incoming data from Facebook / Meta, monitoring the results of your Facebook ads campaign.
- Google Ads conversion tracking. Launching pay-per-click (PPC) instead? Adwords conversion tracking helps you monitor which search queries are sending customers your way.
To get started, log in to Google Tag Manager with your account and click under the column “Google tags.” Here you’ll see a list of the websites you currently manage. Go to “Admin,” then “Install This Google Tag,” and you’ll see options for installing tags via website builders or manually, via code.
That leads to one question, though. What code are you going to add to your site?
How to Implement Pixels by Platform
The trick with ad ops? Every platform’s got its own little quirks. Fortunately, these companies want you to use their pixels, so they tend to make it relatively simple:
- Facebook pixel: Also known as a Meta Pixel, a Facebook pixel lets you track the results you get from ads across the entire Facebook platform. Work through Facebook Events Manager, using “Connect Data Sources,” and follow the instructions for your website. Give your Facebook pixel a name — be specific, just for the sake of organization — and choose how you want to implement the code. You can either copy and paste the code for manual integration, or sync directly via Facebook if you’re using a compatible platform.
- Google Ads: Tagging your site with Google Ads isn’t precisely a “pixel,” but you’ll still need to know what to do. You will create an “Event snippet” in your Google Ads account, work through “Audience Manager” to reach the “Shared Library.” Click “Set Up Tag” under your Google Ads tag card, and you’ll find the manual code necessary under the “Edit Source” feature.
- Google Analytics: Setting up a Universal Analytics Tag will require that you use the appropriate account, verifying that you’re the website’s manager. The key here is to configure your tag to track data you care about. For example, you can click “Triggering” to choose what makes the tag “fire,” rather than simply observing the basics, like page views.
Enhanced Conversions for Google Ads
You need to track which ads lead to conversions if you’re going to make the most of your ad ops. But did you know Google Ads offers enhanced conversions?
These enhanced metrics don’t apply unless there’s additional customer data, such as:
- An email address
- Name and home address
- Phone number
Why is this the case? It’s this first-party data that makes the conversions “enhanced” in the first place. Using your conversion tracking tags with Google Ads (see the previous section on setting up Google Ads tags) means you’re using protected first-party data. Enhanced conversions won’t track the customer, but it will let you track additional considerations about their behavior.
For example, let’s say someone signed in to Google lands on one of your YouTube ads. They click. They like what they see on your website and decide to convert. In this conversion, you retrieve first-party data like the customer’s email address.
This creates added benefits to conversion tracking. For starters, you’ll improve your bidding optimization because you have more accurate data about who’s really converting on your website — and where they came from. You’ll also get a more complete view of which ads sent which conversions to your website.
Checking for Pixel Fires in Preview Mode
Pixels are great for enhancing your ad ops, but then again, nuclear energy is great until there’s a meltdown. You may have to periodically check for pixel “fires” that are bugging up your website by using Google’s Preview Mode.
In Google Workspace, click “Preview.” Enter your site’s URL, then clicklick “Connect” and you’ll see the site open in a new window, with a tag that says “Connected” in the bottom right corner. Click back to Tag Assistant and look for “Continue.” This brings you to the debugging interface. From here, you can view the tags being fired and what data was being processed when the bugs kick in.
Setting Up Button Clicks
What if you want to get more specific about your conversions — say, when someone clicks a button in a form? You can set up button click processes in Google Tag Manager to register the specific moment a customer converts.
It’s a healthy practice because it introduces you to all three of Google Tag Manager’s key functions: variables, tags, and triggers.
- Setting up the variable establishes which button or form you want to use as the conversion marker.
- Setting up the tag determines where you send that information — say, Google Analytics, Google Ads, or Facebook.
- The trigger lets you control when to fire the tag. The trigger is the action that fires with the action to carry out the whole conversion — including sending you the relevant data.
If you want to learn more about using tags, triggers, and variables to set up new button clicks, you can watch the Loves Data tutorial on handling all three.
Segment in Google Tag Manager
If you want to expand the quality of your ad ops, you can integrate third-party tools with Google Tag Manager. One popular option is Segment, which helps you simplify the entire process of optimizing your Google Tag Manager conversion setup.
Here’s an example. If you use the Segment integration, you can avoid loading Google Tag Manager code snippets on every one of your pages — not to mention other time-intensive tasks like installing additional data layers. Instead, you’ll use Segment to create one event type — known as “conversionID” — to label the actions you need to track.
From there, you can use Segment’s features like monitoring customer conversions across multiple channels on your website.
TikTok Developer Pixel
The TikTok Developer Pixel is a simple snippet of code you can add to your website, similar to how a Facebook Pixel works. This will establish TikTok conversion tracking as soon as someone from the app clicks on your ad and arrives at your site.
To get started, you’ll need a TikTok business account — which you should already have if you’re already building ads. Navigate to the Website Pixel Manager via your Library screen. You’ll see an option to create your pixel. Name it according to your campaign. You can then choose to either copy and paste the manual code, or install the pixel code via a third-party tool, like Google Tag Manager.
GA4 E-Commerce Tracking with Shopify
Shopify offers a GA4 (Google Analytics 4) functionality, but you’ll have to pick between one of two options: either use a global site tag (gtag.js) or implement the tag via Google Tag Manager.
If you’re using Google Tag Manager, Search Engine Journal’s guide is a great, step-by-step resource to get you set up. But here are the basic points:
- First, create a “Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration Tag” within Google Tag Manager.
- Create a trigger that tells the tag when to fire within Google Tag Manager.
- Name the tag “Google Analytics” to ensure you know where the trigger is routing your data.
What You Get from Diving into Ad Ops
These might sound like complicated processes — and they can be. So why bother? What do you get out of ad ops that you can’t get out of Google Analytics 4 alone?
Now that third-party tracking is coming to an end, ad ops ensure you’ll get enhanced conversion statistics. That includes features like telling scroll behaviors of a user, finding out which outbound link they clicked to get away, or what they entered in your site search.
These features aren’t easy to activate, but when you dive deeper into your ad ops, you’ll have your own first-party data to optimize conversions. From there, it’s up to you to find the insights that help drive more sales.
About the author: Everyone’s favorite avocado toast connoisseur, Jessica fell into the world of ad tech after graduating from UC Irvine. Since then, she has been deep diving into all sorts of platforms and partners to further expand the agency’s growing expertise. During her spare time, she’s always on the prowl for the next best dessert or international adventure.