Set up custom variables for conversions

Custom variables add richer data to your conversions so that you can further segment your reports. You can learn more about the benefits of custom variables by reading About custom variables for conversions.

This article will explain how to set up your custom variables, how to access your custom variables report and how to troubleshoot set-up issues. Custom variables are available for:

Set up your custom variables

To set up custom variables, select one of the following setup instructions:

Conversion tracking using tags on your website

To set up custom variables in conversion tracking tags on your website, you’ll need to:

  1. Create your custom variable (optional).
  2. Add variable to your global site tag event snippet.
  3. Activate your custom variables in Google Ads.

Before you begin

If you haven’t set up your conversion tracking tag, follow the steps to set up conversion tracking for your website.

Once you've set up your conversion tracking tag, you’ll need to update your conversion tracking tag to include your custom variables.

Note: The gtag.js (global site tag) syntax is the same as the syntax used for Google Analytics and Dynamic Remarketing.

Instructions

1. Create your custom variable (optional)

You can add a new custom variable within Google Ads before implementing the new variable in the conversion tag on your page. This isn't required if you're adding the variable to the conversion tag on your web page, as it will automatically display on the custom variables page for you to activate (described in future steps).

To create your custom variable:

  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  2. In the top right-hand corner, click the tools icon Google Ads | tools [Icon], and under 'Measurement', click Conversions.
  3. In the page menu on the left, go to 'Custom variables'.
  4. Click the plus button .
  5. Under 'Custom variables', enter a name to describe the custom variable. This name will be used in your Ads reporting.
  6. Specify the 'Tag string'. This may have a default value based on the variable name that you specified. Whatever you specify as the Tag string will need to match what you name the variable in your conversion tag.
    1. For example, if the Tag string is set as 'colour', your tag must pass the variable as 'colour' (see the global tag event snippet example below).
  7. Click Save. Proceed to the next step, which includes adding the variable to the conversion tag (event snippet) on your page.

2. Add variable to your global site tag event snippet

If you're using a global site tag and a corresponding event snippet, you can add custom variables to the event snippet tag like so, where there are three example variables included (example_variable, colour, product_name):

 gtag('event', ‘conversion’, {'send_to':

   'AW-CONVERSION_ID/AW-CONVERSION_LABEL',

   'example_variable': 'example_string',

   'colour': 'example_blue',

   'product_name': 'example_name'

  });

Each of the variables that you pass into the conversion event snippet will be included as a row in the custom variables page and will be available for you to report on in Google Ads.

3. Activate your custom variable

Check your custom variables page to see if any conversion actions need to be activated.

To activate your custom variable:

  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account .
  2. In the top right-hand corner, click the tools icon Google Ads | tools [Icon], and under 'Measurement', click Conversions.
  3. In the page menu on the left, go to 'Custom variables'. Look for the custom variables that have the status 'Activation needed'.
  4. Under the 'Actions column' for those custom variables, click Activate. Your custom variable will now show as 'Enabled' in the 'Status column'.

To activate your custom variables in bulk (for cases where you have a lot):

  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  2. In the top right-hand corner, click the tools icon Google Ads | tools [Icon], and under 'Measurement', click Conversions.
  3. In the page menu on the left, go to 'Custom variables'. Look for the custom variables that have the status 'Activation needed'.
  4. Select the tick box beside each custom variable that you want to activate.
  5. Click Edit at the top of the page, and select Enable. All your selected custom variables will now show as 'Enabled'.

Offline conversion imports

To set up custom variables in offline conversion imports you’ll need to:

  1. Create and activate your custom variables.
  2. Add a column for custom variables to your import file.

Instructions

1. Create and activate your custom variables

  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account .
  2. In the top right-hand corner, click the tools icon Google Ads | tools [Icon], and under 'Measurement', click Conversions.
  3. In the page menu on the left, go to 'Custom variables'.
  4. Under 'New custom variables', enter the name of the new custom variable. The tag string will automatically be created.
  5. Click Save. The new custom variable will be added to the table. Your custom variable will now show as 'Enabled' in the 'Status column'.

2. Add additional columns to your CSV or spreadsheet for offline conversions

You can add additional optional columns in your offline conversion CSV or spreadsheet that represent your custom variables. Custom variables columns must already be defined and activated for them to be successfully uploaded.

Make sure that you include the required fields like GCLID, conversion name, conversion value and conversion currency.

You can also enter the custom variable name 'cv:[custom_variable_tag_string]' under 'Column name' in the following format:

  • cv: Prefix indicating this column represents a custom variable
  • [tag string of custom variable]: Tag string of activated custom variable

Note: The custom variable names must be formatted in lowercase.

Examples of column name:

'cv:property_type' or

'cv:customer_programme' or

'cv:product_category'

3. Upload the offline conversion file (CSV or spreadsheet) manually or automatically

Refer to import conversions from ad clicks into Google Ads. Adjusting custom variables after upload is currently not supported.

Bear in mind:

  • Custom variables must be activated before adding a column with the custom variable.
  • Variable name and values must not include PII or you might receive a warning.
  • Variable name must be written in lowercase.

Conversion adjustments

Adjusting custom variables after upload is currently not supported.

Access your custom variables reporting

Overview of your custom variables on a custom variable page

Once you’ve set up your custom variable, you’ll be able to see the following columns on the custom variable page:

  • Custom variable: The name that you’ve given your custom variable. You’ll be able to edit this if you want to.
  • Tag string: The name of your custom variable in the source code.
  • Status: Your custom variable will show as 'Enabled', 'Paused' or 'Activation needed'. At any time, you can change the status of your custom variables:
    • Enabled: The custom variable data is being recorded and can be used for reporting.
    • Paused: The custom variable data is no longer being recorded and you can't report on this variable at this time. If you re-enable the variable, only the data recorded before the variable was paused and after it was enabled will be visible in reports (there may be a data gap).
    • Activation Needed: The customer variable data from your tag is being received, but it isn't being recorded for reporting 'activate' that particular variable, enabling that variable for reporting. Note this doesn't apply to custom variables uploaded through offline conversion import.
    • Remove: This is an option if you’d like to remove the custom variable and historical data from your reporting. The custom variable will no longer show on the custom variables page.
  • Recent values: The last five custom variable values that you received from this custom variable.
  • Received time: Shows the time that your conversion variable was received.
  • Actions: Click Activate to enable your conversion variable.

Create a custom column using custom variables

  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  2. In the left page menu, click Campaigns.
  3. In the top right-hand corner of the table, click the columns icon Columns , then select Modify columns.
  4. Click the Custom columns section, then click Custom column.
    1. Enter a name that will be used as the column header.
    2. Enter a description of the column that you’ll see when you hover over the column header.
  5. Click + Metric, then select Conversions.
  6. Then, in the 'Segment' section that appears on the right, click Custom variable.
  7. Select from the list of custom variable values.
  8. When you’ve finished entering column information, click Apply. You’ll be taken back to the 'Modify columns' page.
  9. Select your new custom column, then click Apply to view it in the table.

Just like standard Google Ads columns, custom columns can be filtered, sorted, downloaded and used to customise your performance summary chart above your statistics table. Learn how to customise your tables and charts.

View your custom variables with segments in your table

  1. Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  2. In the left page menu, click Campaigns.
  3. In the top right-hand corner of the table, click the columns icon Columns , then click the segment icon Segment.
  4. Select 'Conversions', then select 'Custom variable'. You can then select the variables that you want to add.
  5. Once you’ve selected your custom variables, they'll show up in your campaign report.

Note: Only core conversion metrics ('Conversions', 'All conv.', 'Cross-device conv.', 'View-through conversions', etc.) will be segmentable by custom variables. Ratio metrics like 'conv. rate' or 'Cost/conv.' can't be segmented by custom variables.

Only enabled variables are available for reporting purposes. Also, any conversions that don’t have the particular custom variable (for example, historical data that were accrued before the variable was active) will be skipped in segment rows for this dimension and only shown in unsegmented rows.

Troubleshoot your custom conversion variables

Duplicate variables

The same event has duplicated tag variables, such as: car-colour=red and car-colour=blue. To avoid duplication, check your tag strings to remove any instances where there are multiple values for the same custom variable. Each conversion event snippet should only contain one unique value for each custom variable. For offline conversion uploads, subsequent uploads of the same conversion with custom variables of the same type will overwrite the previous custom variable (for example, uploading a conversion with car-colour=red and then car-colour=blue will overwrite the car-colour=red variable to be blue). If you find that you want to assign multiple values of the same custom variable to a conversion event, consider making more than one custom variable to accommodate this.

Example: If you have a variable called 'location' and you want to tag an event with 'Berkshire' and 'Reading', you could consider making a custom variable for 'City' and for 'County' so there would be only one unique value in that event.

Values exceed limit or values are approaching limit

Values beyond the first 100,000 for any custom variable aren't recorded. You may have received a warning in Google Ads that you're approaching this limit or you may have viewed a message in your custom variables page informing you that more than 100,000 values have been sent with your custom variable key. Check your conversion tag (or offline upload) if you think this number was reached in error. If more than 100,000 values are needed, you should consider creating new custom variables.

If you received this message in an MCC account, make sure that you check the child accounts containing the custom variables which are approaching or exceeding this limit.

Private data found

Your custom variables data contain unreported private customer data, such as email addresses or phone numbers. To ensure that you aren’t sending private customer data with custom variables, change your implementation to remove those variables.

Custom variables should be used to add richer data about your conversions for reporting but should not be used to attribute additional information about converting users. Learn more about data collection and its use

Strings too long

Strings are limited to 100 characters for custom variables data. Make sure that your custom variable tag strings (or offline import custom variable column length) contain 100 characters or fewer.

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