Parallel Tracking – What it is, and why you should care

A Brief Introduction

On October 30th this year Google made Parallel Tracking mandatory across all Google Ads accounts with click tracking. Previously this had been an optional feature for Search and Shopping campaigns but is now required for all accounts with click tracking as a part of the account configuration.

Why? And what is Parallel Tracking?

Parallel Tracking is being implemented to speed up user journeys, by splitting redirected links through an asynchronous process and sending the user straight to the destination URL, avoiding any redirects that are created as part of a referral process. The argument is that redirected links create lag in the user journey, and will reduce conversion rates if the user were to click away before reaching the destination URL.

For users who are clicking a Webgains link, the redirection to Webgains, that enables the referral to be tracked will now run on a parallel track, while the user is sent straight to the URL. This redirection takes thousandths of a second, but Google argues that mobile networks and slow connections could make this kind of redirect take much longer. So two, parallel tracks will happen, as shown below:

Google Parallel Tracking
Google’s Parallel Tracking paths


Using Beacon technology, Google will perform both routes and allow Webgains to maintain tracking via the sendBeacon route, in blue. Read more from Google here.

The sendBeacon allows a page to load, without anything else on the page(s) affecting the journey that the user is trying to take, to the final URL. It effectively sends a discrete bundle of code as a request that also handles any other calls (such as redirects) or architecture (such as pre-loaded videos, forms, animations etc.) which might slow the user journey down. While the sendBeacon package of code is dealing with this path, the user is sent down the other path, straight to the URL they were after originally.

The concern here has been whether tracking, especially with first-party cookies, can be effective if Google is parsing that pathway, and the behaviours, off into a parallel track. Third party cookies are already being phased out under the GDPR and ITP, so the concern for first-party cookies is a real one.

So, Webgains can still track?

Yes. As with GDPR and ITP, Webgains’ dev team have created a solution to maintain our tracking and reporting following the implementation of Parallel Tracking, with the lightest touch possible for our partners. We will use Google’s parameters to continue tracking referrals and ensure that your ads are tracking and reporting as well as they were on Oct 29th.

All of our testing, using our ‘old’ and now ‘new’ tracking to compare results, is showing that we are tracking data correctly. So, we remain confident that our approach to tackling tracking updates with dedicated teams, and best-in-class approaches to code quality, is continuing to be the right strategy for this high-performing marketing network.

What now?

We are rolling this work out now, and continuing to refine where needed. As an affiliate partner using any form of Google Ads, you can get in touch with your contact at Webgains, although we’ll be in touch with everyone to discuss the details, and to make sure all of your campaign settings are in line with Google’s requirements.

As an advertiser, it’s important to ensure that you are using Webgains new tracking code we have released for GDPR and updated for ITP and ITP2. Legacy code, for third-party cookies, is no longer being updated or supported and is gradually being deprecated. While most advertisers have been, or are in the process of migrating over, please get in touch with your account manager now to ask any questions on migrating.


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