Multi-Channel: Estimated Conversions Update

In October, 2013 – hot off the release of Google AdWords Enhanced Campaigns – Google released Estimated Total Conversions in an attempt to provide advertisers greater insight into (primarily) cross-device conversion tracking. Since the release of ETC, there’s been a host of updates to the product including calls as conversions (released shortly after estimated cross-device) in addition to cross-browser. Just last month, Google began to roll out the latest addition to Estimated Total Conversions – in store visits – in a further attempt to close the gap between online to offline attribution.

Intuitively, the goal of ETC is to provide direction to advertisers in making both budget and bid based optimizations – in addition to providing greater transparency in an increasingly interconnected marketplace. Consumers are continually utilizing multiple devices while browsing online – and even though online retail sales continue to soar year over year, offline sales still account for over 93% of retail purchases in the US. Current AdWords conversions that can be estimated are as follows:

• Cross-Device: cross-device conversions are counted when consumers click an ad on one device or browser and then later convert on an additional device, typically within 30 days of the original ad click
• Cross-Browser: a consumer clicks on an AdWords ad from a particular type of Internet browser and later converts on an additional browser – typically from the same device
• Calls: conversions via mobile Search ads (call extensions) are counted in the standard conversion column and can be used in tandem with Conversion Optimizer. Additionally, calls placed after viewing ads on tablets and computers are included in Estimated Total Conversions
• Store Visits – New: Google registers a “store visit” based upon the user’s proximity to the advertiser’s location on Google Maps post ad click – note, this is only for users that have Location History activated on their Android/Apple smartphones. Store Visits accounts for Search clicks across all device and campaign types, including PLAs. Visit estimates currently have a look back window of 30 days and advertisers must verify their business listings/associate their listings with their campaigns in order to be eligible for the Store Visit metric

Estimated Total Conversions, like many tools that provide proxies for user activity across device and channel, has its limitations. Much like cross-device/browser conversions, store visit estimates are using aggregated/anonymized user data from consumers who have previously signed into Google and engaged with a Search ad. Based on this aggregated user data, Google provides a general proxy for (e.g.) store visits that can be attributed to your AdWords campaign.

Adoption of Estimated Total Conversions has varied, primarily because the majority of advertisers (myself included) view the derivation of ETC metrics as somewhat suspect. Limitations for ETC abound, including the inability to utilize cross-device conversion tracking for imported goals in Google Analytics or offline conversion tracking. Lastly, many of these new conversion types are based off classic last click attribution – a model that is becoming less and less relevant as multi-channel investment across verticals increases each year. Although ETC poses obvious questions concerning the validity of its own data, it does succeed in providing advertiser’s a functional resource concerning basic campaign optimizations, for example:

• Desktop bids: compare “cost/ETC” to “cost/conversions” with the data in your account now. If cost/ETC is 10% lower than cost/conversions, try increasing your bids for that particular campaign and gauge impact on ROI
• Mobile bid adjustments: many advertisers analyze the ratio of estimated total conversions coming from mobile devices vs. desktop and tablet to determine the right mobile bid adjustment. Experiment with your mobile bids by plugging your data into the formula below:

  • Mobile bid adjustment = 100 * [(value per mobile ad click/value per desktop and tablet click) -1 ]

As technology advances, metrics that comprise ETC will continue to develop with greater levels of transparency – adding a needed level of legitimacy for advertisers looking to effectively optimize their campaigns. For many, tracking user activity across device type or knowing (within a certain confidence interval) that an ad click lead to a store visit is a great challenge – ETC effectively makes this data more digestible for those engaged in average Search marketing campaigns. Moving forward, use the data provided by ETC (along with stronger insights gleamed from Universal Analytics) to begin to build an attribution model that is right for your company.

Dustin Lewis About the author
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