Fifty years ago, everyone simply assumed that their advertising campaigns were effective. It was simple – you spent the money and figured that the cash coming in was a direct result of the advertising. There were only a few channels to work with, and conversions were quite literally just measured in sales.
The Internet really screwed all that up.
Well, to be fair, even online advertising used to be pretty straightforward. There was only one device to consider (that old bulky desktop) and only one major conversion channel: a search engine.
Ok, so maybe it was mobile devices that really screwed us up.
Smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, browsers, social channels, and apps are all now potential pit stops on today’s online consumer’s purchasing path. And before today, obtaining any holistic snapshot of the effectiveness of an online advertising campaign was not by any means easy. In fact, for most marketers, it was impossible. Actual conversions made on a website were the only true measurement of online advertising success, until now.
Enter Google’s newly released Estimated Total Conversions for search ads, which is aimed at helping advertisers estimate different types of conversions that extend beyond an online purchase. Now, conversions can be estimated from cross-device and cross-browser activity. Soon, even call traffic and in-store visits will be estimated without sophisticated systems. After this year’s earlier Enhanced Campaigns update from Google AdWords, these new additions should come as no surprise; they are the next logical step.
What Are Estimated Total Conversions?
The Estimated Total Conversions column shows an estimate of conversions that take multiple devices, and even sometimes browsers, to complete. This data will give marketers a clearer and more holistic view of conversions driven by all Google search-advertising efforts.
Estimated Cross-Device Conversions
This is the first new conversion type to launch as part of Estimated Total Conversions. These estimated conversions account for user activity across multiple devices. For instance, if a user clicked on a search ad on Google.com on one device, and purchased on another device, it would be considered a cross-device conversion.
Consider a young woman using her mobile phone to search for “red shoes” on the couch while watching TV. She then clicks on a mobile ad and visits a brand’s website. Then, a few days later, after she’s had some time to consider whether she really wants those red shoes, she decides she can’t live without them. She goes directly to the website she visited earlier, but this time she’s on her desktop at work. Rather than attribute that conversion to direct traffic, it is now counted in the sample for cross-device conversions.
Estimated Cross-Browser Conversions
This is the second new conversion type to launch as part of Estimated Total Conversions. This new feature considers online activity where consumers use one browser to search for an item, and return to make the actual purchase on a different browser.
Consider the same young woman looking for red shoes. Let’s say she’s still on the couch watching TV searching for “red shoes,” but this time she is using a laptop Chrome browser. She clicks on the ad and visits the brand’s website. A few days later, when she decides she really needs those red shoes, she goes back to the same site using her laptop’s Firefox browser to make the purchase. That conversion is now counted in the sample for cross-browser conversions.
So What Does It Mean?
These new updates show a huge shift in Google’s direction to focus on more holistic capabilities that better address issues in a growing multi-screen landscape. However, for the day-to-day marketer, practices won’t really change. There is no need to change AdWords pixels or rush to modify accounts. On a tactical level, these new updates will provide more insight and guidance on important decisions like how much to bid for mobile bid modifiers and how to assign budget across marketing channels.
What Should Be Expected?
In the not so distant future, both phone calls and store visits will be included as part of Estimated Total Conversions. These estimated conversions will be extremely valuable metrics considering people make more than 40M calls to businesses each month directly from Google ads, and they are often looking for physical store locations when searching on mobile devices.
The new estimated cross-device and cross-browser conversions will be interesting metrics for all advertisers. However, the future release of in-store estimated traffic will be of particular importance to brick-and-mortar advertisers, as it represents Google’s first out-of-the-box solution for online-to-offline conversion tracking.
When Will This All Go into Effect?
In order to be eligible to receive this data, marketers will need to have Google AdWords Conversion Tracking enabled, and have at least 50 conversions a day against that pixel across an entire account. Marketers will need to meet these two requirements to be eligible to see these new columns, but Google will determine when an account will gain access. Advertisers will start getting access to these columns through a rolling release over the course of the next two months, but implementation timing for each account is at Google’s discretion.
So, while advertising may not be as simple as it was fifty, or even ten years ago, there’s progress being made to make sense of the complexities that the Internet (and mobile devices) have created.
photo credit: vernieman
Ranil Wiratunga works in search marketing at The Search Agency as Senior Director, Paid Media. He manages a cross-functional team of search account management, project management, development, and performance-driven web strategy experts.