Have you ever wondered how effective your display ads on the Google Content Network are? One of the things Google has mentioned is the value of the branding aspect of banner ads even when the Internet user does not click on an ad. In the past, the issue was that there was no way to track the value of banner ads unless somewhat clicked on them. Last week, Google introduced ‘View-Through’ conversion tracking as a way to better measure the effectiveness of your display advertising on the Content Network even if the visitor never clicked on your banner ad!
How ‘View Through’ Conversions Work
When someone surfing the internet visits a web site that displays one of your banner ads, a cookie is placed on the visitor’s computer that remains for 30 days. Should the user then visit your web site through other means, such as a direct visit or referral from another web site at a later date, and they complete the goal you created for this campaign, then a conversion is registered. (note that Google Conversion Tracking needs to be set up and installed on your conversion page)
Since the cookie remains active for 30 days, additional conversions (sales, newsletter sign-ups, information requests) completed within this time can be registered and accredited to the same display ad. So one ad display may register a sale, two newsletter sign ups, and one information request, for a total of 4 conversions.
All without the user having clicked on your display ad!
Thoughts on ‘View Through’ Conversion
But I do have reservations about this form of conversion tracking, and additional research proves I’m not the only one. Harry Gold of ClickZ had some concerns about view-through conversion tracking as run by traditional display advertisers back in March of this year. These concerns can also be relevant to the new format in Google AdWords.
My overriding concern is this format is not 100% reliable. There is currently no way to credit your display ad with a conversion without question. Many web users researching a particular subject, product, or service will visit numerous web sites in order to acquire as much information as possible in order to make the most informed decision they can. It can be safe to assume that a good number of these internet users ignore advertisements as they are superfluous to their needs. But should your ad appear on one of these pages, relevant to your offering or not, the ad may still be credited with a conversion that could be the result of a web site referral, or a friend’s recommendation via email.
Alternatively, your ad may have been displayed partially or wholly "below the fold", meaning the visitor never actually saw the ad, but the tracking cookie was still placed on the visitor’s computer. They may have later made a Google search for your product or company and clicked through to you site via the organic search results. Should this visitor make a purchase or sign up for your newsletter, the ad is credited with the ‘view-through’ conversion.
The tool, however, is better than nothing. While it may not be 100% accurate, it does help the advertiser associate value to a banner advertising campaign. Brand is often hard to report an ROI on so I do applaud this new form of tracking.
‘View Through’ Conversion Notables
A few important things to note about this new feature. First, as mentioned above, this does not work for text ads on the content network. It only works with image ads. Also, conversion reporting works on the industry standard of last click, last impression. This means that "conversions are first credited to the last click, and if there’s no click in the last 30-days, then they’re credited to the last impression, preceding the conversion." Simply put, conversions are credited to the last recorded click or impression. Finally, Google only counts "all conversions not associated with a click and attribute them back to the last impression in the last 30-days". So if a click is involved (such as a paid search ad), then a view-through conversion is not recorded should a goal be converted in this manner.
As a new feature, I’m sure there is some information still needed to review, as well as differences to be established between view-through conversions on the traditional display ad networks and this new version on Google.
I hope to learn more through testing as well. It’s the best way, after all.