Cross-device conversion-tracking on Google AdWords

This morning, I woke up, did some reading at home using my tablet. Then I hopped on the bus and caught up with news and emails using my phone. Once at the office, I turned on my laptop computer and started working. Sounds familiar?

That’s because nearly everyone is constantly connected to the Internet across several devices, each day. This is what Google calls micro-moments. Again according to Google, 61% of Internet users and over 80% of online millennials start shopping on one device but continue or finish on a different one.

This has always been a source of headaches for digital marketers because of the difficulty to match conversions and revenue with the actual advert or channel that is spending the marketing budget.

Being able to measure clicks that have led to a conversion on a different device, browser or even on the phone, allows a better understanding of the real impact of our advertising efforts and measure the performance more accurately, consequently leading to even more advanced optimisations.

Cross-device conversion-tracking on Google

Google has introduced cross-device conversion tracking in October 2013, but this was not a default feature which meant that most people did not have a true understanding of what these new conversion metrics were, or simply overlooked them altogether.

Last week, Google announced that from September 6th, 2016, it will begin tracking your cross-device conversions by default.

With more people now searching on mobile devices than desktops, it is crucial to have mobile-friendly campaigns in your account. In fact, anyone advertising on desktop/laptop computers only are missing out on a massive opportunity to reach the majority of its potential customers.
Of course, you first need to ensure your website is mobile-friendly but that goes without saying in 2016(!)
It is worth noting that cross-device conversions also account for clicks that occurred on your display banner ads. Therefore if you’ve followed best practices, you should have mobile-friendly banner ad formats (as per best practices).

How does Google know if it’s the same person connecting on various devices?

Historically, conversion-tracking has been cookie-based. In other words, a small file (a cookie) is placed on your computer when you do a search, click an ad, visit a website, etc. When someone converts, AdWords checks the cookie and identifies whether or not that person did indeed click on one of your ads previously.

However, this does not work cross-device, since the cookie is stored on your device.
Google’s algorithm will review a number of factors and signals to determine if it is the same user on different devices. For example, if you were signed-in to a Google service using the same Google account, your geolocation, the timestamp on your visits/conversion, the type of devices used, etc.

While there has been a lot of debate and skepticism around the validity of the tracked data, Google strives to deliver the most accurate data possible.

How will this impact your account?

If you are running ads on both desktops and mobile devices, you are likely to see your conversions increase as Google will start measuring conversions that would have not previously been attributed to your campaigns. This is an important point: Do not expect an increase in your business enquiries or sales, but an increase in what is attributed to Google’s advertising activity.

A month after the release, you may want to compare various attribution models and see how each channel including Google AdWords performs against each other.

  • Has that changed significantly over the last 6 months?
  • How is your return-on-advertising-spend (ROAS) impacted by the change, if at all?
  • Does it justify spending more on Google Search and Display?
  • Should your budgets be allocated differently?

If you need help tracking conversions more accurately, feel free to reach out to our team of dedicated and Google-certified specialists!

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