A Primer on Google View-Through Conversion Tracking

By Kaitlyn Smeland Dhanaliwala | Oct 2, 2009
More Articles by Kaitlyn


Do you advertise using display ads (image ads) on the content network on Google?  If so (or if you are considering it), there is a new tool you should know about called view-through conversion tracking.

View-through conversion tracking aims to address the issue of conversion attribution.  As you may know, the Google content network generally tends to produce lower conversion rates than ads on the search network or on Google search results alone. The reason for this is probably twofold:

1.  Display ads simply don’t attract as much active attention. Don’t get me wrong- display ads might increase brand awareness among users who see them.  But they don’t attract the kind of attention that leads to immediate action.  Fundamentally, display ads interrupt the user while she is interacting with other content on a site (as opposed to when a user is actively searching for information on a search engine and is ready to click away).  Users might see display ads, but they may not have the motivation to abandon what they’re currently doing and click through.

Billboard advertising

2.  Not as many conversions triggered by display ads are attributed accurately. Think about it.  If a busy searcher sees a text ad in Google search results- and takes note of it without clicking- she may return later to search on the same keyword or the company name and click on the ad.  Although the failure to attribute the conversion to the first ad instance lowers the CTR slightly, any associated conversions are eventually attributed to the text ad on the search network. (Incidentally, will Google ever attempt to address this attribution issue on the search network??  But I digress…)

By contrast, if a busy user notices a display ad on a site and remembers it later, it is unlikely she’ll be able to replicate the experience to reach that same ad.  She’d probably turn to a search engine to find that advertiser’s site.  In this case, the original display ad would not get credit for any conversions from that first impression.  View-through conversion tracking addresses this second issue of attribution for display ads.

View-through conversion tracking measures the number of conversions occurring within 30 days of when the original display ad appeared, for which there was no ad click generated. So if a user sees a display ad, does not click on it, but then visits the advertiser’s site within 30 days and completes a conversion action- that user will show as a view-through conversion in the AdWords interface and reports.

Of course, view-through conversion tracking will only work for users who keep their cookies on for the entire 30 day period.

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