Search Marketing

Google Brings Cross-Device Conversion Tracking to Advertisers

October 1, 2013

Today, Google has made an announcement that could bring us a step closer to understanding the full value of paid search across devices. Google is unveiling a new metric, called Estimated Total Conversions, designed to give marketers more insight into how AdWords is driving conversions beyond the last click.

Consumers are increasingly looking to technology to help them navigate their lives – and, as their choice of devices has grown, they are more able to get information at any given time and in the place that best matches their need. As a result, consumers are constantly in digital motion.

In fact, a recent study found than 90 percent of consumers “move sequentially between several screens” for everyday online activities (Source: Google/IPSOS). This type of consumer behavior has made it increasingly challenging for advertisers to track these actions through the various touch points along the consumer journey.

To date, last exposure/click has been the most common form of conversion-attribution rule, which in many cases has caused advertisers to undervalue (and underfund) certain devices. The introduction of this new metric will enable marketers to better understand the true impact of their Google paid search investment across desktop, mobile and beyond.

What to expect

Advertisers that have implemented the Google Conversion tag will soon see three new estimated networks in their AdWords accounts:

  • Estimated cross-device conversions with the ability to segment data by device — Early November
  • Estimated in-store conversions — Early ’14
  • Estimated phone call conversions — Early ’14

Methodology & Requirements

Google’s conversion tracking will leverage data from signed-in users to tether multiple devices back to a conversion. Millions of users sign in to Google through one or many of their products such as email, Google+, and mobile apps. The data is then extrapolated to provide the new estimated metrics available within the Google AdWords interface.

Advertisers will need to implement the Google Conversion Pixel and meet a certain conversion volume thresholds (TBD) to access this data. Additionally, metrics will be reported at the ad group level unless there is not enough data available, in which case reporting will be at the campaign level.

Why we are excited

This is clearly a step in the right direction. While sophisticated search marketers have been doing this sort of modeling for some time, it requires great expense, time and effort. The Google offering appears to be relatively simple and streamlined enough for any advertiser to get the data necessary to make the right decisions for their business.

The number one thing holding back advertisers from investing further into digital typically involves the quest for perfect KPIs. With mobile, the question is never “Are folks consuming digital via mobile?” but rather, “What impact is mobile having on the purchase journey?”

To quote our own Jared Belsky, Executive Vice President of 360i: “Last click was never going to get the industry fully invested, or fully valuing mobile. With this tool-set, we can get closer to this answer, in one interface.”

Why we are cautiously excited

Though creating your own model is complicated and expensive, it is transparent. Google’s solution is more of a black box, so advertisers will have to decide whether this is a suitable methodology based on limited information. This was part of the frustration around Enhanced Campaigns, which took mobile bidding from granular, to tethered to desktop (or more opaque).

A further complication is that estimated conversions aren’t “actual” conversions, so even with a high confidence interval, marketers won’t get precision against their weblogs. As such, those who strive for a higher level of precision will need to adjust their approach to measurement.


Google is taking an important step in helping advertisers track across device and channel in order to provide a more complete picture of consumer behavior leading to a conversion, but it is just a step. In addition to the lack of transparency in methodology and the imprecise nature of estimated conversions, there are still challenges measuring behavior from online to offline (and back again) that will require more complex, customized modeling.

Still, this new offering provides valuable directional data that will arm advertisers with a better baseline understanding of paid search cross device and channel so that they can develop smarter strategies that appropriate the right investments to each channel.

Jason Hartley, Group Media Director, Search Marketing Practice Lead at 360i, contributed to this report.

Cover photo via Google