Improvements to view-through conversion reporting

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If you are advertising on the Google Display Network there is a good chance you know what a “view-through conversion” is. In case you don’t, a view-through conversion (referred to as a VTC) occurs when a user views an image or rich media ad (but doesn’t click on it) and later completes a conversion. Way back in 2009, Google introduced the VTC reporting feature to help better measure the value of display advertising.

Last year Google took this a step further, and released a couple of improvements to VTC reporting including a customizable view-through conversion window and de-duplication of search conversion reporting.

What these settings do
Customizable view-through conversion window
Previously the VTC window was set to 30 days, meaning Google reported on the number of VTCs that occurred up to 30 days after a user saw the ad. Now, you’re able to customize this time-frame.

De-duplication of search conversion reporting:
If this setting is disabled (the default) your VTC report will include conversions from users that viewed a display ad and later clicked on a search ad. Essentially, these conversions are reported twice – in the VTC report for the display network image or media rich ad and the conversion report for the search network ad.

If you enable this setting, Google will exclude from the VTC report conversions from users who have also clicked on your search ads. These conversions will only be attributed to your search ads.

Benefits of setting a custom range for view-through conversion reporting
You’re able to customize the VTC time frame, based on what makes sense for your product or service.

  • Products or services that have short purchase consideration cycles (e.g. newsletter opt-in) are good candidates for shortened VTC windows.
  • Products with longer cycles (e.g. purchasing a car) are more appropriate for keeping the setting at the default 30-days.

Benefits of de-duplication
VTC metric is an easy way to measure the effect display advertising has on your overall performance. We know that image ads on the Google Display Network often drive performance beyond immediate clicks and conversions. VTC reporting allows you to determine the role Display Network advertising plays across different advertising channels.

For example: A user sees your display ad on a Google Display Network placement. The user later remembers the ad and searches for your business on Yahoo.com. The user clicks on an organic link and makes a purchase on your site. This sale will be attributed to Yahoo organic, when actually the original source of interest was a Google display ad. The VTC metric in Google AdWords allows you to identify the Google display ad as a contributing factor in that purchase on your site.

Why should view-through conversion search de-duplication be enabled?
Previously, VTC data had to be taken with a grain of salt. Because of how VTCs were reported, and the possibility that a conversion could be counted twice in AdWords, it didn’t provide concrete actionable data.

With the de-duplication feature we are now able to report VTC numbers and know that we are not double counting conversions. This makes VTC reporting more accurate and actionable.

This allows you to more effectively monitor your display ad campaigns and hence make more practical and cost-saving strategies to better maximize your ad campaign expenses.

Beyond the benefits the de-duplication feature has in AdWords, the transparency this feature adds to the VTC data allows you to more accurately measure how Display Network advertising contributes to your overall advertising goals and ultimately factors into your bottom line.

Why should view-through conversion search de-duplication be disabled?
The most common reason to disable search de-duplication is if you want information about placements that are positively correlated with search ad clicks. If you are running branding display campaigns and attributing conversions to Display Network campaigns is not important. VTC is a useful tool to analyze the relationship between the Display Network and search behavior.

Other reasons to keep search de-duplication disabled are if you’re trying to compare campaign information with other non-Google content campaigns that might not include search click activity. Additionally, enabling search de-duplication would be unnecessary if you’re already using another kind of tracking system.

4 view-through conversion pointers:
While these features certainly are improvements for VTC reporting. VTC data is not foolproof. A few things to always keep in mind when analyzing VTC data:

  1. Avoid flipping back and forth between enabling and disabling these settings. This will muddy your data and negate any usefulness either option may have.
  2. The enable feature isn’t retroactive. Starting at the point you enable de-duplication, the number of recorded VTC’s in your campaign will likely drop. The “missing” VTC’s are now only being recorded as conversions elsewhere.
  3. An ad impression on the Google Display Network is counted when the webpage loads. Even if the ad is below the fold and is never actually viewed by the user that impression is counted and the tracking cookie is placed. This being said, there is a chance that a VTC could be from a user that did convert on your site but never actually viewed your display ads.
  4. Google doesn’t report revenue data in conjunction with VTCs. If you’re CPA or conversion goal is based on associated value this makes factoring the VTC data into performance not viable.

We certainly don’t discourage using the VTC data. If you’re running display campaigns the VTC metric is a very valuable tool in determining the campaigns and ad’s performance and worth. But, we are eagerly awaiting Google’s next improvement!