If you’re spending on AdWords (or other online ads) then you’re probably paying close attention to conversion rates.
Doing so is understandable but flawed. And it may be hurting you and also Google.
At risk of oversimplifying how conversion tracking works, a person clicks on your ad, a cookie is placed in their browser, and when they buy your product, this registers as a conversion. Voilà.
The problem lies in disconnects – anything that breaks that beautiful chain.
– A person clicks on your ad, but someone else on a different computer pays for your product.
– A person clicks on your ad but doesn’t buy until the cookie has died.
– A person clicks on your ad on their phone, but purchases your product from their desktop computer.
The first scenario can be a big problem if you selling primarily to businesses.
The third scenario can be an even bigger problem for almost everyone.
The obvious reason for this is the growth in the number of multi-device users. A few nights ago I searched for a product on my phone, then bought it the next day from my desktop PC.
What this means is that the gap between the number of actual and recorded conversions is almost certain to widen with each passing month.
For Google this could be disastrous. AdWords customers might see that the number of reported conversions and even recorded sales in their account is slowly declining over time. Yet the actual conversions and conversions value could be increasing.
Google will of course already be aware of this problem, and the enormity of the threat it poses can’t be understated. But it’s not just Google’s problem; it’s yours too.
If, for example, you see that your AdWords ad spend remains the same but the number of conversions steadily declines, wouldn’t you be tempted to reduce your budgets?
My prediction is that this year will see Google rename AdWords conversions to something suitably vague and noncommittal like “recorded conversions” or even “conversion indicators“.
As it stands I suspect they’re caught between providing false information that can hurt both parties, and appearing to take data away from their customers.
Over to Google.