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Pros and Cons of View-Through Conversion Tracking

March 25, 2010
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Conversion Rates

A good way to evaluate the effectiveness of your display ads is to look at conversion statistics.Generally these stats focus on how many users performed a desired action, like a purchase, and what percentage of conversions followed a user clicking on the advertisement. But online advertising platforms are starting to offer an additional measure of conversion performance: view-through conversion rateWhat Is View-Through Conversion Rate? View-through conversion rate is the percentage of users who view an ad and neglect to click on it, but within a certain period of time go to the ad’s associated conversion page and undertake the desired action. Unlike click conversion rates, this statistic measures conversions that don’t result from clicks on the advertisement. Instead, the conversions often result from a user seeing an ad, taking some time to think about the product or service, and then finding the conversion page via an Internet search or webpage link. A conversion then follows.  In September, Google started tracking view-through conversion statistics for display ads on its content network. And earlier this year Facebook began beta testing a conversion tracking service that includes view-through conversion, or “post-impression” conversion figures. You may or may not decide to rely upon view-through conversion figures. But regardless of your decision, know the pros and cons of this type of conversion tracking. What are the pros of tracking view-through conversion rate? 1. You have another tool for evaluating your display advertisement campaigns. If you just focus on the percentage of users who click on your ad and then perform the desired action, you may be unnecessarily disappointed. People tend to click less on display ads on content sites than text ads in the SERPs and Google’s search network. That’s because they are generally on a content site to read about a particular topic, not to search for and buy a particular product. But that doesn’t mean the ad won’t prompt them to undertake the desired action at a later date. By not discounting this type of conversion, you have a fuller picture of your ad campaigns’ performance. 2. View-through conversion data can help you optimize your ads. By tracking view-through conversion data for all of the sites and pages you’re advertising on, you can see which ad placements are resulting in the most view-through conversions and highest view-through conversion rates. With this information, you can improve your underperforming ads by incorporating design and content techniques that worked for the successful ads. Or you can shift underperforming ads to sites and pages that worked for the successful ads. Make sure, however, that the changes you implement don’t compromise your click conversion rates. 3. A view-through conversion focus can save you money. By using view-through conversion data to improve your ads, your potential for conversions and revenue increases. You can also save money by focusing on view-through conversion data. The more people who see your pay-per-click ad, don’t click on it, and later purchase your product or service, the less money you must pay out for clicks. You are also building your brand for a smaller charge. Still, this doesn’t mean you want to neglect optimizing your ads for click conversions. If your click conversion rate is pretty high, then those conversions are likely generating enough revenue to outweigh the click charges. What are the cons of tracking view-through conversion rate? 1. You don’t really know if the ad generated the conversion. With click conversions, the user frequently clicks the ad immediately after viewing the ad. But with view-through conversions the user tends to arrive at the conversion page a significant amount of time (often days or weeks) after viewing the ad. This increases the chances that the ad itself did not prompt the conversion, but an alternative factor like an Internet search or website link. It’s also possible that “view-through” customers actually didn’t even see the ad. It may have been on the site they were perusing, but for whatever reason they missed it. A Facebook user, for example, may have been too busy looking at his friends’ status updates. Thus, view-through conversion data is generally less sound than click conversion data. 2. View-through conversions are not counted after a certain period of time. Currently, Google only counts view-through conversions that take place within 30 days of the ad impression. In other words, if a user sees the ad on Oct. 1, but signs up for the associated newsletter on Nov. 1 via an Internet search, that conversion won’t be considered a view-through conversion (It also won’t be considered a click conversion). It appears that Facebook’s beta conversion tracking service only counts view-though conversions that take place within 28 days of the ad impression. Whiles these limits may hinder Google and Facebook’s ability to provide a detailed portrait of its conversions, they’re similar to time constraints in place for click conversion reporting.3. Other factors can also limit accuracy of view-through conversion reporting. Companies partaking in view-through conversion tracking are able to identify “post-impression” customers by locating a particular cookie on their browser. The cookie was added to the browser when the user saw the advertisement. The problem with this tracking method is that some people may delete their cookies before the completion of the tracking period (Google’s is 30 days). Also, companies won’t know you’re a view-through customer if you purchase the product or service from a computer different from the one you viewed the ad with. While both of these factors can also apply to click conversion tracking, they are still worth noting.Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/31796655@N07/2974942783/

Comments

It almost seems that it has over complicated part of the reporting procedure because of the delays in final conversion data appearing upto 30 days later. So if you are running a performance based project, should you be reconsidering your reporting schedule if a large portion of your traffic comes from the content network. The new remarketing feature and the adwords search funnel, can also compound the problem in the delay in making decisions before you are close to that 30 day cut off. As for extending it, it might be useful to clients for a true ROI from their campaign but there has to be a point that is consistent and standard across Facebook/Google/Bing and a month seems a reasonable period.

Richard Kraneis (not verified)
Mar 25, 2010

Good to Know I'm biased. I read www.WordStream.com each day and I learn valuable things. Today is a great example. View Through Conversion Tracking? Seems like the better name for it would be banner ad conversion tracking. I remember edgey conversations with banner ad salespeople when I started mentioning the incredibly low conversion rates of banner ads in my testing. They countered with the ever popular "it's branding, and you can't measure branding" argument. But even though View Through Conversion Tracking has been around since September 2009, I hadn't read about it (again, that's why I read WordStream). At a minimum, View Through Conversion Tracking could be used to compare banner ads run at different sites to eliminate under producing sites from a banner ad campaign. The "cons" listed for VTCT could easily be bent into pro arguments by a banner ad salesman. VTCT statistics will under represent the effectiveness of a banner ad. The VTCT conversion rate on a specific banner ad is diluted by time and lost cookies. But it's nice to know that VTCT or banner ad tracking is available. The next time I try a banner ad, I'll be using it. Thanks again for the article.

"Viewthrough" measurement has been around for quite some time; DoubleClick was researching this several years ago circa 2003 and 2004. dt

[...] Pros and Cons of View-Through Conversion Tracking | WordStream View-through conversion rate is the percentage of users who view an ad and neglect to click on it, but within a certain period of time go to the ad’s associated conversion page and undertake the desired action. (tags: viewthrough conversions analytics tracking measurement metrics) [...]

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