How To Detect Phantom Conversions in Yahoo!

Last week I noticed a keyword within one of my Yahoo ad groups had accrued only 2 clicks on a given day but generated a whopping 7 conversions. However, only 1 conversion was tracked through the client’s database for that day. I soon realized that I was dealing with a ghost in the machine, or phantom conversions within my Yahoo campaign. But there is no reason to be scarred; these phantoms will not physically harm you, but they may haunt your Yahoo pay-per-click campaign.

These phantom conversions can occur for two reasons. The first explanation applies to everyone who has migrated to Yahoo’s new conversion tracking system. My client had inserted the new conversion code, but they left the old code on the page as well. According to my Yahoo customer service representative, having the old code and new code on the same page can effective your conversion tracking, causing it to error and generate these phantoms.

Also, in this same vein, make sure that your conversion code (once you remove the old code if it is still present) is towards the top of your page. This will ensure that your code works as efficiently as possible without anything else on your page getting in its way.

The second explanation isn’t too mystifying: you could be dealing with a delayed conversion. When someone clicks on your PPC ad within Yahoo a 30-day cookie is placed on their machine. If that user converts anytime during that 30 day period your conversion tracking code will be triggered, and a conversion will be logged in your account.

For example, a phantom conversion can happen when someone clicks your ad on Monday but doesn’t convert. However, on Friday that person returns to your site and converts – then that conversion will be accredited to the initial keyword, and ad text, that this user clicked on. Keep in mind the conversion is noted within the account the day that the user converted, not the day they clicked on your ad.

If your ad group generates a high volume of clicks and conversions, then you may not even notice the conversion delay. But if your account generates minimal traffic and conversions, then these phantoms will be more apparent.

Don’t be afraid of these phantoms but be sure to keep your eyes open for them. If you do have a day when you generate more conversions than clicks, or the ratio just doesn’t look right, you do can two things to quickly: first, check your conversion code; and second, check your own lead tracking software/database to confirm that these conversions are valid.