What to Make of View-through Conversions

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View-through conversions have been around for nearly four years in AdWords.  In paid search land, that’s close to an eternity.  But it still seems to me that people don’t really know what to do about them.  We’ve talked about them and their slippery attribution in the past, and today I’d like to spend even more time diving into VTCs and how they should affect the ways in which we manage our accounts on a day-to-day basis.

As a refresher, View-through conversions are only counted for image or display ads.  If you are only running text ads on the display network, you won’t see any figures coming in for VTCs, but if you’re running any image ads and you’re also tracking conversions in your account, these babies are already being measured.

A View-through conversion “measures the number of conversions that occurred within 30 days of your display ad appearing for which there was no ad click generated.” This definition comes from the original announcement of VTCs all those years ago, and in the meantime advertisers have been given some options to allow them to customize their tracking.

Under Tools & Analysis > Conversions > (Click on a specific conversion that you’re tracking) > Advanced you’ll be given the below options:

View-through conversion options

Straight from AdWords  – “This ‘window’ is the number of days after an ad is viewed during which a conversion will be counted.”  What’s pretty cool is that you are afforded the opportunity to change how long this window is.  It’s customizable and you can update it however you see fit.

VTC window options

Unlike Facebook’s post-impression conversion tracking, though, you won’t have any visibility into when within that window your VTCs are coming in.  If something occurs within your window it counts as a VTC and you won’t be able to break it down by one day post impression, one week post impression, etc.

View-through conversion search de-duplication is another interesting setting (which makes this page two for two on interesting settings).  The default option is Disabled, so if you haven’t ever really futzed around with VTCs before your settings will all be on Disabled.  This option is intended to give you more clarity about how much value your image ads are adding.

Disabling de-duplication gets us into double negative land, and as any bad grammarian couldn’t tell you, that can be pretty confusing (do you see what I did there?).  Here’s my attempt at a plain English explanation of de-duplication:

If View-through conversions are not de-duplicated (the standard setting), someone who sees a display ad of yours and then later converts by clicking a branded ad will trigger two conversions for you – one VTC for your display campaign and another conversion for your branded campaign.

If, however, you have decided to de-duplicate (meaning that setting is Enabled), when someone sees a display ad of yours and then later converts by clicking a branded ad you will only see one conversion – the regular conversion in your branded campaign.  There will be no VTC reported.

The natural question that flows out of this is then:

Should you de-duplicate your View-through conversions?

I spent a while wondering about this myself, so I picked one of my accounts and gave it a whirl.  Here are the stats for my remarketing campaign (the only display this advertiser is running) for the thirty days before and after updating this option:

 

Performance without view through conversion deduplication

Performance without de-duplication

Perofmance with de-duplication

Performance with de-duplication

This test was definitely on the smaller side.  And one month was clearly better than the other one (as 4 conversions is infinity % higher than 0 conversions), but there wasn’t a drastic difference in View-through conversions.  Over a similar time frame the number of VTCs was similar.  Nothing crazy happened, which I think is a good thing.  I was also only testing on a remarketing campaign, which I’ve seen elsewhere has a higher incidence of VTCs.  It makes sense, as people who came to your site before are definitely more inclined than your average bear to come back and convert all by themselves.  What role my display ads played in bringing back to the site continues to be a bit hard to say.

I used to be of the opinion that everyone should enable de-duplication because it led to cleaner data – you don’t want to double count those conversions, even if they are very different conversion types.  But as I’ve changed the ways in which I use VTCs I think I’ve come around on leaving de-duplication off.  If someone converts via clicking on a search ad later, you still want to know if an ad could have possibly nudged a user to click (even if it was subliminal).

I personally use VTCs in two ways.  The first is helping decide a winner in image ad testing.  I’ll still rely on the primary metrics I focus on during ad testing (CTR, Conversion Rate and Conversions/Thousand Impressions {which abbreviates to the delightful to pronounce conv./mImp}).  But if the primary stuff is too close to call, I’ll take a look at VTCs to get a sense of what’s having more of an impact.  In almost all cases VTCs line up with the better metrics overall, so it’s just a good way to confirm what you were already thinking.

You can also add VTCs to your placement reports to see what sites are driving a lot of View-throughs for you.  If you want to build out a managed placement campaign, I think looking to your high VTC sites is a good place to start (along with your high regular conversion sites).

So if you’re trying to decide whether or not to enable de-duplication, think about how you plan on using VTCs.  As a tie breaker/double check on ad tests or a farm for managed placements, I don’t have any qualms counting them twice.  If you are a serious stickler about attribution and the avoidance of double counting, you should probably get to enablin’.

What Value Do VTCs Really Add?

This is definitely hard to measure under normal circumstances.  We had a reader share a very helpful link with us about a test that he ran with VTCs.  Through running a blank ad at the same time as a real display ad, he measured the VTCs for each creative and measured the actual lift of the image ad.  He found a 20% lift on the actual creative, which isn’t too shabby in my opinion.  This is the only direct case study I’ve seen of such an experiment, but it was a pretty cool one to me.

 

Do you guys have any interesting strategies with VTCs to share?  Any strong opinions one way or the other about de-duplication?  I’m definitely glad to have this conversion type tracked, but I’m still trying to figure out if there’s anything more concrete to do with them aside from help decide ad tests and find great managed placements.  Let us know how you feel!

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  • Adam Lundquist

    Great article. Typically I am not a huge fan of display ads, but I stay on top of them for when clients want them. And yes I am down with VTC

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com/ Sean Quadlin

      I’m glad you liked the article. I’ve definitely seen different results on display depending on my clients, but for some of them it works crazy well.

  • Cynthia

    Hi Sean,

    Do you have any idea if there is a way to track actual revenue from View through conversions on Analytics?

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com/ Sean Quadlin

      From what I’ve seen it isn’t possible. I’ve checked through the AdWords community forum and you aren’t the only one who wants to track revenue. At this time I don’t believe it’s possible.

  • costus

    We once ran a similar test as your reader at probably 35x the sample size and found almost exactly the same insight, that only 1/5 view through based conversions could be said to have occurred as a result of exposure to the placements. Of course the question of what percentage of view through conversions to attribute is separate to de-duplication, so my preference would be to a) enable de-duplication to make sure you’re not double counting and b) count only 20% of the remaining view through conversions.

    Strictly speaking only 1/5 of the added de-duplciated conversions should probably be counted, but that sounds way too hard as you’d have no way of knowing that number from Ad Words.

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com/ Sean Quadlin

      That’s great to hear that you’ve seen similar results. 20% seems like a good number to establish as a baseline, and as more people run similar tests we can start to feel more confident with it. I think your system is a good one. Thanks for sharing!

  • Dave

    Hi Sean, so if you de-dup the view-through conversions
    Google will only count the conversion once. In other words if a person has seen
    a banner ad on the Display Network and they’ve clicked a Search ad, only the
    click-through conversion is counted.

    But, what will constitute a view-thru conversion? Does a
    view-through conversion only occur when a person eventually click on my banner
    ad?

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com/ Sean Quadlin

      A View-through conversion occurs when someone sees your ad, does not click it and then converts later via another means (organically or socially or something else). It’s basically an attempt to measure and attribute the efficacy of an impression on a display site, even when a user doesn’t click.

      The de-duplication comes into play if that other means someone converts by is also within paid search. You’ll get a conversion since they clicked the your other ppc ad (such as in search or a different display campaign). The default setting is to give you credit for the View-through along with the regular PPC conversion. But when you de-dup you will only get the main conversion (and not the VTC). You’ll still get VTCs if you enable de-duplication, but they’ll be from non-AdWords sources such as direct or organic.

      Hope that makes sense. Thanks for reading!

      • Dave

        Thanks for clearing that up Sean. ,Great article btw!

  • Ben

    Hi Sean,
    I’m almost positive that I’ve seen view through conversions in display campaigns from just running text ads. But I could be mistaken.

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com/ Sean Quadlin

      Maybe there was an image ad tucked in there with in a text ad campaign. I feel like I’ve had similar experiences, where I thought I saw a View-through on a text ad and then tried to locate it again unsuccessfully. According to Google’s help section it’s only for image/display ads, and I’ve never been able to find a text VTC in my own account.

      But I love finding out that what I thought before was wrong, so if you are able to find those VTCs again, send along a screenshot! That would be awesome.

  • Rushabh

    Hi Sean. Great article. I have a question. We are running Facebook offsite ads with conversion tracking enabled. But for one of the accounts we have seen abnormally high view through conversions when compared to click through conversions, the ratio being 90:10. Any particular reason on why the VTC is so high here? Still trying to figure out what could be causing such high VTCs or if there is some problem in the way Facebook is accounting for these conversions.

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com/ Sean Quadlin

      Hi Rushabh,

      I’m glad you liked the article.

      If your regular conversion numbers are holding up correctly (meaning leads/sales are matching up to what Facebook is calling a conversion), I think such a high preponderance of VTCs could be a result of really great targeting on your part. I’ve had remarketing campaigns where VTCs were off the charts. My theory was that VTCs were so high because those people were probably on the road to converting anyway, but we showed them an ad along the process.

      Maybe your targeting in Facebook is so specific that you’re getting people that were already on their way to convert with you before.

      You could also have an image/headline that really sticks with people even though they don’t click. As long as your regular conversions are being measured correctly (meaning the pixel is placed on the correct page and everything), I would take these VTCs at semi-face value (taking into account the 20% or so ratio) and learn what you can from them. Always tag your URLs and double check with Analytics as well, I would say.

      I hope those VTCs are real! Let us know if you figure it out.

  • Steve Cameron

    Another problem is that with VTC you don’t actually know if the ad was in fact viewed, since ads on the page which could be a long way below the fold still count.
    Hardly seems fair to count them – it’s a little like claiming credit for an ad in a magazine because someone walked past the newsstand….

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com/ Sean Quadlin

      You’ve definitely got a point, Steve. There’s always that chance that your ad is below the fold and doesn’t even get eyeballs on it. It’s really best to proceed with caution with VTCs, although I would personally give them a bit more credit than that magazine at the newsstand (although that’s a really great line).

    • Gnosis Media Group

      I would give them more credit than a magazine stand as well. Also, you can mitigate this problem by excluding “Below the Fold” as a Category for placements.

  • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com/ Sean Quadlin

    Thanks for sharing, Tyson! That definitely gives advertisers a lot more options to get to the bottom of VTCs.

  • Gnosis Media Group

    Another benefit of disabling de-dupe: In the placements report, you can see which placements generated the VTC. I don’t think Adwords will show you this if de-dupe is enabled. This is valuable for client reporting.

  • Gnosis Media Group

    ” If someone converts via clicking on a search ad later, you still want
    to know if an ad could have possibly nudged a user to click (even if it
    was subliminal).”

    ..Exactly. I’m a big fan of duping :)

  • Steve Cameron

    Hi Sean,

    funny – this came up this morning on the AdWords forums and then I got an update from here… that’s almost a VTC!

    Here’s an interesting point from the forum conversation – someone was asking about how to calculate the ROI of the VTC…. and that’s very complex, because the ROI will already have been attributed to the last click source.

    Personally I think that trying to “pad” your numbers with VTC’s is a panic response to a poorly performing campaign and a recipe for disaster.

  • Gnosis Media Group

    Quick question, Sean: Will Adwords still give a VTC if the visitor converted via search or direct?

  • Chris

    Sean,

    Great article. Quick question I had on this (might be an obvious answer). Assuming conversion de-duplication is enabled: If a person sees your ad during a 30 day period 30 times, doesn’t click but later comes back another way and converts, how many view-through conversions are counted, one or 30 for the 30 times he saw the ad? And if you could add an explanation to help me follow the reasoning. Thanks!

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

      Hey Chris,

      That will only count as 1 view through conversion. That metric tracks
      the actual conversions that come in after someone sees your ads. It’s
      about the actions that take place on your site following an impression
      (no matter the number of impressions). If you want to get a sense of
      performance based on number of impressions you can run a reach and
      frequency report on the dimensions tab.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Chris

    Thanks for that I really appreciate you following up!

    I do have one more question along the same lines that I’d like a little more clarification on. If a person completes a conversion multiple times in the 30 day window, wouldn’t that be multiple view through conversions, or is it just one? Thanks!

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

      Great question! View through conversions do use many-per-click reporting, so there would be multiple view through conversions in this instance.

  • http://www.pedrobessamendes.wix.com/pedrobessamendes Pedro Bessa Mendes

    Hello Sean! Congrats for the great article!

    I would like to make a question also : in one of my accounts my VTC’s are showing numbers very high (kind of unrealistic) and I just don’t know if there is something relative to adwords conversion tag because click conversions are being well counted.

    There are anybody with the same issue? any tips to figure out this?

    Thanks in advance!