As my client team was putting together monthly reports to send out, one of my team members noticed a pretty big disparity between the Display Network CPL showing in the Google interface and the CPL that was being calculated in Excel. It was a difference of $2.33. I reached out to a Google rep about this disparity, and received the following response: there are some sites on the Display Network that don’t support conversion tracking. …Exsqueeze me? Baking Powder? The rest of the response explained that since some sites don’t support conversion tracking, when calculating the cost/conversion in the interface, the cost of clicks and impressions on sites where conversion tracking does not work are not be included; as a result, visible CPL in the interface will not be equal to the total cost divided by the total number of conversions.

I don’t know if you’re a little shocked, but I certainly was. All of my clients are lead gen focused, use CPL as a primary performance metric, and advertise extensively on the Display Network. In the account above where we noticed the disparity, we did the math and 2.02% of our Display spend was on placements without tracking. I replied back to the rep with the following questions, which you might be wondering about to:

1.)  Why are there sites included in your network that don’t support conversion tracking?

a.  How prevalent are these sites?

b.  Is there a way I can find out which sites these are?

2.) How can I accurately report on conversions and CPL now, due to the fact that if I go by the CPL I’m seeing in the interface the conversions I can’t see aren’t accounted for or if I calculate CPL according to the cost I’m seeing that’s not accurate either, as the cost for clicks on sites that don’t support conversion tracking are included in that overall cost but conversions are not?

3.) When I’m excluding placements, am I actually not correctly optimizing, as I might exclude placements for which I’m not seeing conversions, but which actually might have gained conversions and I just can’t see them?

The Google rep responded with the following:

“It’s publisher preference whether they would like to allow conversion tracking on their website. Conversion tracking requires a cookie being placed on a user’s system and publishers may not be comfortable doing that or may not want to do that. It’s an option that they have and there’s nothing we can tell the advertiser of the same.

Unfortunately, we do not have information available to share surrounding how prevalent these sites are, nor how you can find out which sites they are. That being said, a way to completely accurately track conversions would be to use goals in Google Analytics. You’ll be able to accurately account for everything using this product because goal conversions can track from placements that don’t allow AdWords conversion tracking. This should solve problems!”

I greatly appreciated the help from the rep, however, while setting up goals in Analytics will help with tracking conversions and being able to report more accurately on conversions, CPL, and conversion rate, the issue remains that those who are focused on lead gen can’t opt out of the sites that won’t track conversions. Additionally, if those conversions aren’t coming through the interface, then excluding and optimizing placements remains less than ideal, as you might be excluding sites that actually are converting, you just can’t see the conversions.

I’m a huge advocate of the Display Network. I’ve tried Topics, ICM, Remarketing…I’ve employed pretty much all of the DN bells and whistles in my accounts and seen great performance in most cases. However, I was a little disappointed to find out that some sites are allowed to be part of this network and not allow conversion tracking. Setting up Analytics goals is fine, but in my opinion some problems still remain surrounding this issue.

What do you think? Were you aware that some DN sites don’t support conversion tracking? How do you feel about this? Let us know in the comments section below!