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AdWords introduces cross-device tracking, Estimated Total Conversions

Published: October 1, 2013

Author: Susan Waldes

When Google announced Enhanced Campaigns on February 6th, the most exciting upcoming feature to me was cross-device conversion tracking. It was slated for announcement in Q3, and though Google missed that target by a day, we finally have the details as of this morning. With the new tracking comes a bonus: other, less expected new conversion points all rolling into a new set of metrics called Estimated Total Conversions, which will begin release to accounts November  1.
Over time, Google will be adding other conversion types like phone calls and store visits as well as conversions from ads on our search and display network.
adwords total conversions
Cross-device tracking is performed by Google the way everybody expected.: logged-in users across their devices are tracked by Google, and that number is used as a proxy to multiply out across all clicks to calculate “Total Estimated Conversions”.
adwords device tracking


Overall, these are some pretty powerful numbers. I firmly believe that they represent something substantial about the power and reach of AdWords advertising. At 3Q Digital, we have collected dozens of examples where there are strong correlations between overall sales for a company and different influencing campaigns being turned on or off that are not reflected in the last-click attribution. Similarly, Matt Van Wagner had a great post about the cohesive impact of SEM in his Nuclear Strategy post last week that I bookmarked and will definitely be sharing with clients frequently to help underscore that these new conversion points are meaningful. Additionally, our clients using Convertro have plenty of data that reflects the undeniably significant broad influence over multiple channels and devices.
Google will not release what percent of users are actually logged in, but it is a huge number in absolute terms. Many Google apps are the go-to solution (Google Maps, Google Now) even for iPhone users, and of course every single Android phone has to be tied to a Google account (or creates one). Going forward, it will be interesting to watch if Google makes any acquisitions simply because of broad user bases (especially broad iPhone user bases) that they can use to strengthen their data.


It is unclear how accurate this will be; in concentrated urban areas or shopping districts (think a 10-story mall – can Google maps track a third dimension?), I doubt Google could really tell you were at the exact right place. So there is fuzziness here, I’d think.
My main worry, though, is that if Google is too black-box about the details of how they are coming up with these numbers, or if the algo is based on too much of an “AdWords inclusive” model, people will not really use these metrics. They could be treated like view-through conversions in AdWords – which is to say, mostly ignored. I’m very curious to see how our clients react to these new numbers, and I’m not sure how to bet in terms of the reactions being more on the side of WOW! Or SO WHAT?!

What’s next?

What I’d LOVE to see next is cross-device remarketing, and I suspect that is coming. The only holdup I could see is that it could only be applied to true conversions (logged-in users), and Google might not be ready to show you that audience size relative to the total estimate. Also, we are in interesting territory now; where conversion influence ends is hard to say. For instance, phones could theoretically “hear” you talking about a brand and create a word-of-mouth proxy; many have also written recently on how wider adoption of Google Glass could create a dizzying array of awareness and influence metrics – Google did recently patent the tech to support gaze-throughs.
Google has made a real step towards closing some stubborn data gaps. Will it be game-changing or totally rejected by advertisers? I am very excited to see how it plays out!

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