by Mike Fleming

What They Are

A view-through conversion is a measure of the number of online conversions that users complete after they see–but do not click–a display ad on a website.

How They Work

How
a view-through conversion is tracked, recorded and analyzed will affect
your conclusions about the effectiveness of your ads. Here are some
things to keep in mind when collecting and analyzing them.

  • Conversion Tracking Implementation.
    You need to have conversion tracking implemented in order to get
    view-through conversion statistics. Google Analytics goals aren’t
    compatible with view-through conversion reporting, so if you want to see
    view-throughs in AdWords for those conversion goals, you must collect
    that goal as a conversion within the AdWords system.
  • VTC Collection.
    They are recorded for the date of the last associated impression before
    the conversion. This means if the impression occurs 28 days before the
    conversion, you will have go back at least 28 days before the last-click
    conversion to be able to see the view-through conversion.
  • De-Duplication.
    If your display vendor has a search de-duplication feature, it will not
    count a view-through conversion if there was a paid ad clicked after
    the associated impression. I personally don’t like this because I would
    like to see which ads may have influenced conversions through ANY
    channel. When reporting to clients, I will keep the search and display
    networks separate anyway, since they are so different.
  • Text Ads. View-through conversions are not reported for search campaigns or for text creatives in content campaigns.
  • VTC Window.
    By default, view-through tracking windows are set to 30 days. But, you
    are able to customize this based on your product or service. Products or
    services that have short purchase consideration cycles are good
    candidates for shorter windows, while products with longer cycles are
    more appropriate for keeping the setting at the default 30 days.

Pros and Cons of Using Them

There
are pros and cons to keep in mind when you’re looking at view-through
conversions as a stand-alone metric for the performance of your display
ads, which should affect how you analyze and optimize your campaigns.

Pros

  • You gain a better picture of performance.
    People are on content sites to consume content, not to complete the
    desired action of your ad. But, this doesn’t mean the ad doesn’t influence
    them. Using VTC’s helps you to better optimize for where your ads have
    the best influence on driving your desired actions at future points in
    time.
  • You save on click costs. If a customer is
    influenced by your offer to convert, but doesn’t click on your ad, you
    saved the cost of the click while still gaining the conversion.

Cons

  • Did the ad influence the conversion? You really don’t know. Visitors may not notice, or not even see the ad (if it showed below the fold, and they didn’t scroll).
  • They are limited by the VTC window.
    For example, AdWords only counts view-through conversions up to 30 days
    after the ad impression. If your ad has an influence on a conversion
    that happens after that, it isn’t recorded.
  • Tracking isn’t precise. People can delete their cookies or complete the call to action from another device that doesn’t have the cookie attached.

Measuring Their Impact

We know advertising has influence. That’s why we see so much of it on a daily basis.

 

Tug of War.jpg

 

But,
it’s very important that we do the best we can to give the right amount
of credit where credit is due. This way, we know how to optimize
campaigns and budgets to get the maximum impact possible.

The big
issue with view-through conversion tracking is the level of transparency
they bring for communicating what’s really going on. The reason this is
such a big issue is that many agencies and vendors have practiced
over-attribution of credit to them in the past. Or they’ve manipulated
ad placement in ways that benefit the numbers they ultimately report.
For an extreme example, a vendor could report to you 100 view-through
conversions. But, if you dig deeper, you find that all of the ad
impressions were below-the-fold of the page, came at a dirt-cheap price
and were never seen by the audience. The vendor just happened to place
your ad on a site where your audience frequents, and VTCs were recorded
when the audience found you in other ways and converted.

This is
what makes measuring the impact of VTCs on other marketing channels that
ultimately get credited with last-click conversions so hard. It’s also
why you can’t count VTCs as actual conversions. Now, this doesn’t mean
you shouldn’t count them at all. You just shouldn’t count them the same.
It’s misleading. Instead, you should measure the influence they
have on your conversion activity. The difference is that you don’t give
them as much value as a conversion, but you give them some value
because they were a part of the sales funnel. How much value you give
them depends on a lot of factors. But, once you establish this value,
you have a great guide that will protect you from overpaying for your
ads and enable you to better optimize for maximum effectiveness moving
forward.

If you use view-through conversions in this way, they are
a valid and wonderful metric. In fact, they become an even more
reliable metric than clicks or conversions. This is because the majority
of Internet users won’t even click ads on content sites because they’re
not actively looking. Clicks and conversions typically fit the search
world, but not the display world. Display is not there to fulfill a
desire. It’s there to create it.

Testing Their Impact

So,
the question remains, how much of an impact are my ads having on my
site’s last-click conversions? I’ll leave you with one way to get a good
sense: Do an A/B test of your ad against a public service announcement.
Would the customers have come to your site and converted anyway? If you
run this kind of a test, the results should give you a great idea of
the incremental impact your ads are having on your business.

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Continued here:
A Simple Overview of View-Through Conversions

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