Google Estimated Cross Device Conversions

Google Estimated Cross Device Conversions - Photo Courtesy of Noah Talesnick


With more and more users utilizing multiple devices to access content and surf the Web, the ability for advertisers to understand this cross-device activity has been lacking. Google reported in a recent study of consumers that regularly use multiple devices, “over 90% move sequentially between several screens for everyday activities like booking a hotel or shopping for electronics.” Yet, the most common tracking technologies do not currently have the ability to view activity across phones, tablets and desktops. In an attempt to help bridge that gap, Google has announced the Estimated Total Conversions report for search ads. This report will give advertisers the first view of conversions driven through search across multiple devices in AdWords.

How it Works

All cross-device data available in this new report comes from Google signed-in user search data, which is used as a proxy for all conversion activity. Google will not disclose the number or rough percentage of signed-in users that make up this data set, but claim that with hundreds of millions of signed-in users and their adherence to a 95% confidence threshold, advertisers will be seeing a significant snapshot.

In order to view this level of data, a Google AdWords conversion pixel is required, along with at least 50 daily conversions.  Conversions that are reported into AdWords will be based on a “last ad clicked” model, and all conversion paths must begin with a click on a Google ad.  So if a signed-in user clicks on a mobile ad and then converts on a desktop by going directly to the advertiser’s site, the conversion will be attributed to mobile, but will also appear under the cross-device conversion column within the AdWords interface.  Advertisers will be able to see this data down to an ad group level and will potentially be able to segment this by device type.

The global rollout of the report will start October 1st and should largely be implemented for most accounts by the end of October.  Over time, Google will also be adding other conversion types to the report, such as phone calls, store visits and conversions from ads within their display network.

Resolution POV:

Data at the Core

This is part of a much larger initiative by Google to display the full value of AdWords by giving advertisers greater insight into cross-device relationships within their reporting ecosystem.  Earlier this summer, Google Analytics began to supply cross-device reporting via advertiser generated “user IDs” which is now viewable within Universal Analytics.  Advertisers can also begin to pull in offline conversions to help make optimization decisions. These are all promising steps towards giving marketers more concrete insight into how their campaigns are performing beyond just a narrow single-device or online-only view.

What you should do with this data

Some advertisers may struggle a bit with how to incorporate this data, given that it is an estimate. We believe that despite this fact there is a lot of value that this data can bring by complementing other data sources and providing insight on general cross-device activity for certain lines of business or initiatives.  This level of insight and measurement will ultimately help marketers to make smarter decisions on where they bid and how much budget to allocate across various channels based on their priorities, especially when and if the reports are further enhanced with path-to-conversion funnel data.

One size doesn’t fit all

However, while the requirement of an AdWords conversion pixel may give greater visibility within the Google ecosystem, its full impact and usage is yet to be seen as many large advertisers use other third-party tracking technologies.  For clients and advertisers that are already utilizing AdWords conversion tracking, this is potentially a huge leap forward in understanding how their target audience is interacting with their brand across devices within Google. Conversely, clients that may have hesitations around this level of data sharing with Google or implementation of additional tracking will not be able to see this data. Google is clearly creating more incentive for advertisers to become fully ingrained within their stack of products, highlighted by AdWords and Google Analytics.


All in all, it is exciting as digital marketers to continue to see innovative ways to make our programs smarter in terms of holistic measurement, and this is a big step in the right direction. Although currently available with other 3rd Party tracking options, the ease of insight into cross-device activity is a long-awaited need for digital marketers, even if the data is presented as an estimate off of a sample set of Google users.  As the report evolves and provides users with more insight into conversion paths, we believe that it will provide advertisers with an even more insightful view of how their customers are interacting with their brands in the digital world.

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