The Dangers of Estimated Conversions

By Sean Evanko

According to Google research, 90 percent of people start an activity on one device and finish it on another. If the metrics you use to measure success don’t take this into consideration then the marketing decisions you’re making may be misinformed — even if they are improving the metrics of a single device and single channel.

While there isn’t a solution that allows for full and accurate cross-device tracking, Google has made leaps in providing metrics that help to paint a fuller picture on how your customers behave. To get you started, there are two columns of information within AdWords that can be added; estimated cross-device conversions and total estimated conversions.

What are estimated conversions?

These are conversions reported on by Google based on a number of factors. They first use cross-device conversions from previously signed-in Google users. For example, a visitor to your site is signed into Chrome on their phone and then completes a purchase in Chrome on their desktop computer. Google then creates a customized model to estimate the cross-device conversions for all ad clicks. They use this model to report the overall cross-device traffic but only report on data when they are 95 percent confident about the accuracy. This helps to tell a more complete story of how your customers behave across devices.

This new data does not mean that you now have more conversions but it does help ensure that there is more accurate attribution for those existing conversions, meaning that you can make better-informed decisions on where to allocate ad spend as well as create strategies that influence conversion behavior.

What does an estimated conversion entail?

There are three primary ways conversions can be estimated for ecommerce retailers, although Google does have the capacity to estimate calls and store visits as well.

1.   Conversions across devices: as in the example above, this is when users move between devices to complete a conversion.

2.   Conversions across browsers: This may occur on the same device or across devices. For example, if a customer is searching on their phone in Safari, but completes a purchase on their desktop computer in Chrome.

3.   Conversions between a mobile app and the web: A visitor clicks an ad in an app and then completes a purchase in a web browser.

There are a few recommendations Google makes to help improve the estimated conversion coverage within your account. This largely involves ensuring that conversion tracking code is present on all appropriate pages. For example, the order confirmation page of a mobile site, if it is different than the main site. For more hints you can check out this helpful PDF.

In summary, though the conversions are referred to as estimated, they’re estimated with a high degree of confidence, using actual user behavior data from your site. This helps you better understand how your customers actually research and shop. Use this data to improve user experiences and to make better-informed marketing decisions.