Cross-Device Conversion Tracking

If you have an AdWords account, you may have received an email from Google recently with the subject: “Cross-device conversions will be automatically included in the Conversions column.”

While this capability has been available on-demand in AdWords accounts for some time, Google is planning to include this data in your AdWords report by default. So, what is a cross-device conversion, and how will this change affect you?

Marketers want to attribute traffic and conversions to their source, especially when it involves paid ads. For example, someone clicks an ad in an email, and the lead or sale that is eventually generated should be attributed to that email campaign.

Sometimes attribution is not so simple. How can you know whether someone decides to buy a microwave based on a billboard ad or a television commercial, or because their friend told them it was a good microwave?

One form of attribution that has been challenging online advertisers for a long time is the cross-device or cross-platform conversion, which occurs when someone sees an advertisement on one device (let’s say, while reading an article on their phone) and then, later on, clicks, buys or fills out a form while using a different device (perhaps one with a keyboard).

A common example is someone shopping for something on their phone and then emailing themselves the URL of the item they want to buy so they can complete the sale on their laptop. If they found the item by clicking a paid ad on their phone, how can the eventual sale be attributed to that ad click?

Since 2015, Google has been keeping track of these cross-device conversions in a separate section of the AdWords Conversions column. They’re able to identify these conversions by observing the activity of users who remain logged into their Google accounts on multiple devices, so that the activity on one device can be associate with activity another. If you are logged into your Google account on your phone and your laptop, then Google can associate your behavior across both devices.

Starting on September 6, 2016, cross-device conversions will be automatically factored into the Conversions column in AdWords. There will still be a Cross-Device subsection in the Conversions column, where you can view data from only cross-device conversions.

So, how does this benefit you?

As an advertiser, it’s vital that you get feedback on all your different ad campaigns. Google’s new cross-device conversion data will help you to understand which of your campaigns are generating leads, not just which ones are getting clicks.

You don’t have to wait until September to begin factoring in this new data. In your AdWords account, go to Tools>Conversions and view the conversion settings, where there will be an option to include cross-device conversions.

In either case, the way that conversions are counted in AdWords will change and you should keep this in mind if you see sudden changes in your conversion counts or rates.

Google mentioned in their announcement that if you’re using automated bid strategies, this additional data may increase bid and spend amounts. We see this as a positive development. Cross-device conversions are desirable and having that addition data influencing your automated bid strategies should improve your outcome.