Google Inflates Adwords Conversions with Cross-Device Conversions

Let’s put it out there: we’re none too happy about this change.

To break it down, quotes from the announcement email received directly from Google:

“Cross-device conversions measures conversions that start with an ad click on one device or browser, and ultimately convert on another.”

This is key to understand: the world of online advertising is changing rapidly towards a mobile-first world. In many industries, mobile searches have now eclipsed desktop searches, and this will likely happen in all industries sometime next year.

However, in most cases mobile conversion rates are significantly lower than other devices. 

Mobile is hugely important in the research process for any product or service, but many people still do not convert for a desired action on mobile, simply because the mobile experience is comparatively poor. So the conversion takes place on another device, even though most of the process took place on a mobile device. Cross-device conversions attempt to quantify this interplay.

“The Conversions column will begin to automatically include your cross-device conversions starting September 6, 2016.”

Starting tomorrow, instead of just being a separate conversion column that the account manager can reference, cross-device conversions will now be included in the conversions column. Automatically, with no option to exclude them:

“After September 6, 2016, this setting will no longer be available and your Conversions column will automatically include cross-device conversions.”

So what? Here’s the crux of the issue, where the motivation becomes apparent (emphasis ours):

If you are using automated bid strategies that optimize for conversions, the inclusion of cross-device conversions can make your data more robust and complete, and help our system make more informed bidding decisions. You may notice an increase in bids and spend within your campaign budget as the system adjusts to capture more holistic data.”

Fluff aside about ‘our system making more informed bidding decisions,’ the key point here is that your conversions will suddenly no longer be an apples-to-apples comparison with previous data.

Let’s say for example you are using CPA bidding, and your max bid is set to $25. Your conversions could increase on September 6th by say 20%. Your bids will consequently increase as a result; so will your competitors’ bids. Do we all see where this is going?

Of course this affects everyone, not just those utilizing automated bidding. Unless your account manager is paying zero attention to your account, he or she will see conversions increase, and the natural response will be to increase bids.

We’re not saying this is all bad – mobile has become a key part of the conversion process, and it will only become more so in the coming months and years. But there’s something about this change that smacks of opportunism, as most advertisers will likely not even notice this change has taken place.

Google will benefit from rising cost per clicks in more competitive auctions, with the flick of a switch.

Make sure you’re paying attention to your account in the coming weeks, and discuss this change with your team or agency.

Need an account audit, strategy session, or just feeling lonely? Contact us here and we’ll get back to you shortly:

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