Google Takes a Step Toward Pre-Click Ad Attribution

When people gripe about last-click attribution, Google is usually the implied villain. As a consumer moves down the conversion funnel toward a purchase, the thinking goes, ad impressions in various media contribute to an ultimate purchase decision. Then, at the crucial moment when a sale is imminent, Google swoops in with a perfectly targeted search ad and takes all the credit.

But casting Google as the adversary of pre-click attribution just got a little harder. With a new set of reports available through AdWords, the company now offers marketers a glimpse into data about search ad impressions that preceded the final click and sale.

Called “search funnels,” the new reports describe, in Google’s words, “how upper funnel keywords behave on the conversion path.”

One, called “Top Conversions” report, shows the most common keyword ads that an advertiser’s converting customers encounter – and which ads they actually click – prior to a conversion. Other reports present first and last click analysis; “path length,” or the number of search ads seen or clicked before a conversion; time lag; and common keyword “assists,” or those keywords that tend to precede a conversion without necessarily leading to a direct click or conversion.

Sissie Hsiao, senior product manager for search funnels, told ClickZ, “This is something advertisers really want to figure out: How can they value the info around ads that are seen prior to the last click?”

At launch, the product tracks only search ad impressions. It does not include display ads in the Google Content Network or customer search activity that does not trigger an ad. Hsiao said those enhancements may appear future reports.

Insurer MetLife is an early user of the product. In a statement, MetLife CMO Beth Hirschhorn said, “It is an important tool to help de-code consumer shopping habits and thought processes, which we can relate back to our online as well as offline advertising.”

The search funnels reports will be rolled out gradually to AdWords users over the next several weeks. Marketers must have AdWords Conversion Tracking enabled on their accounts.

Read more and watch a video interview with Sissie Hsiao at ClickZ sister site SEW.

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