We have been seeing some pretty big fluctuations in Conversion data over the last few months. I had a good chance to talk to someone at Google this month, and it seems like it will continue into the new year. These changes, both for Google Ads and over all channels in Google Analytics 4 are due to a few changing things.
Google Analytics Change
The first change is the shift from the old Google “Universal Analytics” to “Google Analytics 4” (GA4). At a base level, they work differently and measure everything from page views to how people move through a site differently. With different measurement methods come different numbers.
With the shift to GA4, Conversion Tracking had to be set up anew, and this was an opportunity to evaluate and improve on the conversion tracking that was already in place – dropping those that were maybe not as good and adding new ones that were better to track. Complicating this process, Google added their own conversions to a lot of accounts, and defaulted to counting multiple conversions on the same visit.
Attribution Model Changes
We know that most conversions (Sales, Phone Calls, Form Submissions, visits to a contact page), or other key steps on your website that bring you closer to a sale, are the result of more than one visit you your website or interaction with your business.
Google used to allow different “Attribution Models” in conversion tracking, and we could set that as “First Click”, “Last Click” or some other options that shared credit across clicks that could have come from different sources. They are eliminating all of these options (except last click for now) and making everything “Data Driven” which is pretty-well a black box from the user’s perspective. We don’t know how things are weighted or why.
In competitive markets, every click can be important – the early ones to get a business on a shopper’s radar, and later clicks as they check details as they get close to a purchase decision.
Interestingly, Google does not seem to be over-favouring Google Ads results and over-crediting Google Ads in its Data Driven Attribution, at least compared to previous data in Universal Analytics. However, since “Data Driven” is a black box and we don’t know the ratios or weighting, and they could change at any time – thus boosting the fluctuations we are seeing in Google Ads conversion data.
Privacy & Cookies
Cookies are small bits of code that websites add to browsers to track people across the web. They are helpful in showing you ads and content that you might be interested in. For example, If you are a golfer, and not interested in fishing, if you have to see ads, you might prefer to see ads for golfing gear that you probably don’t need instead of ads for fishing gear you will never need. This also helps advertisers spend more efficiently. However, there are also going to be privacy concerns with any tracking, and legislation is being enacted is some jurisdictions to further protect user privacy from “big tech”.
One of the big changes that has started and will ramp up in the new year will be when Google removes 3rd party cookies from 1% of Chrome browsers to start, and will increase that through the year. Safari & Firefox are also upping options to block cookies. Google is pushing towards what they call “Enhanced Conversions” which attempts to track users & data across platforms based on information that people have voluntarily provided. How effective this is remains to be seen.
[The removal of 3rd party cookies improves privacy, but it also seems to ensure that Google has a monopoly on some of the most important user data available, but I digress].
Conversion data is important for Google Ads to optimize campaigns and direct your spending to the most productive or profitable campaigns, products, and services. They are also important to ensure your campaigns – whether on Social Media, Organic SEO, or Google Ads Channels, are bringing in results and you are getting good value for your marketing dollars. Most likely, they are all working together to get your brand, products, or service on a potential customers radar and keeping it top of mind while they make a purchase decision.
At Marwick, we are on top of the latest trends and changes and will be working to the best of our ability to make sure we provide the best data we can – despite unilateral changes being made by Google.