The True Value of View-Through Conversions in Paid Search

Advertisers love to see view-through conversions (VTCs), but the deep burning question is whether or not they have value. This metric is often overlooked and can be crucial to your Google Ads marketing efforts. 

Before we start dissecting Google Ads view-through conversions and their role in paid search, let’s first get a basic understanding of what a VTC is. A view-through conversion occurs when a display ad shows to an individual who ends up completing a conversion action on your site without ever clicking the ad itself. The window in which a VTC can be recorded defaults to 30 days, but you can decrease the window to coincide with your marketing goals.

Below is a real-world example of how this would work for a company called Bob’s Shoe Company:

  • Ed is on a website which is a part of the Google display network; he sees Bob’s Shoe Company’s display ad;
  • After seeing the ad, Ed remembers it is time to complete his shoe purchase;
  • Ed goes directly to the Bob’s Shoe Company website without clicking an ad and completes his purchase;
  • Ed’s purchase will be logged back to the display campaign as a view-through conversion since he did not click on the ad.

A common theme with display campaigns is an abundance of VTCs, but not many click conversions. The campaign must be a failure since it’s not getting many direct conversions, right? Not necessarily. 

Questions arise on valuing the effect an unclicked display ad has on the customer’s conversion path. Had the ad not been there, would they have gone to the website and converted anyway? Since they did not click on the ad, did they not like it? Did they even see it? Was the last click conversion purely a coincidence, or did the ad play a pivotal role in the path towards a conversion? This topic is always one up for debate, and the answer will change depending on who you ask. I believe that while you do not see direct conversions on your display campaigns, a VTC does have value. 

But why, you ask? Because of the customer journey. 

The customer journey – the path to conversion – is essential. And display, whether you see the direct conversion or not, is a part of this journey. 

If display and search are two different marketing efforts, why would we measure them the same? We expect to see direct conversions with search since users are searching strictly for what you offer using the keywords you want to show for. With display, we reach a much wider audience, even users who do not know you exist or were even thinking about you. Focusing on the same metric you prioritize for search and shopping, and you lose out on what display typically does — building awareness, branding, and staying top of mind. 

In the end, you are building up your brand to help you drive more conversions to your other campaigns. VTCs help you to understand how effective your display ads are. The more VTCs, the more your ad resonates with users, the better brand awareness you have built. Strictly focusing on direct conversions means we are undervaluing our display campaigns. 

If you are ready to abandon your display campaigns, rethink how you manage those campaigns, and you will see the actual value in them. View-through conversions can be your friend and help you grow your overall business.

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