Google Ads Beta: Display Ads Included in Attribution Reports

March 24, 2021
Posted in Paid Search
March 24, 2021 Jen Lopez

Google Ads Beta: Display Ads Included in Attribution Reports

Assessing the value of Google’s Display ads can be challenging. While Display Network campaign types vary widely now, most Display campaigns that are used to build awareness or for prospecting aren’t directly profitable using last-click attribution. These campaign types are usually part of a larger (and often complex) user journey. “But why would I continue to run a campaign with a ROAS below $1?” you may ask after an initial Display ads test. The explanation can be extensive, but in our campaigns, we’ve found many of the below reasons to be true:

  • When crafted properly, Display Network campaigns used for building awareness and prospecting actually lead to a boost in impressions for branded keywords over time, as they familiarize your brand with more people. With Brand Search campaigns being the most profitable for most Google Ads accounts, any increases in these searches is a solid win!
  • Many Display campaigns are highly under-valued using last click-attribution models. For many users, their first-touch or introduction to a brand is with a click on a Display ad, but if interested and when the time is right, they end up coming back to the website through another channel like paid search, direct load, organic search, paid social, etc. In this instance, that Display campaign would get no credit for introducing the brand to the user when using a last-click attribution model.
  • Similar to the above, a “click” on an ad isn’t the only action a user can take either, which is why view-through conversions (or some portion of them) should be reviewed and considered when evaluating the success of a Display campaign. As an example, users can be served an impression of the ad, see the ad, then file the brand/info away in their brain, and then later visit the website for the first-time through another channel. This can happen consciously, or even subconsciously in many cases (which is referred to as “banner blindness” by our team). View-through conversions measure when someone has seen a Display ad, never clicked it, but eventually converted through another channel.
  • Display also provides cheap traffic to quickly grow remarketing lists. Assuming you have the right Display strategy in place, a strong awareness or prospecting campaign run on the Google Display Network will help bring in solid traffic at a low cost-per-click which can help grow remarketing lists for any Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) or Display Remarketing Campaigns. Remarketing is typically a very profitable tactic, so growing the audience lists by scaling up other Display initiatives is a great way to maximize performance.

So, how do we prove to our clients that Display provides a boost to Brand Search campaigns? Or that a last-click attribution model isn’t always best for evaluating Display campaigns? Or even harder… people may see our Display ad, and be influenced by it, without ever clicking on it.

Enter: Display Ads in Attribution Reports.

As an open beta, Google is now including Display ads as a campaign type in their Attribution Reports section of Google Ads. While this used to be reserved for just Search and Shopping Ads, last year Google added YouTube ads to the reporting as a beta, and as of late last month, has added Display ads for users who opt in. Together, they are calling this the “cross-network attribution beta” opting advertisers into viewing data for both Networks at once.

To be eligible, you must be advertising on Google Search, as well as Google Display (or YouTube) and you must be using Google Ads Conversion Tracking, as goals imported through Google Analytics or any offline goals can’t be measured.

To see if you have a beta invitation, in Google Ads navigate to Tools > Measurement, Attribution > and look for the blue header at the top of your screen. Click “Ok” to opt in.

What does it do?

Once you opt-in to the cross-network attribution beta, you will see a new dimension for each of your reports, called “Network”. The Network dimension will tell you whether you are viewing Search, Display, Shopping or YouTube, depending on what you have running in your Google Ads account. The Network dimension is available for the Top Paths Report, the Path Metrics report, Assisted Conversions Report and the Model Comparison tool.

Here is what these reports do, and how you can use them to learn more about your campaigns:

  • Top Paths – Shows you the most common paths your customers take to complete a conversion.
    • Take a look at the Network Dimension. Is Display cited as a campaign-type that often leads to an interaction with a Search campaign?
  • Path Metrics – Shows you the time from someone’s first exposure to your ad until conversion. Path metrics will also show how much ad revenue is generated by people who saw or clicked your ads a given number of times.
    • Take a look at the Network Dimension and see how long it’s taking people to convert. Is the path shorter when Display ads play a role in the journey? We often shorten a user’s path to conversion with Display Remarketing.
  • Assisted Conversions – Shows all interactions, excluding the last interaction, that occurred before a conversion.
  • Model Comparison – Shows how different attribution models impact the valuation of your marketing channels
    • Looking at Assisted Conversions and Model Comparison, determine if the Display Network is being under-valued in last-click for your campaigns, and if the tactic is actually driving assisted conversions.

Ultimately, it is important to understand the impact of Display campaigns on your overall ROAS and new customer acquisition strategies from a wholistic perspective. Kudos to Google for adding in this additional layer of attribution to help PPC marketers understand this context and make data-based decisions.

Have you opted into the beta yet? If so, we’d love to hear the most interesting takeaways from your reports and if there are any surprises as to how Display ads are working (or not) for you.