Google Wants To Measure The Entire Path To Purchase

By Ryan Joe and Tilde Herrera

If you’re looking for one takeaway from all of the announcements Google is flinging around at its Marketing Next event on Tuesday, it’s that the internet giant really wants to account for marketing spend in as many channels as possible.

Google is powering up its attribution product, connecting local YouTube ads to foot traffic, and it also revealed a tool designed to connect digital media to in-store purchasing.


Google rolled out a free attribution product called … wait for it … Google Attribution.

Faithful followers of the digital behemoth will recall that last year, Google rebranded its attribution tool Adometry to Google Attribution 360.

But Attribution 360 is for the heavy spenders at the enterprise level. Google Attribution is free and it unites the disparate attribution capabilities in Adometry, Analytics, AdWords and DoubleClick Search into a single platform.

“Advertisers can have a holistic view,” said Babak Pahlavan, senior director of product management for the Google Analytics 360 suite, which houses both Google Attribution and Attribution 360.

Speaking of which, Attribution 360 got an upgrade.

Advertisers were griping that Attribution 360 had communication problems with Google Analytics. Google claims it’s put the two through counseling and the marriage is now a happy one.

Still, why’d it take three years to achieve harmony?

“These systems are incredibly large and sophisticated,” Pahlavan said. “And we had to go through a massive rebuild of a lot of our infrastructure so things can work at scale and do cross-device and do machine learning at scale.”

Google rebuilt Attribution 360 around its machine-learning engine and integrated it “seamlessly” with DoubleClick Campaign Manager, Pahlavan said.

Attribution 360 also does minute-by-minute analysis of TV campaigns. (The free version does not.) Pahlavan said Google monitors the world’s TV ads, and its proprietary tech captures enough info to enable attribution.

If you’re wondering what type of identifier Google uses to connect all of these dots, the answer is: many. Google Analytics tracks a lot of clicks, which Google can combine with DoubleClick data associated with opted-in-users. Google uses its device graph to enable cross-device linkages.

But Google isn’t using the log-in quite yet, Pahlavan said, although that’s coming.

“There will be additional improvements that will let us tap into Google’s signed-in user data, but that’s not out the gate,” he said.

YouTube Local Ads

Next up, Google is extending some of its local ad products to video. Consumers will now be able to find local stores directly via YouTube video ads with location extensions, while businesses will be able to see how TrueView video ads are driving foot traffic into their stores.

The store visits product measures foot traffic by combining location data from opted-in users on Google apps and websites with Google’s mapping tech.

Already available for Search, Shopping and Display ads, advertisers have used the product to measure more than 5 billion store visits since it was introduced in 2014.

“These are the users who have opted into Google properties and give us permission very explicitly to use their location history in an anonymized and aggregated fashion,” said Kishore Kanakamedala, Google’s director of product management.

Adding functionality for YouTube video ads will help marketers get a better understanding of the full customer journey, he said, noting that “more than 50% of all internet users look to videos related to a product or service before making a purchase.”

Closing The Loop

Adding another critical component to the view of the customer journey is Google’s upcoming store sales measurement product, which tracks the store sales impact of online advertising at the device and campaign levels.

“The holy grail for online marketers has been about closing the loop between digital media all the way to the store purchase,” Kanakamedala said.

Google partnered with third parties, such as payment processors, to track about 70% of debit and credit card transactions in the US; Kanakamedala declined to specify who Google is partnering with. Large advertisers looking for greater detail and the ability optimize at a more granular level can link their loyalty card data to AdWords.

“Never before have advertisers been able to measure store sales at this level,” Kanakamedala said. “That is the key here.”

While these developments seem great on paper, it’s fair to wonder how marketers will take to them.

Although Google’s newest enhancements are designed to alleviate key marketer pain points, the problem is that they’re all provided by Google – and marketers are wary.

Google’s recent brand safety problems with YouTube, plus Facebook’s bevy of measurement mishaps, have eroded marketers’ trust in the walled gardens and renewed cries for independent measurement.

In a press Q&A following Tuesday’s keynote speech, Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s SVP of ads and commerce, defended Google’s efforts to address advertisers’ concerns about trust and brand safety.

The vast majority of Google’s revenue comes from systems in which advertisers are measuring clicks, which are fairly straightforward to track, Ramaswamy explained. It’s only in certain areas such as brand advertising, where marketers are paying CPMs on impressions, he said, that third-party measurement “becomes an issue.”

“Then we have lots of partnerships with the likes of Nielsen, Moat and several others to make sure that we give advertisers metrics that they can know are verified and measurable by a third party,” Ramaswamy said. “But we also think it’s really important for us to be pushing this entire ecosystem along, in terms of great new products that offer insights that not everybody has.”

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