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Google Search Funnel Reports—Tunnel Vision?

On March 19, 2010 Google unveiled Google AdWords Search Funnel Reports via this YouTube video. This was a great day for proponents of multi-attribution marketing analysis. There are two reasons why companies that offer similar services actually viewed Google’s release as a benefit to their business models and not as a mortal competitive threat.

Reason #1: Validation

Google wouldn’t have introduced the AdWords search funnel if they didn’t know that there were multiple Google Pay-per-click (PPC) touch points with a consumer prior to a transaction. So if Google thinks that there is plenty of overlap across Google PPC you can bet there is way more when you factor in other paid and free online marketing sources. Any lingering doubts as to whether visitors engage in multiple marketing events prior to conversion should be laid to rest.

Reason #2: Opportunity

Google AdWords search funnel uses the standard Google AdWords conversion tags as a default. These tags reside only on the conversion confirmation page and are therefore incapable of indicating any other known traffic sources other than Google PPC. So while Google is able to demonstrate overlaps between Google PPC keywords, it cannot present relationships with other traffic sources. Furthermore, unless marketers are populating the AdWords search funnel with Google Analytics data, the Google AdWords tag relies on a third-party cookie, so it’s highly unreliable for tracking multiple marketing events. In a nutshell, while we think there is value in using Google AdWords search funnel to show that conversions involve multiple marketing events, we wouldn’t recommend relying on it when it comes to the crucial task of allocating advertising dollars, due to the limited perspective it offers.

A colleague of mine asked me why Google AdWords doesn’t expand its scope to make funnel reports inclusive of all traffic sources. The answer is simple: Google AdWords by default takes 100% credit for any conversion touched in any way by its pixels. When Google AdWords splits up the credit among Google keywords, it still walks away with the same marketing return on investment (ROI). However, if Google AdWords gave partial credit to other traffic sources, marketers’ Google ROI would tank. How much? Well, when we analyzed aggregated data across several of our clients, we found that ignoring all non-Google marketing events gives Google paid search ads 82.5% more revenue credit than if all touches were taken into account. This translates to a doubling of the ROI from 447% to 898%!

Google AdWords has taken a positive step in performing multi-attribution analysis across Google PPC keyword events. But if you want to know your true ROI for each marketing vehicle and keyword, you still have to use multi-attribution software that takes into account all traffic sources.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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