Google Launches Enhanced Conversion Tracking

Grisha Bornsztein
August 11, 2021
New privacy measures are making it increasingly difficult to track and target consumers across devices. This means that marketers might start seeing decreased ad performance over time as conversions are underreported. Now, as other platforms are rolling out their own methods to combat this, Google is catching on. Read more about their latest technology, below.

Google Launches Enhanced Conversion Tracking

Privacy measures like California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the launch of iOS14, and the forthcoming 2022 removal of third-party cookies are making it increasingly difficult to track and target consumers across devices. This means that marketers might start seeing decreased ad performance over time as conversions are underreported. To counteract this, many platforms are using first-party customer data to track performance — that way, it’s possible to see what ad captured a customer’s attention, regardless of what device they saw it on. Facebook has been using this technology for some time in the form of their “Advanced Matching” feature. And now, Google is catching on. They’ve launched their own technology, which promises to bridge privacy concerns with improved conversion data.

Enhanced conversions, explained

Facebook launched Advanced Matching in 2016 with features built into their pixel code to allow businesses to capture and match customer data, including emails and phone numbers, to events, such as product purchases. Late to the party, Google is following suit, launching their “Enhanced Conversions” beta, now available across most accounts. Like Facebook’s solution, Enhanced Conversions allows Google Ads to ingest customer data from a conversion action and then match that data back to ads viewed through other devices. How does this work? Read on.

  1. Using his work computer, logged into Google with a company email address, Bob researches a new bike helmet. Bob clicks on an ad for a local bike shop but doesn’t purchase right away.
  2. Later, using his cell phone, logged into his personal email address, Bob goes back to the bike shop’s website and purchases the helmet. Key moments during this transaction are now tracked via Enhanced Conversions; during the checkout process, Bob inputs his email address, shipping address, and phone number in order to purchase, which are then encrypted and sent to Google. This is first-party data.
  3. Even though Bob initially used a company email address to do his research, like many people, he uses his personal phone for 2-factor authentication, effectively allowing Google to match his purchase phone number with his work email. Google’s new Enhanced Conversions creates a full picture of Bob as a consumer from first-party data alone.

Without Enhanced Conversions, the helmet purchase might not be attributed by Google back to the ad Bob clicked on earlier that day, and the bike shop might think their ads are ineffective. With Enhanced Conversions enabled, however, Bob’s name, email address, phone number, and home address are all be shared back to Google Ads, allowing Google to match Bob’s information to known clicks on ads and more effectively attribute his purchase to the bike shop’s campaigns.

Privacy nightmare? Yes… and no. Ultimately, customers have complete control over their own data. Google states that the technology transmits customer data in hashed form, encrypting it with the SHA-256 algorithm, a standard for data encryption used by Google (as well as others, like Facebook). So, from a data perspective, nobody is getting access to a customer’s data except Google, and even then, Google users can control how Google uses this data within the “Web and App Activity” settings section of the MyActivity control panel. Additionally, Google states that customer data will not be shared with other advertisers and that access controls and encryptions are in place to prevent unauthorized access. Google’s full list of data policies related Enhanced Conversions can be found on their support site.

That being said, brands still need to address baseline privacy concerns. Therefore, Google requires any advertiser using Enhanced Conversions to disclose to customers (for example, in a privacy policy) that their information is shared with third parties to perform ad measurement services and that the advertiser obtains customer consent for such sharing and use where legally required.

How to set it up

There are 2 ways to set up Enhanced Conversions: either through Google Tag Manager or by modifying Google’s Global Site Tag. Both require some minor coding knowledge, but Google offers robust instructions (Tag Manager Instructions, Global Site Tag Instructions). Of course, the Collective Measures team of data analysts are experts in this respect and can help you get Enhanced Conversions set up without lifting a finger.

Key takeaways

Enhanced Conversions can help advertisers more effectively measure the results of campaigns across multiple devices, even when users aren’t logged into the same email address on each device

  • Privacy is a core concern with Enhanced Conversions, so advertisers should clearly state what customer information is collected and why. In other words: now is a good time to make a privacy policy.
  • Enhanced Conversions is still in beta. It might become a standard Google product, or it might go away without notice. We think the likelihood of it going away is small, however; Facebook has offered this technology for close to 5 years, and Google does not like to play catch-up.

Ultimately, first-party data is more valuable than ever. Platforms like Google and Facebook are navigating new measures in data privacy with tools such as Enhanced Conversions and Advanced Matching. And advertisers can use this technology to capitalize the on data at the tip of their fingers.

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