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Most Brands Should Use 2015 Cross-Device Data in Analyzing Early Holiday AdWords Performance

The holiday shopping season is officially in full swing as Black Friday and Cyber Monday sent many retailers’ sales skyrocketing. Paid search ad spend followed a similar trajectory for most advertisers, and brands are now hurriedly assessing this year’s early performance in order to figure out what’s working, what isn’t, and how to move forward.

One key consideration many advertisers take into account when calculating AdWords bids is Google’s cross-device conversions metric, which is an estimate of the number of orders on one device which are tied to a paid search click on a different device. As many consumers now own multiple devices with which to search and convert, this metric is valuable in better estimating the expected value of paid search clicks.

However, one key bit of information to note on cross-device conversions is that these conversions will continue to accrue for each particular day for as long as the duration of the conversion window. The conversion window is assigned for each conversion type in AdWords, and dictates how long after clicks or impressions (view-throughs) that orders tied to a click or impression will be attributed to and reported on in AdWords.

While both single-device and cross-device conversions are attributed to the date on which the paid search click occurred, cross-device conversions are more likely than single-device conversions to occur at a later date. Thus, the lift in conversions created by adding cross-device estimates to single-device conversions often grows larger for any single day over the course of the conversion window for each account.

Some brands choose very short conversion windows of just one or two days, and this is less of an issue for those advertisers since it wouldn’t take long for all cross-device conversions for a date to be fully populated. However, any advertiser using, for example, AdWords’ default conversion window of 30 days can see significant movement in the number of cross-device conversions attributed to a particular day throughout the course of the conversion window.

As such, advertisers with conversion windows longer than a couple of days may want to use last year’s cross-device lift during the holidays in order to estimate the lift this year, instead of looking at recent cross-device lift for bidding calculations. This is also true throughout the rest of the year, but can be especially important during the holiday season.

Taking a look at the lift cross-device conversions accounted for in 2015 for the median Merkle retail advertiser, we find that cross-device conversions accounted for a smaller share of total weekly paid search conversions during the holiday shopping season compared to the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, a trend also observed in 2014. This trend indicates that searchers are more likely during the holiday season to convert on the same device searched on and/or head to a brick-and-mortar location for a purchase rather than switch devices.

Paid search order latency and AOV also decline during the holiday season, and all of these trends point to quicker/less considered purchases during this time.


If your AdWords conversion window is just one or two days, it’s pretty easy to use recent cross-device performance in calculating bids throughout the holiday season as data will be fully populated quickly. However, for an advertiser using the AdWords default window of 30 days, cross-device conversions attributed to Thanksgiving Day might continue to grow all the way until Christmas Eve.

As such, it makes sense for many advertisers to focus on what the cross-device lift looked like last year in adjusting bids during the rest of this holiday season. Take this into consideration as you continue to optimize your AdWords account throughout this pivotal time of the year.