The number one thing people mess up with Google Ads on BFCM

With BFCM approaching I figured I’d drop in and provide my perspective on the number one thing people mess up with Google Ads on BFCM…

Accounting for conversion lags and conversion windows in their reporting and strategy.

Google Ads attributes conversions differently than many expect and it’s a far departure from how performance is reported by Google Analytics, Northbeam, and Facebook.

This lack of understanding leads to an interpretation using incorrect data which leads to bad decision making on the most important weekend of the year.

Within the Google Ads platform, a conversion is credited back to when the last click or interaction with a Google Ad occurred as opposed to when the purchase occurs.

For example, if a customer clicks on an ad on a Monday and converts on Thursday, that conversion is reported back to Monday.

So for those that monitor daily (or even weekly) performance… they are looking at an incomplete data set and are measuring a day’s ad spend against a small sample size of purchases that are going to come from that day’s spend.

If you looked at Google Ads reported conversions each day over a 30-day period (yes, I’ve done this), the numbers would change dramatically. And at the end of the 30-day period, the ROAS of Day 0 would significantly increase as all conversions that occurred from clicks on that day have come through.

This nuance exacerbates itself over Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend and I’ve seen many brands leave a ton of sales on the table by misreading their performance and making poor decisions.

Let’s say you’re following best practices and ramping up your ad spend in the days or weeks leading up to Black Friday - driving traffic to your site and building consideration for purchasers who are likely to convert when your best deal goes live.

When Black Friday finally comes, you’re pushing your promos hard on email & SMS and driving people back to your site. As you're refreshing your Ads dashboard throughout the day, you’re probably expecting to see strong performance as sales are coming through.

However, the sales from any traffic that you drove to your site from Google Ads before Black Friday is getting attributed back to when that click occurred.

So your ROAS on Black Friday looks weaker than you’d like and you don’t push nearly as hard as you could have.

Only to log back in on Cyber Monday and see incredible ROAS backdated to Friday as people converted over the weekend.

Womp, womp. Here’s how to not let this happen to you:

  1. Report on conversions based on the time the conversion occurred using a reporting column called “Conversions (by conv. time)”. This enables you to report on conversions when they happen and help you align your actual real-time performance accordingly.
  2. Take a more holistic look at your performance over BFCM weekend. On Cyber Monday, look back at Friday’s performance and I guarantee you it will be better than it was just the day prior. This will help you feel more confident to push more scale as you start to see these dynamics play out with your data. The real win here is to think about BFCM as a two or even or four week endeavor and blend it all together.
  3. Lower your conversion window down from 30 to 7 days since most of your conversions are capturing existing demand and don’t have long purchase journeys with bottom-funnel traffic. This will force the bidding and targeting algorithms to hit your blended-ROAS target over a week instead of a month and be more apples-to-apples with what you want anyways.

Hi! I'm Ben

I’m a CMO (and former Googler) helping DTC brands and online retailers make sense of the things that matter. Subscribe to my newsletter for my unique perspectives, relevant data, and ways to grow your business.

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