Understanding TrueView for Action Conversion Attribution

February 06, 2019

If you’re tracking conversions on Google Ads for TrueView for Action ads, chances are that you’re overcounting and over-attributing this ad type.

What Makes Trueview for Action Ads Different

Trueview for Action campaigns were created to drive leads and conversions to your ads by overlaying a heading and call-to-action on your video. These additional features encourage viewers to interact with your business and allow uninterested users the chance to skip the ad after 5 seconds. Conversions can be attributed towards video ads if users engage with your ad (where an engagement is defined by your ad playing for a certain length of time) or, more intuitively, when users click – not skip – the ad.

Google Changes TrueView Conversion Attribution

Google Ads’ global site tag sets the standard for monitoring video conversions because it can take into account non-clickable actions such as video play lengths and view-throughs rather than being limited to clickable actions. As far as Google Analytics is concerned, this feature is only available in GA360 since Display & Video 360 is required monitor non-clickable actions.

When TrueView campaigns first rolled out, Google defined an “engagement” as a 30-second play-time (or less if your ad is shorter than 30 seconds) and assigned both engagements and clicks to a 30-day conversion window. This meant that if a user engaged but did not necessarily click on your ad and converted on your site within 30 days, then that particular ad would get attributed to the conversion. Clicks on ads are also set to a 30 day conversion window. After monitoring our clients’ video campaigns, we find these attribution methods to be very generous because of the way users interact with YouTube ads compared to their interactions with search or display ads – a user might look away from their device while videos auto-play and be counted as an engagement without actually ever acknowledging the ad. If the ad plays long enough to qualify as an engagement then it’s qualified by Google to be attributed towards a conversion.

This is in contrast to search, where users indicate their intent by their search queries then Google matches them with ads based on their query. A search user reviews the ads and clicks on an ad, thus attributing subsequent conversions to the clicked ad given the conversion occurred within the conversion window which is set to a 30 day default – this is an intent-driven click.

In display, users are served ads in a similar manner without any search queries, but conversions only get attributed towards display ads when they are clicked. Separately there is the metric “view-through conversions,” when a user sees an ad but doesn’t click and then converts later. However these “view-through conversions” are broken out from “conversions” in Google Ads reporting, unlike engagement related conversions which are lumped into “conversions.”

Changes to attribution on YouTube video ads

More recently, Google changed the attribution window for TrueView for Action ads to be more aggressive with the intent of improving attribution. The current attribution model now considers an non-clickable engagement as a minimum 10 second play and a conversion window of 3 days. This is a huge jump from 30 second play and 30 day conversion window.

We consider this decreased conversion window as an improvement because it makes sense that recency matters when it comes to attribution. But the decreased play-time required for an engagement compounds our primary concern of over-attributing by making it more likely that an engagement is triggered. Although Google does offer some consolation by allowing you to change conversion window by contacting your Google representative, we still think this attribution strategy will result in drastically overcounted conversions. Keep in mind that non-skip clicks on your video ads will remain at the default of 30 days or the window you set in your Ads account conversion settings.

With CPA’s usually greater for video ads compared to search and display, we recommend you keep a close eye on your video campaigns in order to avoid any problems related to conversion attribution. This might be the perfect opportunity to contact your Google representative and request a decrease in that conversion window. Happy advertising!