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Making A Good Impression: Why Post-impression Conversions Are Important

Coming into an agency which was previously predominantly a Search agency, I’ve often faced questions from colleagues and clients alike about why post-impression conversions in Display activity are important and have tried to prove why, perhaps sometimes over-defensively, they shouldn’t be discredited. I wanted to explore this and hopefully provide some answers.

Post-Click vs Post-Impression

To dial back a little, I should start by defining the differences between post-click and post-impression (or post-view, if you’re used to working in AdWords).

Post-click conversions in Display are defined as the completion of an advertisers pre-defined goal as a result of a user clicking a banner ad and going directly to the advertiser’s site.

This conversion type is the most directly attributable and, as such, is most highly valued by an advertiser. The conversion shows very clear customer intent and the conversion can be attributed back to the exact ad/creative which provides useful data for optimisation and learnings for future campaigns. Using a post-click attribution model, an advertiser can see a clear picture of where their direct conversions are coming from. This is great, except it doesn’t take into account the wider purpose of Display activity which, in many cases, isn’t only to drive a direct response from a user. For advertisers who are as concerned with brand awareness as they are with conversions, post-click conversions aren’t the only metric for recognising success….

…Which is where post-impression conversions come into play. These are defined as the conversions that have occurred after a user has been exposed to an ad, but not clicked on it. If a user who has been served an ad then revisits the site at a later date, within a pre-defined “lookback window” or even performs a search and clicks through on a PPC ad, the original Display ad will still take some credit for this conversion. And that’s only fair, since Display was a touchpoint in this conversion journey, correct? I’m a Display marketer so, yes, that’s correct.

Why Do Post-Impression Conversions Matter?

It’s easy to see why advertisers raise concerns about measuring post-impression conversions, especially when they see what a vast proportion of their overall conversions are made up by post-impression (typically around 85-90%). Often considered a bit of a “soft metric”, it would be wise to always consider post-impression performance as part of wider performance. As a standalone metric, it shouldn’t be considered representative or indicative of a campaign’s performance. So if the metric isn’t completely conclusive, what is it useful for?

  • It is a good indicator of trends of returning visitors who have, or may never have, previously interacted with the brand
  • Promoting a coherent brand experience across numerous channels and can help to reinforce brand consideration against competitors and, ultimately, boost post-click conversions, if this is still your ultimate goal.
  • Display activity presents a clear, proven correlation and positive impact between running Display alongside PPC/SEO activity.

What we can do as an advertiser to make post-impression conversions more valuable:

  • Consider KPI ahead of campaign – are you driving revenue or brand awareness? Outlining a clear strategy ahead of a campaign will help to guide which metrics to consider.
  • Reduce the lookback window to a length where you are happy to still consider post-impression conversions as a contributor – still leaving enough time for post-click conversions to stand independently, i.e. there’s no point in setting a one-day lookback window, forcing the same measurables and performance expectations upon post-impression conversions as you would for post-click.
  • Select partners and technologies that support post-impression conversion tracking for a more holistic representation of a Display campaign. It’s difficult to imagine many Display campaigns providing outstanding performance purely on a post-click basis.
  • Where possible, utilise an attribution model outside of the most widely-used last click model so that Display can be fairly considered within a wider cross-channel plan.

Post-Impressions at Croud

I asked our very own Head of Display for his view on how Croud as an agency tackle the challenge we face in this area:

Understanding the true value of post-impression conversions is an industry challenge we’ve discussed many times here at Croud. We’re at a stage where we have the ability to track more about our digital media campaigns than ever before. With the tools and capabilities to effectively manage viewability, the exposed risk to fraud, and cross-channel attribution, we’re able to have a more accurate understanding of the value our digital campaigns, both post-click and post-impression, have on our clients’ business.”  –Mazen Hussain, Head of Display.

For a long time, misunderstanding of Display’s function as an upper-funnel channel has bred misunderstanding of post-impression conversions. The role of Display doesn’t rely solely on consumer intent, as in PPC, but more around persuasion and as such, post-impression conversions as a metric should be used cautiously to reflect this. At Croud, we report will full transparency on post-click and post-impression conversions separately so that conversions and revenue are not grossly over-inflated. Many advertisers run offline activity which converts, and, in lieu of a trackable source for that conversion other than the knowledge that offline activity has been an influencer, why shouldn’t post-impression conversions be considered in a similar vein? If anything, the available and reportable data for post-impression conversions should support the belief that these conversions are valuable.