Jul 7 2020
Brian Bird

Offline Conversion Tracking: It’s Not a Comeback, It’s Been Here for Years


Digital marketing is a double-edged sword: you have the data to make the decisions you’d otherwise have to guess at in offline channels, but you also have access to so much data that even deciding which decisions to make is difficult.

As you navigate the latter, you may wonder whether you can afford to make the wrong decisions. But I would argue that you should question whether you can afford indecision. One of the most critical decisions for which to avoid analysis paralysis is choosing how to optimize your campaigns.

Particularly for programs oriented toward generating leads or for membership-based services where a new registration doesn’t reach revenue maturity for a delayed period of time, there is no doubt that every conversion is not created equal. For the performance marketers running campaigns driving traffic to these types of businesses, optimizing to conversions—in these examples, leads or registrations—is the easiest and simplest first step to launch campaigns. But stick to that optimization strategy for only as long as it takes to get the campaign off the ground because it comes with sub-optimal performance. You’ll over-value some conversions and under-value others, meaning that you’ll also over-pay for some that you could have earned more cheaply and miss opportunities for higher volumes of other more profitable conversions.

Forward-thinking digital marketers know this and instead look to link their campaign performance to the true sales and revenue data often housed in CRM systems or other back-office systems that don’t natively tie back to the advertising data stored in publisher platforms.  

Recently, you’ve no doubt heard about Google’s promotion of Offline Conversion Tracking, which allows, with some restrictions, advertisers to tie offline data back to gclid identifiers (Google Click ID) and see the data within the Google Ads interface. It also enables advertisers to use certain offline data as optimization targets. Facebook offers similar offline conversion tracking functionality. 

As a founding team at QuanticMind (now QuanticMind by Centro), we’ve been living and breathing the concept of offline conversion tracking going back to our time at NexTag, formerly the web’s largest comparison shopping search engine. There, as early as 2004, we helped retailers, financial institutions, universities, travel providers, automotive sellers, and other leading advertisers connect their sales and revenue data back to the ad units they purchased from NexTag. This helped advertisers keep a clear understanding of their NexTag ROI and we, as NexTag, argued that it helped us optimize the traffic being sold to the advertisers to meet performance goals. That’s true—we did that—but we also used the data to ensure that performance thresholds were fully utilized.

For example, why would NexTag sell traffic that could tolerate a 200% Return on Ad Spend KPI at a 300% ROAS? If NexTag could sell more traffic and still meet the baseline performance threshold, there’s no question that’s the decision that’s in NexTag’s best interest.

Like NexTag did almost two decades ago, Google and Facebook will undoubtedly use this data for their own benefit, whether to alter your traffic mix or even develop competitive offerings. And maybe that’s OK for your business, maybe it isn’t. But if you don't want to share that “last mile” data with the company selling you traffic (and potentially competing with you), there are plenty of alternatives you can explore to connect advertising data with your offline revenue data (including QuanticMind by Centro).

Regardless of how you choose to do it, you should be optimizing your digital campaigns to the metrics that define business performance. Conversions usually don’t get put in the bank, so optimize your digital marketing campaigns to the metrics that do.