Conversion Delay May Be Your Answer To Performance Drops

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What is conversion delay?

When viewing your Google Ads Shopping or Search performance you may notice that the most recent days seem lower than usual. However, don’t sweat just yet, your account may be experiencing what Google calls “conversion delay” or “conversion lag”.

If you are using an attribution model that is not “last click”, your account will likely experience conversion delay. This is because non-last click models inherently shift credit for conversions backwards in time. Rather than associating a conversion value with a single (“last”) click in the recent past, credit is distributed fractionally along an entire click path. In other words, “Conversion lag refers to the delay between when people click an ad and when they perform a specific conversion action”. As such, advertisers may notice a “dip” in their conversion reporting over the most recent days. It’s important to note that this is not a drop in conversions, but a reassignment of credit for recent conversions backward in time.

Why does conversion delay happen?

In a perfect world, a customer will see an ad, click on it and purchase immediately. Unfortunately, we do not live in this world and consumer behaviour is often complex. Instead, the journey might look something like this…

In this example, pretend your brand is called Boots Warehouse and your potential customer is looking for a pair of winter shoes. They make 4 separate searches on 4 different days and then finally buy from your website.

conversion delay click path

If you have a linear attribution model, credit would be equally given to each touch point. I.e. “winter boots” gets 25%, “black ankle boots” gets 25% of the conversion and so on.

Therefore, credit for conversions inherently shift backwards in time. The time it takes for a customer to convert varies between different industries and each individual business. For example, an electronics company which has high ticketed products may find a larger conversion delay than a fashion company selling jeans.

So now you understand what conversion delay is, how does it impact your account?

How long does it take for your customers to convert?

As Google Ads reports conversion by click date, your Google Ads account may not always show the most updated conversion metrics. This can sometimes cause your ROAS (return on ad spend) to look deflated.

To make it easier, Google has started to report individuals’ conversion delay with a blue bar underneath the graph. It shows you how long on average it takes your customers to convert.

This also tells you what date range you should avoid reporting on to avoid conversion delay. In the screenshot below, on average it takes up to 19 days after an impression for most of the conversion value to be reported in Google Ads.

However, if you do not see this in your account, you can also find this information under Tools & Settings > Measurement > Attribution > Path Metrics. This section in Google Ads can also provide more details on the paths to conversion, assisted conversions and attribution model comparisons.

What does this mean? – The importance of attribution & conversion delay

It’s important to understand where your conversions come from and how long it takes a customer to convert. By understanding this, you will be able to better optimise your campaign to capture the consumer journey.

Therefore, it’s important to choose the right attribution model for your business. You can read more about the different types in our blog on how to understand Google Ads attribution models.

If you notice a drop in performance over recent days, don’t panic as this may just be a conversion delay. Start by checking the above section in Google Ads. Then check your actual sales on the website to determine if it is a true drop in performance or just conversion delay as shown in Google Ads.

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