Google today introduced a “Search Funnels” feature for its AdWords clients, a feature that will help serious advertisers tune their AdWords campaigns for increased conversion and profitability. For a very good overview of the service, head to SEL.
It’s clear Google put a lot of thought into how this new feature would be exposed, both in terms of a searcher’s privacy, and how an advertiser might use the new data. It’s clearly limited, and for good reasons.
But what Funnels belies is a more fundamental truth: Google itself has access to all the conversion patterns surfaced by this feature, and more. In the SEL article, Barry Schwartz notes:
Until now, Google would only show you the last keywords that led to a conversion. In many cases, searchers will go through a searching process that includes research that might not lead to an immediate sale but may assist in a sale after a few more searches….
… Funnels are created by noting when someone clicks on an ad at Google. That links their search activity from that click to a particular advertiser for 30 days. If they do other searches in that period after the initial click, even if they don’t click on the advertiser’s ad each time, Google will still track that the advertiser’s ad showed for that searcher and what keywords it showed for. If they eventually click again on the advertiser’s ad and convert, only then is a funnel report created — and only if the advertiser also uses the AdWords conversion tracking code.
This means that no “natural” clicks are logged and reported in the funnel (a potential weakness for those fully trying to understand the research process). It also means that no keywords are reported as part of the funnel unless the advertiser has an ad showing for those keywords — so again, some part of a research process might go missing.
In other words, Google knows a lot more than either its advertisers or its users do. Now, we knew that, but Funnels is a reminder of just how sophisticated the company’s knowledge can be.