Google Expands Its Ad Tracking

by Raymond Pucci 0

Hands holding credit card and using laptop

 Don’t look now, but Google may be watching you. Or at least attempting to track your online ad browsing against your in-store purchases. The following article describes how Google is expanding its store visits measurement program and how it may also raise privacy issues for consumers.


Philadelphia retail magnate John Wanamaker once observed, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” If there is a holy grail for marketers, it’s figuring out which half is which.

At its Google Marketing Next conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Alphabet Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Google offered an upgraded version of its store visits measurement program that advertisers may believe is the nearest thing to the holy grail, and consumers may think is the latest manifestation of Big Brother-ism.

This is how store visits measurements works, according to Google:

Store visit data is based on anonymous, aggregated statistics. AdWords creates modeled numbers by using current and past data on the number of people who click your ads and later visit your store. Store visit data can’t be tied to individual ad clicks or people. We use industry best practices to ensure the privacy of individual users.

Google said on Tuesday that it has recently upgraded the program using deep learning models to train on larger data sets and measure more store visits “in challenging scenarios with greater confidence.” But that solves only half the problem:

Measuring store visits is just one part of the equation. You also need insights into how your online ads drive sales for your business. You need to know: are my online ads ringing my cash register? In the coming months, we’ll be rolling out store sales measurement at the device and campaign levels. This will allow you to measure in-store revenue in addition to the store visits delivered by your Search and Shopping ads. If you collect email information at the point of sale for your loyalty program, you can import store transactions directly into AdWords yourself or through a third-party data partner. And even if your business doesn’t have a large loyalty program, you can still measure store sales by taking advantage of Google’s third-party partnerships, which capture approximately 70% of credit and debit card transactions in the United States.


Big data computing power thrives on inputting a fire hose volume of information on anything that moves. B2C businesses find this to be a customer intelligence bonanza as they receive valuable correlated data on why and how their customers buy things. Some customers like this individualized treatment and feel it provides better service and loyalty rewards. Others oppose it as an invasion of privacy. Merchants should be transparent and let customers opt in if they so choose.

Overview by Raymond Pucci, Associate Director, Research Services at Mercator Advisory Group

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