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The Value of View Through Conversions

View Through Conversions (VTCs) count customers who were shown an ad, did not click, but later made a purchase on your site. Should you count VTCs or ignore them? How do we calculate their true value?

My personal experience with View Through Conversions (VTCs) is that they provide very little real-world lift in sales, and are more likely just poaching attribution from other channels. So I almost always give VTCs a value of zero and ignore them.

The truth probably lies somewhere in-between. For lower funnel remarketing campaigns VTCs probably provide close to zero value, while for truly brand-unaware audiences, the value is somewhere between 0 and 100%.

If you are one of those who wants to believe in the value of VTCs, you should calculate the true value of VTCs by running a placebo A/B test. Below is just such a test that we ran on the AdRoll network back in 2013:

Placebo A/B Tests to Measure View Through Conversions

Display Network A/B Test

How to Setup a Placebo A/B Test

You will likely need assistance from your ad platform or ad agency to properly run this sort of test. It is usually difficult to have a blank or psa ad approved.

  1. Create 2 separate (but equal) non-overlapping campaigns
  2. Campaign A will serve your “normal” ad
    Campaign B will serve a Public Service Announcement ad
  3. Run both campaigns for a few weeks
  4. Calculate VTC “lift” as follows:
Valid VTC Formula

Real Life Example

Campaign A
(Real Ad)
Campaign B
(PSA Ad)
Data from a real world A/B test performed in 2013 on the AdRoll network

VTC “Lift” = (329 – 261) / 329 = 20%

In this real life example, the irrelevant PSA Ads still managed to generate 80% of the View Through Conversion volume that the real ad generated. To be more clear, 261 people saw an ad to adopt a cat, and later went to to purchase a boating license.

So 80% of VTCs can be given a value of zero. Of the remaining 20%, more analysis is needed to figure out exactly how they influenced sales. The Real Ad did seem to generate more VTCs than the PSA ad, but the real question is if those VTCs resulted in extra incremental sales or were they simply tracking sales generated by another channel such as e-mail?

Real Life Example #2: Facebook

A few years later we ran a similar Placebo A/B test on Facebook with the help of SocialCode. Unfortunately I no longer have the data for this test, but the end results was that there was ZERO lift from VTCs, and the PSA ad actually outperformed the real ads from a VTC standpoint! (People seeing cats were buying more boating licenses than the people seeing ads for a boating license)

So how should you value View Through Conversions?

Here are my recommendations:

  • Give View Through Conversions a value of ZERO. Unless you can prove otherwise via an A/B test. This is especially true for re-marketing campaigns where the visitors have previously visited your site, and may be actively engaged in checkout when the ad is shown.
  • Run your own Placebo A/B test. If someone insists on using VTCs in performance metrics, then you should insist on running an A/B test to calculate the true value. You should run at least two tests: One for remarketing audiences and another for brand-unaware audiences.
  • Be cautious and skeptical of anyone pushing the value of VTCs especially if they are an ad agency or ad platform that will benefit from including the extra VTCs in their performance metrics.

When can View Through Conversions be valuable?

  • Brand Unaware Audiences on Trusted Networks: If you are marketing to a 100% brand-unaware audience, and a trustworthy network, then there might be a valid argument to give VTCs some credit.
  • To measure which sites your customers frequently visit: Looking at VTCs on a per-placement level, *should* theoretically be a good indication of which sites your customers spend time on. You can then consider having targeted prospecting campaigns focused explicitly on those sites.

5 replies on “The Value of View Through Conversions”

Really ingenious idea for testing VTCs’ real value. This would work on AdWords, but not so much on Facebook Ads where I need to associate the ad with my account to get standard ad placement. Any ideas on how to conduct a similar test on Facebook Ads?


Hi John,

Even the test as described here is flawed, because the audiences are not fully separate. Eg: The same user may see BOTH the A and B ads, and so there *may* be a branding influence from the branded A ad that then gets attributed to the unbranded B ad as a VTC. The challenge with splitting the groups into 2 distinct audiences if that you are unsure if the split is “fair” or if there is one group that is inherently more likely to purchase.

Thinking about this as I write, the solution (for both FB and AdWords) might be to dynamically create 2 separate remarketing audiences on your site by alternating between 2 different remarketing tags for new visitors. You would then create 2 custom audiences from these 2 base audiences (Audience X = Audience A – Audience B; Audience Y = Audience B – Audience A). Then run the same ads in parallel for each custom audience. If I get the chance to try this out, I will post all the technical details here.

On another note, related to Facebook VTC, keep in mind this scenario: A user has Facebook open in a browser tab (in the background), with auto-updating right-hand ads going. The user visits your website, and receives the facebook remarketing pixel is fired. The facebook site in the background tab detects that the remarketing cookie is now set, and starts serving up your ads. In the meantime, the user hasn’t left your site yet. He browses through your products, and makes a purchase. On your purchase page, the facebook pixel fires again, indicating a conversion that is tied to the remarketing ad that was displayed in the Facebook tab. So the facebook ad gets credit for the VTC even though the user never saw it, and never even left your site.


The actual ad used was not a blank ad but a PSA ad (Public Service Announcement for the SPCA I believe). The was all handled by our AdRoll rep, so I am not sure of the exact steps necessary to set this up manually in AdWords.


Thanks Alex.This is an interesting split-testing result.I always had a doubt whether regretting helps in conversion.When people see the the targeting ads on reputable sites like Forbes,They tend to relive the brand is trustworthy.It leads to conversions i guess.How’d you got approved from adwords for a blank ad?


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