Analytics Attribution Digital Marketing Google Ads

YouTube Campaigns are not performing as well as you think!

YouTube Campaigns count conversions differently than all other campaign types in AdWords. This is unexpected behaviour that can cause you to significantly overspend!

I recently ran a conversion focused YouTube video campaign that performed extremely well: According to AdWords I spent $10,000 and generated $100,000 in revenue.

However, looking at our analytics data showed a much different picture: That same $10,000 spend only generated $3,000 in sales.

Why the huge discrepancy? Something wasn’t right…

View Through vs Click Throughs

First a quick explanation of the difference between View-through Conversions and Click-through Conversions:

View Through Conversions (VTC) occur when someone sees your ad but does not click on it, and later buys your product. These types of conversions generally are only counted in the “View-through Conversions” column in AdWords.

Click Through Conversions (CTC) occur when someone sees your ad, Clicks the ad, and then later buys your product. These types of conversions are counted in the “Conversions” column in AdWords (and are generally the only conversions tracked by Google Analytics).

YouTube Campaigns count Conversions differently from other Campaign types

Standard Campaigns

For all campaign types except YouTube, a conversion is only counted in the “Conversions” column if someone clicked on your ad and then purchased your product. If a user sees your ad but does not click, but purchases anyway, that conversion is only counted in the “View Through Conversion” column.

This is the normal expected behaviour.

AdWords Search and Display conversion attribution

YouTube Video Campaigns

For YouTube campaigns, things behave differently. Click-throughs behave as expected, but View-Through conversions are handled very differently, and are divided into two categories:

Impression View-Through: A user briefly sees your video ad, does NOT click, but then buys your product. This conversion is counted in the “View-Through Conversion” column. (This is normal expected behaviour)

Video 30s View-Through: A user watches your video ad for at least 30 seconds, does NOT clickbut buys your product. This conversion is counted in the “Conversions” column, just like a Click-Through conversion. THIS IS NOT EXPECTED BEHAVIOUR!

YouTube conversion attribution

From Google:

Keep in mind: An impression is different than a “view” of a video ad. A ‘view’ is counted when someone watches 30 seconds (or the whole ad if it’s shorter than 30 seconds) or clicks on a part of the ad. A ‘view’ that leads to a conversion is counted in the ‘Conversions’ column.

Misleading Data

A “Video View” is more like an Impressions than a Click

A 30 second video view is much more like an impression that it is like a click, so why are these conversions being lumped in with click-through conversions? They should clearly be lumped into the View-Through Conversion column, or if YouTube wants to explicitly report on this metric then create another column type. Don’t lump it in with click-through conversions.

Unexpected Behaviour

The problem with all this is that suddenly the “Conversions” column behaves differently in one campaign type vs another. Suddenly the clean click-through conversion data is being polluted and mixed in with View-Through conversion data. This will make the campaign appear to perform better than it should. Which will lead you to incorrectly increase spend.

In our specific case, this issue led to AdWords over reporting campaign revenues by 3000%

This could also affect your regular display campaigns

This issue could also affect your regular display campaigns if they are setup to serve ads on the YouTube network. Any of your regular display ads displayed on YouTube network will count View Through Conversions as if they were Click Through Conversions. This leads to attribution poaching, and makes your display campaigns appear to perform much better than they actually do. This ultimately causes you to increase bids and budgets, and overspend.

To exclude YouTube placements, go to: Campaign Settings > Additional Settings > Content Exclusions and select all of the following for exclusion:

  • Live streaming YouTube video
  • Embedded video
  • In-video


  • This should only be an issue if you use Google AdWords Conversion tracking. If you import your conversions directly from Google Analytics, then this should not be an issue (as Analytics only counts click throughs)
  • If you are running  a pure brand awareness campaign, this is probably less of a concern for you.

By Alex Czartoryski

Alex is the director of digital marketing for Manitobah Mukluks, Canada’s fastest growing footwear brand, where he helps the luxury winter boot manufacturer accelerate growth profitably via digital marketing. Alex has over 20 years experience in e-commerce and digital marketing.

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