Google wants advertisers to trust Estimated Store Visits

Retailers know that most AdWords clicks don’t result in an online sale, but how many of them lead to a store visit or offline purchase?

To answer that question, Google launched AdWords Estimated Store Visits in December last year, initially limiting availability to select US advertisers only. Now the company is sharing details as to how it estimates when a store visit occurs, so that advertisers can have confidence in the accuracy of the reported data.

Google has said that the new report uses sampled data and is an estimate only, but has not previously revealed the depth of information used to determine whether or not a store visit occurred.

Estimated Store Visits, we’ve been told, report visits (not necessarily purchases) occurring within 30 days of an ad click (on desktop, mobile or tablet devices). A visit is determined based on user proximity to the advertiser’s location on Google Maps (for users that have Location History activated on their Apple or Android smartphones). And Google has said the estimates are purposefully conservative.


Last week Surojit Chatterjee, Google’s Director of Product Management for Mobile Search Ads, told audiences at the HeroConf PPC Conference in Portland, Oregon, that estimated store visits are calculated based on:

  • Google Earth and Google Maps Street View data
  • Mapping of the coordinates and borders of hundreds of millions of stores globally
  • Wi-Fi-strength signal in stores
  • GPS location signals
  • Google query data
  • Visit behaviour
  • Location history data from a panel of over a million opted-in users (which is used to validate data accuracy and inform modelling)

Why should you care?

Google already cites success with PetSmart, Sephora, Office Depot and other companies in reporting store visits, and the reports are now available in Australia and Canada, with eight more countries soon to follow.

While the data points used to calculate the likelihood of a store visit are impressive, the data required is such that this reporting will be limited to large, multi-location retailers.

But store visits are one thing, and knowing that an in-store purchase occurred after an AdWords click is another. Google is also testing ways to report on actual sales that occur after clicks on AdWords mobile ads. Speaking to journalists after the conference, Chatterjee indicated that Google plans to integrate and automate store transactions measurement into AdWords, but that this is still some time off.

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About the Author Jeremy Templer & Mark Sceats

Jeremy and Mark are two of the partners behind SureFire Search. Despite their deceptively youthful appearances, both have worked in search marketing for many years. To put that in context, Google didn't even exist when Jeremy started.