YouTube Attribution: Understand The True Value Of Your YouTube & Smart Shopping Campaigns With The Google Ads Cross-Network Attribution Report28 min read

Sophisticated eCommerce marketers understand that consumer journeys are more complex than ever, with more touchpoints in-play than ever before. This can lead to a lot of guesswork, assumptions and testing as to what’s driving clicks and views in the upper funnel. To help make sense of how purchase journeys are initiated, Google Ads has now expanded its YouTube attribution reporting capability to include cross-network data.

This development is particularly meaningful to eCommerce brands, especially those which operate Direct-To-Consumer – DTC. A recent report from Epsilon found that both cost and measurability of brand initiatives are particular challenges for DTC marketers. A similar report found that 40% of marketers struggle with proving marketing ROI.

The Google Ads cross-network report could be a huge step forward for DTC marketers.

DTC brands have historically been amongst the highest spending advertisers across the entirety of the Google Ads ecosystem – encompassing search, shopping, display, and YouTube. The latter two channels often play an assisting role in the purchase journey, operating predominantly as early-stage touchpoints for brands. However, the true-value of display and YouTube is often not visible using the default last-click model, where typically search and shopping campaigns get much of the credit. 

This is potentially problematic as it keeps advertisers guessing as to the true value of historically “upper funnel” channels, and can lead to an imbalance in marketing investment within the funnel.

However, that need not be the case much longer with Google’s new cross-network attribution capabilities. Advertisers utilising the data-driven model of attribution can now better understand how display and YouTube campaigns drive engagements and clicks that initiate purchase journeys and conversions down-funnel.

This covers three reports within the Google Ads UI, including “Top paths”, “Path metrics” and “Assisted conversions” reports. You can find these reports by navigating to Tools & Settings > Measurement > Attribution within the Google Ads interface.


Note: To get the true value of this report, you’ll need to be opted-in to the cross-network open beta, which will allow you to see cross-network data within the scope of the report.

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    Why eCommerce advertisers should really, really care about this.

    There are several ways you can use this enhanced reporting suite, to inform decision-making around where to invest your marketing budget in 2021.

    Understand how YouTube is driving value, beyond clicks

    It’s easy to look at default last click-based attribution for YouTube and to assume that your campaigns aren’t doing much to write home about.

    However, this ignores a large chunk of click and view-based engagements that result in assisted revenue. Those being, the click and views which initiated or contributed to purchase journeys which ended in a search, shopping, or display conversion.

    By looking at last-click attribution alone you’re going a long way to undervalue YouTube as an acquisition channel.


    For example, in the example above (taken from the Attribution > Assisted Conversions report), YouTube is shown to have delivered just 15 last-click conversions at $2,725 last-click conversion value. Based on this data alone (i.e. what you’ll see in the main Google Ads campaigns screen) you might be tempted to reduce your YouTube budgets and / or Target CPA.

    However, thanks to enhanced attribution reporting, you can now see that YouTube assisted (clicks and views) a further 81 conversions, delivering $12,985 in assisted conversion value. In other words, for each last-click conversion, YouTube is generating 5.4 assisted conversions.

    What you can do with this data

    With a holistic knowledge of blended revenue, you can more confidently than ever set budgets and bid strategies. Previously, this would have predominantly been based on last-click conversion data, however now you have a more accurate view of output, you can better align investment with results.

    Understand which video creative is working best

    Understanding how YouTube is driving top-line value to your marketing is one thing. But identifying which specific videos are driving valuable interactions is just as important when scaling your YouTube campaigns.

    The default view of video performance within the campaigns tab (Video Campaigns > Videos) doesn’t begin to tell you the full story when it comes to video ad performance. And this really shows up in the assisted conversion report (Attribution > Assisted Conversions > Network), where you can filter to see YouTube videos by clicking on the ‘Dimension’ tab and selecting (‘Network’ and ‘Video creative’).


    In the example above you get a detailed breakdown of conversion and assistive performance by creative type. This snapshot is particularly illuminating, as it tells us that for every 1 conversion our videos generate on a last-click basis, they deliver between 5x-27x in assisted conversions.

    What you can do with this data

    Naturally, the more videos you have, the more variation you may see in creative performance, so it’s a good idea to name your videos so they lend themselves to analysis across this type of report. For example, you might want to incorporate naming themes around brand story (e.g. brand vs. product), audience type, content production type (e.g. professional vs. user generated content), social proof type (e.g. reviews vs. press videos), or offer type. From there, you begin to get a feel as to what’s driving sales, and you can look to replicate elements of your best-performing creative in order to further scale YouTube as an acquisition channel.

    Review Smart Shopping campaign performance by network

    So far, we’ve focused predominantly on YouTube, but this report is so much more than just a means to understand true YouTube ads ROI.

    Since the advent of Google Smart Shopping, eCommerce advertisers have been generally impressed by the results in comparison to ‘standard’ Shopping campaigns, however less impressed by the lack of transparency around where ads are running (Smart Shopping runs across search, display, Gmail, and YouTube networks).

    Now, with the cross-network report, you can finally see which networks ads are running across, and where conversions are taking place.

    To unearth these insights, navigate to Attribution > Assisted Conversions > filter by Network / Campaign. Marketers are then able to filter their campaigns to only see Smart Shopping campaign data by network.

    What you can do with this data

    In reality, not a lot – at least not yet, anyway. Smart Shopping campaigns are notorious for their lack of transparency, so at least this report provides some additional insight into how Smart Shopping is delivering revenue. The most obvious way to take these insights forward is to look at the overall value of Smart Shopping campaigns, taking into account both last-click and assisted revenue data. As with YouTube, your campaigns may be more productive than initially thought, so be sure to revise budget caps and ROAS targets with blended revenue in mind.

    Note: To access the cross-network open beta, you’ll need to be running YouTube and search campaigns, and also have Google Ads conversion tracking enabled.

    Sign up to our free Google Ads email course.

    7 days, 7 lessons. Everything from how to structure your Google Smart Shopping campaigns to ad testing, and YouTube ads excellence. Sign up and level up your Google Ads eCommerce game.






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