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By Christiana Marouchos Mar 9 2020 Blog

Programmatic Advertising 101: What is Conversion Tracking?

What does full-funnel success look like for a digital campaign?

Every digital campaign should have goals or KPIs that can be tracked and optimized toward. There are measurement opportunities along the way to help you determine what’s working and what’s not, and when measuring the effectiveness of your native advertising, it’s important to bear the customer journey in mind in order to see results at every step.

The customer journey begins with awareness, moves to product consideration, and (hopefully) ends with conversions. Your ads are generating awareness from impressions? Good! You’re getting a high number of clicks from a successful ad unit? Great! A consumer took an action on your site? Even better.

Tracking Conversions from Programmatic Advertising

That consumer action is considered a conversion – and it’s the final step in the customer journey which ultimately determines the success of digital campaigns. A conversion occurs when the user completes a specific action on your site, including:

  • Completing a purchase
  • Signing up for your site
  • Submitting an e-mail address
  • Arriving at a “goal page”
  • Any other event or action on your website

Tracking conversions is crucial to evaluating campaign success. Conversions can be tracked on a larger scale (like an end purchase) or on a small scale (like day-to-day activity that moves your customers through the purchase funnel).

Conversion tracking will represent how well campaigns are performing. Conversion tracking can also help with retargeting, because it allows you to exclude users who have already converted from your retargeting campaign. Conversion tracking strategies also allow for retargeting of specific users who completed some of the steps in the conversion funnel, but never reached the final conversion you defines for your campaign.

Optimizing Programmatic with Conversion Tracking

When making decisions about campaign optimizations, conversion tracking can be useful. For example, if you blindly turn off one or two pieces of creative as you’re optimizing and conversions aren’t being tracked, the wrong decision might be made. You might unknowingly choose to turn off the less effective creative with the least amount of conversions – because it has more impressions or clicks.

How does conversion tracking work? A conversion pixel, or short piece of code like a retargeting pixel, can be placed on your site to track the number of people who have completed a specific action – after first seeing or clicking on your ad from another source.

Here’s an easy, step-by-step guide to how conversion tracking works:

  • A pixel (JavaScript code) is created in the campaign’s ad server and placed on the advertiser’s website.
  • When someone is served the campaign ad, a cookie is placed on their computer (for post-impression data).
  • If the visitor clicks on the ad, another cookie is placed on their computer (tracking post-click impressions).
  • When the user goes to a page with a conversion pixel on it, or clicks a pixeled button, a conversion is recorded in the ad server.

How Programmatic Platforms like Basis Streamline Conversion Tracking

DSPs provide options for conversion tracking. Basis, for example, allows you to easily track a number of different conversion types:

  • Primary conversions: The conversions you’re tracking that you’ve identified as the most important indicators of campaign success. Keep in mind: you can track multiple conversions in a single campaign.
  • Click-through conversions: Conversions that result from a user clicking an ad.
  • View-through conversions: Conversions from users who see the ad, but have not clicked.
  • Dynamic conversions: Conversions from users who are making purchases. Because items are offered at various prices, resulting in different conversion values, dynamic conversions allow you to track the different values associated with each conversion.
  • Postback conversions: Conversions that come from pages where a conversion pixel can’t be placed, or where you don’t have access to the script to place the pixel (i.e. an app download). In those cases, using the advertiser’s server instead of the user’s browser allows you to track those conversions.

To learn more about conversion tracking capabilities in Basis, visit our website or email us at