Cross Device Tracking: What Is It & How To Use Your Data On It

Have you ever clicked on an ad or looked at a particular website on your mobile phone, and then later on your desktop been browsing online and noticed ads appearing for the website you looked at earlier on your phone? How is that possible? How does Google know what you are doing on your phone and connecting it to your activity on your computer?


It’s pretty simple really. If you are logged into a Google account such as Gmail at the time you are browsing sites, Google can track where you go and what you are viewing. As such they can then know when you are logged into the same account on any other device and target you with ads for the websites you looked at elsewhere. Clever right?


With Google Analytics, you can use cross device tracking to monitor where your customers come from and what path they take, all the way through to conversion. An example might be if you are looking for holidays to Rome on your mobile phone on your train journey into work, then when you get to work (or on your lunch break!) you might hop online on your computer to check out the holiday packages in more detail. That evening when you get home you decide you know exactly which holiday package you want to book and you go ahead and make your booking on your iPad.


This would ordinarily appear as 3 different visitors on 3 different devices, but in fact is the same user on three different devices. So it makes sense to know that they started their journey on one device but actually converted later down the line on a different device, instead of counting this one user as three unique users. Having Google Analytics cross device tracking in place is an extremely valuable way to know exactly what your customers are doing, how long they spend on your site on each device, and on which one and at what times they are actually converting.


With cross device tracking on Google AdWords, conversions are tracked across devices so if they click on an ad on one type of device but then later convert on a different device, the conversion is still counted as coming through AdWords, even if they returned at a later stage to your site through organic search or direct. Of course the conversion would need to be within your specified conversion window (usually this is set to 30 days but it can be increased to 90 days).


Some say the cross device tracking is just plain creepy and accuse Google (and other platforms who do the same) of trying to gather too much data about us, certainly more than we think we are giving. But it’s important to remember that they are gathering this data to serve you more targeted ads, ones in which you are likely to be interested – I mean, who wants to see adverts for sofas when you are really interested in fishing! But ultimately, Google wants to serve you ads that you will click on, because at the end of the day, when you click on an ad, Google makes money.