Everybody knows that tracking conversions is one of the most important part of your online business. We go to a lot of trouble to accurately identify the source of leads and sales on your website, because it’s the only way to know whether or not your marketing is being effective.

But Google, being Google, has to take it to extremes.

Off-line tracking has been something that Google has been pursuing for years with varying degrees of success, under the assumption that being able to prove that a click on their ad lead to a physical sale will increase the appeal of their service, and for a year now, some advertisers in the US have been able to do just that: Tracking whether physical sales resulted from a click on an ad.

And they way they managed to do it was by purchasing a stockpile of Mastercard transactions. From Mastercard.

Secret Business Partnership

According to several sources who asked to remain anonymous, but who allegedly worked directly on the deal themselves, Google and Mastercard brokered a partnership after 4 years of negotiations, and Google paid millions of dollars for the data. And the public were never notified.

Obviously the deal, which Google has only partially confirmed, raises a host of privacy issues about the information being collected and used.

Google, declining to comment on the Mastercard partnership, has said that no revenue sharing agreement exists with its partners. It also said that the very first step in this product was teh development of a “new, double-blind encryption technology that prevents both Google and our partners from viewing our respective users’ personally identifiable information.  We do not have access to any personal information from our partners’ credit and debit cards, nor do we share any personal information with our partners.”

They also explained that any user can opt out of ad-tracking, by using the online Google console and setting their preferences etc.

Affected Users

Google confirmed that this form of tracking only affected users who were signed nito their Google accounts, and who had not opted out of the ad-tracking functionality.

They also explained that they are currently testing the data service with a small group of advertisers in the US, and reiterated that advertises see aggregate data with estimates of how many sales can be attributed to Google advertising, and not any personal information about shoppers, or how much they spend, or what they buy.

Although Mastercard declined to comment on the supposed Google deal, they did reveal that the company shares transaction trends with merchants and service providers, including sales volumes and average transaction sizes. However, their spokeperson specifically said that no individual transaction or personal data is provided.

Millions Of Transactions

According to the Nilson Report, a financial research firm, around 1/4 of all US sales volumes last year were transacted by Mastercard branded cards, and the more accurately any of these can be tied to specific campaigns or actions, the more beneficial it will be for advertisers.

With Google’s ultimate focus on tracking everything, this step is simply proving another layer of data for the tech giant to sift through. Ad buyers who work with the company though insist that Google is careful to maintain walls between transaction information, and web behaviour, maintaining strict anonymity.

At the moment, it looks like we’ll have to take their word for it.  But as the global drive for data collection intensifies, expect to see a lot more of this type of thing.