Centralizing Online Media Tracking in Web Analytics

By Jeff Campbell, VP, Sr. Account Director

In Mr. Gawel’s outstanding post, The Five Most Common Paid Search Mistakes, his last noted mistake was “Not Tracking Across Channels”. It must have struck a chord with me, because I’m going to spend this entire post discussing the simple solution of tracking across online channels through utilizing web analytics functionality.

Tracking online media across channels is a no-brainer; it’s completely simple and free to implement. Every major web analytics platform includes some sort of campaign or marketing program tracking under the traffic sources report area:

Click to view larger image.

Web Analytics Online Media Tracking

As Nate mentions, it is quite rare for us to come into a new client engagement and already see them using web analytics (WA), specifically online campaign tracking, to the fullest. Most F500 advertisers to online-only dot coms all have multiple online campaigns driving traffic to their websites, but performance is rarely compared on an even, centralized playing field.

There are many different tracking systems, various goals, and disparate tracking methodologies that aren’t giving many marketers a clear picture of what is truly performing and/or an accurate comparison. For example, ExactTarget emails may have a 10-day tracking cookie and Dart may use a 30-day to track latent orders. Paid Search reports might focus on driving multiple onsite actions where Affiliates may focus on Orders. Display may use GRPs (that’s Gross Rating Points) or Broadband Video may use an Impression to Conversion rate (“View Through Rate”). Your social media campaigns are getting views, but what is consumer interaction with the website? Are multiple mediums taking credit for a single sale?

Pros of Centralization of Online Media in WA:
  • De-duped conversion data. Online consumers interact with several forms of media before that final purchase – do they all take credit for the sale? Not with WA. Plus, many tools can attribute the sale across multiple points of media interaction (i.e. 25% of the sale goes to Display since it was the first interaction point)

  • Single point of reference. Given $10k and instructed to “apply it to the campaign that is most likely to drive product sales,” do you have a quick answer?

  • Accessibility. No longer do you have to wait until a monthly report comes out or an agency answers the phone – the data is at your finger tips in WA, at near real-time.

  • Onsite interaction by medium. Compare bounce rates, time on site, number of page views, site actions and more with WA. It’s not always about the sale…it’s about identifying high caliber traffic sources and ensuring a positive visitor experience.

  • Agreed upon tracking methodology & management-blessed data. From cookie length to accurate revenue tracking, hopefully setup of your WA system was taken seriously and bought in to at all levels across the organization.

Limitations to be aware of:

  • Data limitations. Impressions, ranking, open rates, views, and more are not available in most WA tools. WA tools only report on on-site interaction – in other words, what users do AFTER getting to the website.

  • Media Efficiency. Media costs are typically not pulled into WA and therefore make it impossible to examine EFFICIENCY of the media buys (it's not just about volume). Some of the WA vendors have relationships with major media sources and can pull this data in, at a cost.

  • Optimization of Media. Change is something online marketers have become accustom to. Robust, automated systems push the media placements that are working and pull back on those that aren’t. Current WA systems report on the past vs. change the future through automated media optimization processes. There is room for everyone, and WA tools are improving in this area.

  • Data will never match exactly in multiple systems. Never.

Due to the limitations, WA can not be a replacement for other tools, but a helpful supplement. Hopefully you are now asking: What’s it going to take to make this happen? Just tack on an additional tracking parameter or two in the landing page URLs for ALL online media, and you are off to the races. Use the help section or knowledgebase of your WA provider for more detailed implementation instructions.

While this solution is focused on just online centralization, it’s becoming clear that all media buying is converging on a digital exchange platform which should extend this solution into the offline world. First things first, let’s start by taking a bite of the low-hanging digital fruit. Data beats opinion. When an advertiser needs to see what online medium is driving website engagement, on-site events, or simply driving online revenue, the answer should be in Web Analytics.


Anonymous said...

I relish the day when marketers and platforms become more sophisticated with analytics. I like this approach of using search for analytics.

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