Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Improving Marketing Attribution

With all the talk of a cookie-less world and the major iOS 14 update from Apple this week that will limit tracking users, I thought I'd share some key things you can do to improve marketing attribution.

Campaign Tracking Parameters

This is an essential setup for campaign tracking and, sadly, most marketers and analysts don't give it the attention it deserves. This leads to "garbage in, garbage out" and leads to less insights. Whether you're using UTM parameters for Google Analytics or setting up campaign tracking codes for Adobe Analytics, the process is similar and it's all in the upfront planning. Ideally, all marketing-driven traffic to your website should have clear tracking parameters based on a well-planned measurement strategy and campaign tracking taxonomy.

What do I mean by that? Let's take UTM parameters for example. The most common UTM parameters are utm_source, utm_medium, utm_campaign, utm_content, utm_term. I recommend creating consistent naming conventions for each UTM parameter so that different teams or agencies who manage different marketing channels (e.g., email, paid search, social) are not doing their own thing.   That will make the web analyst's job really painful. That could mean agreeing that utm_medium represents channel and for paid search this is always "sem" or "cpc".

Also, UTM parameters are CaSe-SeNsItIvE! So "CPC" and "cpc" would be treated as 2 different values. That brings me to the next suggestion.

I have found the most success where a single internal person(s) owns a centralized table of all campaign codes in use for all channels. So let's say your social media agency wants to launch a new campaign, they would submit a new campaign request to this lucky internal individual who would then assign the UTM parameters that meets the campaign's needs.

Lastly, if you are trying to stitch your marketing spend data with your conversion data in web analytics at the channel and campaign level, it is critical that the campaign name in the native ad platform (e.g., Google Ads, Facebook Ads) is the exact same text string as the UTM parameter values or else it will not be 1:1 matching.

This is all part of data plumbing I've previously described.

First-Party Cookies + CRM

Most of the hype and stress among marketers today is around the fate of 3rd-party tracking cookies for advertisers and the Google/Facebook duopoly. But first-party cookies are not going anywhere soon.

When a user visits your site, be sure to drop a first-party tracking cookie that ties to your CRM system. Just so you're not relying on your web analytics tool (e.g., Google Analytics) because that data is aggregated and sometimes sampled. This allows you to capture and analyze user-level data in your CRM system for attribution. The best way to do this is via a unique identifier that is passed between your CRM and web analytics tool at the point of conversion.

By the way, if you have not used the User Explorer report in Google Analytics to analyze an individual user based on GA's ClientID, it's worth checking out! It also tracks the same cookied user across multiple sessions. Combine this data with your CRM data and it helps triangulate the source and the customer journey of your new customer.

User Explorer in Google Analytics

User Survey - Just Ask!

This is the Occam's Razor answer. If you want to know how a new customer arrived at your site, just ask him/her directly! There's a few things I've learned over the years. 

Don't ask this question until after the conversion event to minimize friction in the customer journey. 

Most people like to also make the question optional. However, if you ask the question after the conversion event, I like to make the survey question mandatory.

In my experience, most people actually provide a thoughtful response even though it's mandatory. I see very few cases of people putting gobbledygook just to get pass this question, especially if there was another form field that was important to the user to also submit on the same page (e.g., to get a special offer).

Should you make this question open-ended or a drop down list? While it may be harder to analyze unstructured data, I like to start off with an open-ended text box to see what users actually type. Then in time, once I'm confident of the range of answers, then I'd institute a drop down menu of choices.

Sending a follow-up email is another option, but I often see a much lower completion rate than if you ask them right after they convert. Plus, they may not recall exactly how they discovered you if you ask later.

So, there you have it. 3 great ways to learn what part of your marketing is driving results. Good luck!


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