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The Data War…and How to Win

The World is Not Ending

I just thought I would make that clear in case you’ve been reading many of the SEO/SEM blogs that seem to think Google securing some data from the eyes of Analytics users is the end of the world. It’s not. It means it’s time to be more savvy about data and data tracking sources, which we should be doing anyway.

Google Analytics is 1 Data Source, You Should Be Using at Least 3

Tracking for Websites with No Paid Advertising

The number of data tracking sources you use should reflect the number of media channels you use. For example, if you are a very small business and you don’t advertise online, you should be using Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools. If you’re not using Webmaster Tools, start now. (Just go in and set it up and start exploring, it’s very intuitive.)  No matter what Google security is doing to Analytics, you’ll still be able to get Search Querie data from Webmaster Tools.

Tracking for Websites Advertising Only with AdWords

If you’re advertising solely through Google AdWords, you want to link your AdWords to Analytics, use Webmaster Tools and link Webmaster Tools to your AdWords (if you don’t know how to do this, send me an email) and set up AdWords Conversion Tracking. Why the extra layers of tracking?

  1. With AdWords Conversion Tracking you can use Conversion Optimizer and AdWords bid management tools, which actually work
  2. The Paid & Organic Search Report in Webmaster Tools is very helpful for seeing the mix, grabbing organic keywords for your PPC campaigns, determining negative keywords in some instances and it can even help you figure out if you should be creating new web pages/blog posts based on keyword queries that are driving traffic to your site.
  3. Relying solely on Google Analytics for your data tracking can lead to misinterpretations of your AdWords Account attribution. Google Analytics gives conversion attribution to the last channel used to access to your site. This means, the user who clicked on your PPC ad this morning but came back to purchase using a book mark or typing the URL into their address bar, will show in Google Analytics as a direct traffic conversion rather than an AdWords conversion.

Tracking for Websites Using Multi-Channel Advertising 

Larger businesses and specifically big brands should be using:

  • Google Analytics
  • Webmaster Tools
  • AdWords Conversion Tracking, and
  • Third Party Tracking

So if the first thing that comes to mind when you see this list is ‘my but that’s a lot of tracking code on my web pages,’ fear not. Enter Google Tag Manager, the best thing since sliced bread (in terms of tag management). One tag container on every web page, embedded once, and the ability to set parameters for that tag as campaigns and tracking platforms come and go without ever having to mess with the code again. If you tag pages as part of your publishing protocol, your web team will never have to tag that page again – no matter what digital advertising media you use.

Most importantly, stop relying solely on third party tracking like DoubleClick, Marin, Kenshoo and DART-Search – especially for your AdWords Account. If you’re spending enough money to need third party tracking, relying on third-party tracking code can seriously limit AdWords functionality. If you don’t have a serious death wish for your campaigns and you think you need to de-dupe (please see below), then use third party tracking only for de-duping converisons and use all the other functionality and reporting of AdWords for your PPC campaigns.

STOP DE-DUPING NOW!

(A pet peeve: so I’m using this post to make a point.)

More importantly, STOP worrying about de-duping. It’s ridiculous – seriously ridiculous. Online conversion reporting for advertising attribution is not a a replacement for verifiable sales data. And yet I constantly find myself in meetings with major international brands that seem to think my tracking data is their sales data. It’s not. There are too many variables for incorrect tallying of sales/conversions for any company to ever rely on tracking data as sales figures. Don’t make this mistake. Get the sales figures from you accounting department and compare them to what you see via your media channels and tracking data. If you do this, you have a better chance of seeing the whole picture.

Track each sales channel separately AND look at the blend. Google’s Multi-Channel Funnel Report is a good place to see how different channels work together to drive engagement, but you should also want to see how each channel works on it’s own.  I’ve seen display ad spends take huge hits because they don’t seem drive conversions when looking at a de-duped report, so the brand shuts down the display campaign only to find that the display campaign was driving 70% of the PPC conversions.

It’s also smart to have a CPA/CPS per channel and a blended CPA/CPS per product. Again, get the whole picture not just the attribution of the last action taken by the purchaser.  Yes, that display ad may have a CPS of €500 but it’s driving 60% of your PPC Brand Campaign’s €10 CPS so the blended CPS is actually €50. If you cut off the display campaign because of the high CPS, you’re brand campaign is still going to have a CPS of €10 but your sales volume just went from 500 to 50.

What This Has to Do with Google’s Announcement

Now, in terms of Google’s announcement today that they are securing SSL searches for Paid Search as well as organic in Google Analytics, if you have AdWords tracking through to conversion and you have your Webmaster Tools, you won’t have a problem.  Anyone who has access to Analytics but not the AdWords Interface shouldn’t need granular keyword data anyway – and if they do need that data, give them access to AdWords, which is going to give them more accurate data for that account.

What it seems Google is doing, and I would agree with this, is forcing data miners to be more specific about their data tools they use and to create better tracking infrastructures for their online properties. If you don’t want the data or you shouldn’t have access to that data, then you won’t get that data. If you want that data, set up the right tools, get the right tracking and look in the right place. This is progress, embrace it.

 

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