Campaign Analytics Tracking – How did we get here?
Looking at the world of campaign analytics in 2017, it can be challenging for anyone who didn’t grow up in the industry to make sense of its complexity. Seasoned analysts and marketers have a history with the technology, but they’ve often witnessed so much change so quickly that it can feel at times like someone snuck up and piled a bunch of new challenges on top of old ones, before solutions to the old problems were fully worked out.
When it comes to URL tracking and campaign analytics, the tools at our fingertips are impressively precise. Not that long ago, the only data you could meaningfully derive from a referring URL was how much traffic you’re getting from various websites. At a high level it allowed companies to see which partnerships and publishing platforms were bringing eyes to their sites, but that’s about it.
It wasn’t long before people realized that counting wasn’t enough. It’s great to say, “Hey, we got x number of visitors to our site!” But when Sales asks, as they like to do, “Which of those visitors to the website went on to do something useful like make a purchase?” there was no ready answer. So marketing organizations worked quickly to optimize — to really zero in on the campaigns and channels that were driving leads and sales.
It was the need for Optimization — trying to distinguish your prospective buyer from the rest of your traffic, and then trying to get a clear picture about how those prospects want to reached, and what content and messaging grabs them — that created the need for cookies and tracking codes.
Thus began a relatively quick evolution from simply evaluating property-based variables (how much traffic from which sites), to EVARs (e-commerce, or conversion variables), meaning, where did the sales come from? If the same person comes back to your site a second or third time, and trips another wire, that came to count as a success event. Marketers and analysts were able to link the final “success event” — the sale — back to previous contacts with that client.
But then Sales wanted to know: who are these buyers? What do they look like, what lines of industry do they work in?
Classifications, or the ability to measure the characteristics of site visitors and buyers, were a revolutionary tool for marketing organizations to dig down in their own specific business. It finally gave them the tools to dissect their referral traffic and study their buyers, to figure out who these people are, if they have the potential to be long-term clients, and how various marketing messages and product pitches perform relative to each other.
Today tracking codes are the tool marketers use to measure success at driving paid traffic to their site, and site cookies are the way that marketers link up repeat visits with buying behavior. The explosion in complexity has particularly impacted the tracking code side. Where 5 years ago there might have been 25 distinct URLs referring to a given product page, today there might be 2500. And often, it’s still a human analyst ensuring that those tracking codes measure what they’re supposed to. It’s an exciting time to work in our industry, as it reaches a new level of maturity. Here’s hoping that 2017 sees a revolution in automation and data governance, to match the complexity of what marketing organizations are able to measure.