A Business Technology Place

Tracking clicks to external sites and internal documents

Tracking pageviews to a website was the original analytics metric to report web site use.  A pageview is defined as the number of times a page is loaded by a browser. While it’s a good measure for macro-level volume of a site for a given time period, it’s not necessarily a good metric for unique traffic or traffic at an individual visitor level because visitors to a site may visit the same page multiple times.

Another limitation of pageviews is tracking clicks to links that go to external sites and documents that may download to a browser. When this occurs there is no page loaded and thus no pageview generated. In fact, this type of user event does not show at all in pageview reports.

The solution is to track clicks to external links and downloads as events. Events are visitor interactions that happen independent of a pageview although they may also generate a pageview. Common visitor actions that I track on some web sites are clicks on links, clicks on buttons, video plays, and document downloads.

Within Google analytics you can define events with the following syntax (I’m using a simple hyperlink here):

<a href=”http://destination/URL or relative path” onclick=”_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ‘EventCategory’, ‘EventAction’,’EventLabel’]);”>Link Text</a>

EventCategory = a grouping of event types that you chose (i.e. Buttons, Links, Documents,Videos)
EventAction = a description of what the user did (i.e. Clicked, Downloaded, Played)
EventLabel = a unique name you give to identify the event in the analytics reporting tool.

Within Google Analytics the event results are located by selecting Content → Events in the left-side navigation panel.

The Events Overview screen showing the high level event categories that have tracking data

The Events Actions screen showing the actions tracked for a specific event category

Marketing technology thought readings 8

I participate in digital spaces by capturing, marking, and commenting on content around the internet. This is a recurring post of three links that I think others will find valuable for their thought lives.

  1. Tracking 404 Errors in Google Analytics by Douglas Karr of Marketing TechBlog. Most 404 errors (page not found) are served due to honest mistakes in typing. But it would be a concern if it becomes a pattern because of an invalid link from a host or even a valid link with missing content. Karr shows a quick update to the Google analytics code that will provide tracking of the 404 errors so that you can determine if there are a large number of errors for any particular address.
  2. Goodbye to Windows Live by Randall Stross of the New York Times. I don’t use Microsoft services much anymore except for my work-issued laptop. The only remaining Microsoft OS in my house is an old tower that still runs Windows XP. So I was never really attached to the Windows Live branding from the company. Apparently not many others did either and the company is moving away from the Windows Live with the launch of Windows 8. This will make a great case study for MBA classes don’t you think?
  3. Microsoft is Better at Removing Infringing URLs on Google than Bing by David Murphy of PCMag.com. I love baseball, which is full of stats and trivial statistics. Apparently we are headed that way for digital marketing as well (LOL). This post discusses Microsoft complaints for copyright infringements and URL removal. It get’s a quicker turnaround on requests from Google than Bing. Go figure. Must be related to processes between different groups within the Remond giant.

Let me know what links you shared, tagged, or commented on this week.

Channel attribution for a multi-channel world

We are multi-channeled consumers.
More and more we live in a multi-channel world. How many purchases do you research online ahead of the actual purchase transaction? If you are like me then your research involves multiple retailer sites, a search for promotional offers, and reading customer reviews. Digital media makes it all possible. It’s fast and you can do it from the comfort of your own home.

But sales channels are a marketer mindset. Consumers don’t think about channels when they are going about their daily routine ( and that’s a good thing for consumers). It allows consumers to be educated on not only the product they are purchasing, but the company who is selling the product as well. My experience is that in many cases the price of the product is roughly the same. But things like return policy, customer service, convenience of locations, or shipping fees could provide the greatest distinction between choices.

For retailers running a business all these touch points create a set of business questions. Which channel(s) receive credit for the sale? Which channel(s) should be allocated the most budget spend? How many channels did the customer touch before making their purchase? And so on and so on…..

Enter channel attribution to help marketers.
Internet analytics providers are starting to implement features for channel attribution.  I received a monthly product update email from Google that contained a link to their channel attribute support for Google Analytics premium customers and about four months ago I discussed the same features in the Adobe SiteCatalyst platform with some colleagues.

Marketers love attribution because it helps them understand how their efforts affect the entire sales cycle. This enables better decisioning for budgets, channels, promotions, and features.  What this means in practical terms is that all interactions with a customer are tracked for measurement. So for example interactions with email click-throughs, search keywords, promotional offers, etc. The big idea is to correlate all these interactions at the end of a sale instead of just looking at the individual purchase funnel of the last transaction.

Look for a set of niche channel attribution consultants.
Let’s be real though, channel attribution is a complex topic. It requires a significant understanding of how customers interact with channels and a great deal of planning to setup. Once it’s implemented the analysis of the data isn’t trivial either.

This will become a consultants paradise over the next few years. The capability will be closer to companies now that major players in the internet analytics industry are adding the feature to their tools. But the amount of planning required, the expertise to configure the tool, and the ability to interpret the information will be a barrier to entry for many organizations. They’ll need consultants.

This is making us all better.
The gradual changes will be good. Business departments at Universities and Colleges will begin to teach more about how channels coexist, not how they operate in silos. Some industry players now teach that the concept of a channel is outdated. They see customer interactions in touch-points. Businesses will begin to make smarter adjustments to budgets and technology use. Marketers will make smarter decisions for 1:1 marketing tactics with consumers.

This is the perfect area for marketing technologists to fit within an organizational framework. The technologists have a role in system architecture, planning, implementation, as well as operational support for measurement and analysis. It’s a wake-up call for organizations that marketing is becoming more dependent on technology and that technology is only useful if it’s helping marketing bring business to the organization.

Are you thinking about channel attribution in your marketing and technology plans?