Performance marketing insights, discussions and expertise

Analytics and Ad Servers Leave You Short

By on August 3, 2012

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Many companies rely on their current analytics or ad server solutions to measure the effectiveness of media buys.  The challenges of logging into multiple media tracking systems (paid search, affiliate, display networks, etc.) and pulling disparate metrics into a cohesive and actionable report is challenging.  Every system reports impressions, clicks and conversions using different methodologies making it impossible to create “apples to apples” reporting across these media channels.  So it is only natural to try and find a single system to capture all of the metrics and report on them.

Unfortunately, if companies are defaulting to using their analytics or ad servers, they are not getting as accurate metrics as they may think.  Let’s take a look at these tools and what they were designed to do so we can see where they may be falling short.

Analytics
Analytics were originally designed to measure consumer interaction within your website.  Analytics do not need to track every individual consumer interaction on your site in order to tell you what consumers are doing there.  Similar to conducting a survey – you do not need to ask everybody in California to know what Californians think about a particular issue – analytics do not need to count every interaction to provide you with data on how well your site is working.  Theoretically, if your analytics only reported on 10% of your traffic, it would probably be able to provide accurate enough data for you to make decisions on how your site and individual pages were performing.  However, when it comes to tracking the response and eventual sales from media, you want to get the most accurate picture possible and count every dollar generated by your media spend.

In order for analytics companies to be more competitive they have added features like tag management and media tracking.  Unfortunately, these new features are using the same tracking and measurement methodologies, which means you are at best merely surveying your media channels and not precisely measuring them.

Ad Servers
Ad servers were originally built to allow advertisers or their agencies to easily deploy and track ad creatives primarily bought through display advertising.  The value they provided was in dynamically updating and serving creative, and measuring the impression counts.  Over time, these products evolved to piggyback pixels and track conversions (sales or leads).

The challenge with using an ad server to track media accurately is they are very vulnerable to browser privacy settings, anti-virus software features and other “ad blocking” tools on consumers’ computers.  Because these ad servers have served billions and billions of impressions, they have also set billions and billions of cookies on consumers browsers.  This creates a huge footprint for “ad blocking” solutions to target – effectively hamstringing these ad servers’ ability to accurately track and measure media conversions.  Some underreport data by as much as 30%, making them useless for anything other than what they were intended for – serving ads.

Accuracy
Both analytics and ad servers also rely solely on their cookies surviving on the consumer’s computer so they can accurately track.  If the cookies aren’t there, they can’t track.  So if analytics and ad servers aren’t best for accurately measuring media, what should marketers use?

Today’s modern media measurement solutions need to use multiple tracking methodologies in order to provide accurate tracking.  They cannot rely on cookies alone to track media.  For example utilizing first-party cookies, fingerprinting and referring domains in a layered methodology can easily get you to 99%+ accuracy.  Further insight from attribution analysis can turn traditional two dimensional reports into 3D mind benders – completely changing your perspective on the contribution, value, and actual costs of your media buys.

To learn how you can bring an unprecedented level of accuracy to your media measurement, contact us here.

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