Clients often ask us the best way to track how users arrive at the website, and this has developed into a discussion inside TagMan to which we’d welcome the input from any.
There are two ways to track someone arriving from a campaign:
- Via a redirect (bouncing the user from the publishing site via a tracking server before getting through to the advertiser’s site)
- Via a container tag on the landing page (a TagMan one natch) which either piggy-backs a campaign parameter in the URL, or if there one isn’t already there, is written into the URL which the tracking tag on the landing page can pick up
Both have their pros and cons
The redirect is the most straightforward in setting up at implementation, and will be the most accurate at counting every single click on the link (regardless of how many users actually arrive at the destination page).However, This can’t be used for every campaign, especially natural search traffic as you can’t manipulate the link from the search engine.The other issue is that it may add latency to the user experience in that the tracking link gets in the way of the destination page (even though we have super fast servers on a Content Delivery Network running at 20% capacity to cope with the expected unexpected spikes)
Tracking via the landing page provides best practice in terms of the user experience as nothing gets in the way of the user, however it’s a bit more cumbersome to set up (costing more up front).It will also track less activity due to natural latency of users, i.e. the user clicks on the link but before the landing page and tracking tag loads, they close the window or click elsewhere which means the activity won’t be recorded.
To explain this latency effect with an example, imagine a scenario where I run a campaign, of which 100 people click the link, 90 people arrive fully on the landing page (10 people have clicked elsewhere before the site has managed to load) and 5 people buy the product.
By tracking via a redirect, the site conversion of users from this campaign was 5 in 100 (or 5%).However if tracked via a landing page the site conversion will be 5 in 90 (or 5.6%) – by tracking via a landing page, the ‘site conversion’ of these users will be higher meaning the ‘quality’ of these users are better than the quality of users tracked via a redirect.
Therefore, if a marketer tracks different types of campaign with different methods (e.g. PPC by landing page, display by redirect), they won’t be comparing apples with apples if looking at the ‘quality’ of the traffic these campaigns are providing and may penalise the display ads mistakenly.
Does anyone care?
Will the marketer care about this minor discrepancy? What are the triggers marketers use to cut and increase media buying across different channels?
While this theoretical issue seems like an issue to address, our clients haven’t worried too much about this approach in the past, which leads me to consider that I’ve too much time on my hands to worry about issues that won’t make a difference to the bottom line.
Still, currently, we typically setup redirects for display, affiliates & email and arrange landing page tracking for SEO & PPC, however if enough noise is drummed up by the advertisers, perhaps we should suggest all campaigns are tracked by landing pages (at a slightly increased cost of set up to the marketer.)