Paid Media

DIY Digital Media

If you haven’t had a chance to have a hard look at what is driving the best traffic to your site, then it’s something you’ll want to seriously examine.  Many brands who have established an “always on” digital media budget, and are seeing a steady flow of traffic to their site, assume everything is working fine.  This can be a costly assumption, as media budgets make up the better portion of the digital spend for most brands.

Typically the largest drivers of traffic to a site are as follows:

  • Display Ads (your ads that appear on other sites)
  • Paid Search (the search links that appear along the top and sides of a search results page)
  • Organic Search
  • Social (your ads and posts on Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • Email

You can probably get a good overall picture of what is going on by simply reviewing the traffic on a few key pages, such as the home page, and the first and last pages of your conversion funnel.  If your site is an ecom site then the first page might be the product catalogue, and the last page the order confirmation page.

Incoming traffic can be organized with a number of parameters. When doing a quick overview analysis what you care most about is really just a handful of things.  These “things” (as you are probably aware) are called tags, and the ones you’ll care about initially are the URL (the page you are analysing on your own site) and the Medium (the category or channel name that basically match the five traffic drivers above).

If these tags haven’t been applied in a reasonably consistent way, then you may need some help from your media agency to properly categorize things. Remember, this is a first pass and not everything needs to be perfect.

Your analysis can take place over whatever date range you think is reasonable (quarter, 6 months, year) so long as you believe the dates provide a good overall representation.

However, if you can’t make heads or tails out of what you already have in your analytics tool, you may need to set up a test campaign that you can ensure will be properly tagged.  Setting this up is relatively straightforward, and much of it comes down to being clear with everyone involved how you would like things to be organized.  To do this you must have a standard set of tag names. I’ve talked about two of these already (URL, and Medium), the four remaining tags that are typically used are Campaign, Source, Content and Term.

Campaign is what it sounds like: the name of your campaign.  Source is the site or search engine your traffic came from.  Content is used to differentiate one ad from another, and Term is used to determine one search term from another. You would use Source to determine which specific sites are your best source of traffic (Twitter vs. YouTube for example).  You would use Content and Term if you were trying to determine which ads or search terms were working the best for your audience.  Doing this is very worthwhile, but that’s a step ahead of where we are now.  What we are trying to determine is which channels are performing for us, and which are not.  Once you’ve identified where you have a problem, then you can start using Source, Content and Term to refine your approach.

So for this first pass in addition to URL and Medium all you really need is Campaign.  Here’s an example of what your standard tags might look like:

  • URL: (Where yourpage is actually the desired landing page on your site.)
  • Medium: Display, Paid Search, Organic Search, Email, and Social matching the categories listed at the beginning of this article.  Please note that different analytic tools may automatically apply slightly different names.  If you are using Google Analytics then Paid Search it will be tagged as CPC, Organic Search as Organic.  Lastly, anyone who has arrived directly on your site by typing the URL into their browser is considered “direct” traffic, and will not have anything listed under Medium – it will be blank.
  • Campaign: Whatever you want to call your campaign, so long as it is the same across the board.

You’ll need to document these tag names and provide them to whomever is responsible for your display, search, email and social marketing.  Likely a handful of internal personnel and external media agencies.  Note: a lot of this tagging is manual work, and it is prone to error.  Check in with everyone involved, and have them double and even triple check this work prior to the launch of the campaign.

When you look at your site traffic through your analytics tool, you are going to treat these parameters like filters:  you start with all of the traffic coming to a given page on your site and scale back the data until you have a good indication of where the traffic is coming from.

If you have gone to the trouble of creating a campaign with consistent tags, the first filter you’ll apply is Campaign Tag.  You want to sort the results by Medium, so you can cross compare each of these to assess strength and weakness.

Finally, you can now apply a page filter using the URL tag.  What you want to compare here is the first page (or landing page) in a customer’s journey with what you ideally hope is their final page.

The numbers you should be concerned with are:

  • Pure volume of traffic being driven by Medium
  • The difference in volume between the first and last pages in the user journey.

The last piece of data you’ll need is your budget for each medium for the period of time matching your analysis.  With these basic sources of data you will be able to come up with rudimentary numbers for how much you are spending to drive traffic from each channel, and how much you are spending to convert traffic from each channel.  You’ll be able to cross reference these numbers to determine which channels are currently the most and which are least effective.

This certainly isn’t the end of your journey, but it should provide you with a good start so you can begin to ask the right questions to ensure you’re making the best use of your digital media budget.

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