How to Setup Killer Marketing Channel Processing Rules in Web Analytics

It’s likely you’ve heard the phrase, “garbage in, garbage out”? I think it even has its own acronym, GIGO. Well, wouldn’t you know web analytics is the same: if you’re not thoughtful and deliberate about the setup, your output will be hard to interpret and even harder to draw accurate insights from.

This post isn’t about the implementation of a web analytics package, which is highly technical and complex and requires the attention of development resources. After you implement a web analytics platform, you can define how it processes your traffic based on a set of rules a digital marketer defines. This is likely going to be done in conjunction with your more-technical web analytics resource as its an admin-only function, but it’s critical that you as the digital marketer bring your insight from the business side to ensure the proper definitions can be set.

Now that you’ve put thought into how to group together marketing channels for your business, you need to define how to categorize traffic against those marketing channels. Because you are also incredibly thoughtful in how you’ve chosen to setup your campaign tagging structure, this is going to be oh-so-much easier. Whether your an Adobe Analytics shop, or you’re more of a Google Analytics organization – the concepts apply to both. This posts will cite examples for Adobe Analytics based on the tracking parameter structure that’s applicable in Adobe’s platform.

There are generally three things to consider when setting up marketing processing rules.

  • Order in which you want the rules to execute.
  • Match type you want to use. These can include things like starts with, contains, or does not contain.
  • Values you want to define.

Order matters. Mostly because your inbound traffic will be coming from one of two places: channels you control and channels you don’t. For those channels you control, you should be using consistent, well defined query parameters on your inbound URLs. Let’s take an example. Let’s say you wanted to group your display into two channels: Display Media and Remarketing. You can look to your marketing processing rules to execute in order to capture the right elements and separate this traffic.

  • Display Media = URL parameter starts with DM_ AND contains RE_
  • Remarketing = URL parameter starts with DM AND does not contain RE_

Since you define the URL parameters – putting rules around the channels you control should be the first ones you setup. A full set of those channels might look like this…

  • Display Media = URL parameter starts with DM_ AND contains RE_
  • Remarketing = URL parameter starts with DM AND does not contain RE_
  • Affiliate = URL parameter starts with AF_
  • Paid Search – Brand = URL parameter starts with PS_ AND contains BS_
  • Paid Search – Non-Brand = URL parameters starts with PS_
  • Paid Social = URL parameter starts with SM_ AND contains PD_
  • Email = URL parameter starts with EM_

Now you’ve got some traffic channels you don’t control – and this is why order matters. Put the easy things in the right buckets, and lean on the analytics platform for the channels you don’t control. The rest of the rules might look like this…

  • Organic social = (URL parameter starts with SM_ AND does not contain PD_) OR as defined by analytics platform
  • Organic Search = as defined by analytics platform
  • Internal traffic (self-referral) = as defined by analytics platform
  • Referring domains = the catch-all for any traffic that hasn’t been dropped into a channel by this point

Here are some platform-specific resources to help as well…

Adobe Analytics

Google Analytics

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