Part of what makes digital marketing so cool is our ability to optimize our efforts, in essentially real-time. Unlike traditional media, the digital exhaust from user behavior can be fed back into the algorithms from Google, Facebook, and the like to increase the effectiveness of the targeting and creative.
In order to do this, its vital that your media vendors place tags – or little pieces of code – on your website (or app) that track successful actions. This helps them understand the types of users, and the attributes of those users, that are most likely to do the thing you want – which could be anything: download a white paper, complete a purchase, or watch a video. The values that are captured in these tags should track fairly closely with your internal systems intended to measure the same things. For example, if a media vendor is tracking purchases by placing a tag on the “receipt” page – the number of sales counted by the vendor over a certain period of time should track with the number of sales that your systems track.
So by the very nature of optimization, media vendors need to measure successful interactions. But be careful not to let the media vendors measure their own success. What does that mean? There’s an inherent conflict of interest in letting a vendor, who you’re paying, report back to you whether they are delivering what you’re paying them to deliver. Of course they’re going to claim they’re delivering for your business – they want more of your money. This becomes especially important when you have more than one vendor. If you have three media vendors optimizing against purchases, and you have one sale, each vendor will take credit for that sale in its entirely – meaning that together, your media vendors will be reporting three sales – one per vendor – when in reality – you’ve made one sale.
Instead, ensure you have a robust tracking methodology in your source of truth – most likely web analytics – as to how each vendor is performing so you can objectively determine success. Your web analytics platform should deduplicate, or avoid double counting, conversions when using a report that aggregates activity across vendors.
Moral of the story: help your vendors optimize their performance, but don’t let them report back on their success.