Why Analytics Should Guide (But Not Decide) Your Advertising Tactics

Written by | Tagged Analytics,

August 11, 2020 | In the Industry,

Let’s imagine that you sponsor an event. An attendee (aka: a potential customer!) at that event sees your logo on the signage, or maybe your ad in the program and thinks, “hmm, that’s definitely a product I’m interested in!” She grabs some hors d’oeuvres, makes small talk, and forgets about it until the next day. . . which happens to be Friday! It’s hard for her to focus and some online shopping sounds good. Remembering the program from the night before, she Googles your company name and makes a purchase.

We see a conversion come through. Yes! Time to find out where it came from. Looking in analytics, it looks like an organic Google search drove the conversion.

That event sponsorship? That program the buyer found your name in? Nowhere to be found.

An untrained eye might look at that Google data and think “the majority of our conversions are coming from organic Google searches. Let’s abandon all other tactics and spend all of our time and money on organic search.”


Wrong. Really wrong.

This brings us to our point . . . The most easy-to-find data will never give you the full picture. Wait . . . what? We know, that’s a hard fact to swallow. It’s hard for us, too! But it’s true. Let’s take a closer look.

Sometimes a conversion is a result of many different interactions

Take the example above. Someone saw your name in a program, Googled it the next day, and converted. Those are two very different interactions that led to a single result.

But the truth is, it’s usually more than two interactions. When you’re using a variety of tactics, there are many different combinations of touch points that can lead to a conversion.

multi-channel attribution

Sometimes organic searches aren’t organic at all

Branded search terms in an organic report are great! It’s pretty safe to say that organic search, especially branded, is always going to be a big driver of traffic to your website. But remember, much of it is anything but “organic.” Some organic branded searches are a result of all of those hard-to-measure tactics we may recommend happening farther upstream: podcasts, sponsoring webinars, influencer marketing, etc.

organic search traffic
“Not Provided” data makes attribution even harder: basically, this is Google’s way of saying “we aren’t going to tell you what keyword someone searched to get to your website.” Was it branded? Was it not? We will never know.

not provided data

Sometimes we aren’t quite sure where a conversion comes from

Yep, we said it. We’re not afraid to tell you the truth. Sometimes, we just don’t know and no one else does either. It’s impossible to tell. Take direct traffic for example. This can be when someone knows your website URL and types it directly into the URL bar, or when they have declined tracking via the browser they’re using and navigate to your site. How did they know your business’ name or URL? Did they see it on a billboard? Hear it on the radio? Are they your brother? We honestly have no idea!

We encourage many of our clients to ask customers, “How did you hear about us?” It can be a great help in gauging the success of a certain tactic (and clients, if you’re reading this, keep asking that question!). However, it’s not always reliable. It’s not necessarily that customers lie or try to be misleading, but they truly might not remember how they heard about a company and simply say the first thing that comes to mind. Or, they could have seen a billboard, a display ad, and a commercial, and they likely aren’t going to list (or remember) all of those channels.

So, what’s the solution?

This might seem like frustrating news, but it’s just the opposite! It simply makes the case for a holistic marketing program and a mutual understanding between you and your marketing team. The amount of data we have access to today provides so much insight into your ad spend, that it can be hard not to want precise metrics to support every single dollar spent. The reality is, marketing is part science and part art — a combination of experience, tactics, instinct, and metric tracking that come together to drive sales and growth. While we may not be able to attribute every single ad dollar to a conversion, we spend every single dollar wisely on tactics that are appropriate for your budget and goals.

These are the only “awards” we care about. View our client testimonials.


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