App St vs LSU

Ok…so I really don’t think lightning will strike twice…but Appalachian State plays #7 LSU this saturday at 5 pm on ESPN. I think if we keep it within 21 its a moral victory.

Armanti Edwards
Armanti Edwards

You know what I’ll be doing.


Learn from my Web Analytics implementation mistakes – Campaign Attribution

For those that are about to embark on the adventure of implementing a web analytics solution, hopefully you’ll take your time with some of your decisions. I can’t mention enough that you need to take your time and think things out as some of these decisions can definitely impact future decisions and functionality.

The one that still haunts me from my Omniture implementation over 2 years ago is the way I set up campaign attribution. It still actually really bothers me every day. My thinking at the time was that I needed to be fair in how I attributed campaigns and not get stuck in the trap of only giving credit to the last tracking code/tactic as this could cause you to kill campaigns that are upper funnel. Because some campaigns are not going to be the last thing a visitor clicks on before buying I wanted to at least let the tactic get partial credit. To allow for this I set my campaign tracking codes to linear attribution.

Additionally, I wanted to allow for campaigns to have a longevity to them as we had evidence from CNET and other publications that the buying process for a PC buyer takes like 60 to 90 days. So I gave the tracking code a 60 day cookie. If you are keeping score I have it set as a linear attribution with a 60 day expiration window. This sounds ok on the surface and somewhat fair to the various tactics that contribute to an ultimate sale.

But…here is where I went wrong. First, I didn’t look at the buying cycle of people on our site before deciding. Just because your average buyer takes 60 to 90 days to make a decision, doesn’t mean they are doing all that shopping on your site. In fact, most of the research is being done on other sites such as Comparison Shopping Engines, our friend Google, and online review sites like CNET. By time they get to our site a lot of the time has already gone by. So tip #1…understand your buying habits of your customers before setting your expiration cookie. Even if you do get it wrong, within Omniture this is an easy one to remedy as you can change this easily in the Admin settings in about a minute. Say you wanted to change from 60 days to a week, no problem.

The bigger mistake I made was the first thing I mentioned regarding linear attribution. Within Omniture, this isn’t easy to fix. If I changed from linear attribution to something else like most recent tracking code, all the campaign data in your reporting will basically vanish. It doesn’t actually get deleted, but is hidden from your reports as a new database table is essentially created and used for campaigns. If you were to go back to linear after that, your old data would once again become visible though the most recent stuff would then get hidden. I learned that one from another misstep. In fact, I would caution you from ever using linear attribution for that very reason.

So why do I want to change it anyways? Well, to bring in outside data like product cost, cancellations, or even call center stats that you want to line up with your campaign data you can’t do it with a linear attribution as it creates a one to many data relationship. It will only work when revenue or orders are tied to a single tracking code. This is a big problem for me as I want to enrich the data to see ROI and cancellations by campaign.

Also, the thing I was trying to compensate for, meaning giving attribution to upper funnel tactics, can be done with other tools such as campaign stacking and Discover.

Now what? Well, I wish that Omniture had a way to basically copy the data table over from the historical campaigns and place onto the new data table for campaign attribution, but I don’t think they have any out of the box solutions for that. Might be something I have to engage Engineering about which means $. In any case, I don’t want others to fall into the same trap I did, so hopefully I can help someone out there in blogistan by learning from my mistakes. In fact, I could probably write an entire book on this stuff. Hindsight is always 20/20 though, you just keep tweaking it over time.

A Day with Avinash

I wish I would have taken a picture…but I didn’t want to be that guy.

So yesterday at our Lenovo HQ, behind the secret fake waterfalls, we had a mini Google Summit along with our friends down the road at SAS and Nortel. In addition, to talking about Paid Search Best Practices/Challenges we were also graced with the presence of Avinash Kaushik, zen master of the web analytics world. I am now convinced he has the coolest job on the planet.

I’ve written about him before, but I am a big fan and a disciple, so it was a treat to finally meet him in person. Often when I am stumped as to a best practice or something, first thing I do is read his book (aka the Bible) or I check out his blog. The answer is almost always there. And then by some small chance it isn’t there, I come up with an inarticulate rambling on this meager blog.

Avinash had an excellent presentation about web analytics 2.0 world we are moving towards and getting away from just reporting and stuff like that and into actual analysis. I’ve been struggling with that very idea of data puking and how to add insights instead of a gianormous spreadsheet. I am good at Excel, but I don’t think that is why they pay me. Avinash gave some very practical ideas on how to break that mold, and I actually used them today and felt fairly successful.

If nothing else was gained by Avinash’s speech, I viewed it as a kick in the pants. And I mean that in a good way. We often get bogged down with bitching about how things are like this or that within our companies, but honestly some of the blame lies in the analysts for not rising up and showing in a concise/cohesive way why the decisions other people are making are a bad idea. We have the data, why not tell people what we see? Avinash recently blogged about it and mentioned it again yesterday, but it bears repeating…sometimes to make positive changes you have to embarrass people. You have to enlighten them with data that we are doing things in a suboptimal way before they see the errors in their way.

I already know a lot about web analytics both technically and business-wise…but the thing I am missing is the cultural revolution that needs to take place organizationally to embrace the idea that testing and measuring is the only way to come up with the optimal experience for both customers and a firm. Avinash talks very passionately about taking ownership of that mantra and become the catalyst for that cultural change. That is now my mission.

I think most folks down in the weeds of the web analytics world definitely benefit from listening to Avinash, but the whole time I felt like senior leadership would get even more from it. I encourage any company struggling with grasping why web analytics/web marketing is important to contact Google/Avinash and have him stop in for a visit (Avinash, I am now your affiliate partner). It will be eye-opening and possibly revolutionary.