Proving Digital Campaign Performance to Client Objectives

Proving digital campaign performance changes the agency go to market strategy

Three main ingredients for proving digital campaign performance to meet client needs are Tag Manager, Google Analytics, and UTM parameters. If you’ve ever heard it said, or maybe you’ve even said it yourself a few times, you cannot turn a big ship on a dime, think tugboat. It has become a manager’s crutch, this comparison of the large ship turning to the company improving its quality service. They all cling to the analogy when defending the inability to affect change in the business traditions and routines. One small but powerful little tugboat can intercept the bow of the ship and turn it. It can turn that huge ship at will, and take it however far it needs to set the ship on the right path.

My tugboat runs on Tag Manager variables for fuel, it uses Google Analytics for establishing the bearing (navigation), and UTM parameters as its engines. When all of these ingredients are working, I can drill down to the granular levels with my data aggregator and show a client precisely what segment, from which source, converted each specific goal. Not only can I drill down and show it to the client, but the client can later, when they get back to the office, verify my results and my recommendations with their own Google Analytics data. It’s time to say goodbye to presenting disassociated data results and embrace the client’s data wrangler of choice, Google Analytics.

The first thing I want to show the client when proving digital campaign performance is the actual events that have taken place on their web property from the beginning of the campaign to the present.

proving digital campaign performance event tracking

These events are built out in the Tag Management System (TMS) as needed using regular expressions, java, javascript, and custom html. These events result from visiting with the client’s web property. I comb through their website, page by page, following every link (internal and external) to discover what it is the client is asking visitors to accomplish when they come to the site. IS the client selling products, services, or generating purchase transactions? Do they provide downloads, videos, and are their forms to complete and submit? Are there links for social networks, click to call, the web-developer, or the BBB, etc.? I make a note of every possible engagement with the visitor and then I code those events in the TMS. When I later research the client’s industry I look for relevant revenue data such as IRS, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Small Business Administration to find as much insight for the revenue data as possible. From that research I can estimate the value of each event. It is very important to estimate value. Even though it is not accurate, it is close and as you will discover later, close is not just good enough, it is perfect.

Besides identifying the website and user engagement events, I look for goals. Goals are different than events. Goals identify conversions of purchases, and registrations or form submissions. The key element here is the so-called thank you page. The thank you landing page provides a conversion point that signals the user required input was successfully accomplished. In other words, we have a successful conversion. This is the place for PPC conversion tags, and where I can also use the TMS to register a goal conversion. When it comes to providing statistical results for attribution models, budget optimization by channels, etc. there is no substitute for goals. Events are valuable, but goals are the better source of fuel for the tugboat.

proving digital campaign performance to specific goals

My data aggregator can put the goals in a heat-map table like the one shown above. This provides at-a-glance insight to not just where the client is at right now, but where they are going too. Is the channel improving, or is the channel conversions running lower? You can also begin to see the value of the channel in real dollars and not just a total number of completions figure. All clients enjoy seeing revenues, especially when revenues are increasing. Not like the example above where the Goal Value revenue is down 40% for the period. Oh my… that’s a different article topic altogether — “What to do when a channel falls 99%?” (See the google/cpc row above) Anyway, I will stay on the tugboat here, and go fix that catastrophe after posting the article.

Another of the aggregator dimensions proving digital campaign performance is to see the conversion by page performance as shown below.

proving digital campaign performance by locations

There are many insight stories that can be discovered when using these two primary dimensions together. In the channels data I can easily identify that there is one channel that has driven the revenue down in the period. I can identify that there are significant increases in conversions from all other channels, and just two channels with a drop in conversion rate. This helps me to narrow down which copy, or creative needs attention and obviously, in this case, the PPC budget dried up. In the locations dimension I can see how the engagement copy performed. At a glance I can see that something happened to blanford and meritage in the builders section and mountain-bridge in the community section. Perhaps the lost PPC campaign was primarily focused on these conversions? At the very least, we can see the impact and know where to address immediate changes.

All of the data processed by my aggregator comes directly from Google Analytics (GA) data repository. It’s simple task to link the TMS to a GA account. Once linked, all of the conversions are set up in GA and all of the events data are sent to the GA account too. While you can ask the client to share their existing GA account, I find it more valuable to generate my own – fresh data collector – GA for each client. I’ve never seen a single client with the attributions models built out, or to have goals and goal values correctly built in their accounts. It is even rarer to find the client filtering out spam bots, or to have developed their branded keywords filters. the priority is proving digital campaign performance, and there are a few dozen, or more, administrative and reporting setups and customization that I require and the clients do not provide.

With that, the TMS and GA are linked and working together, we have the fuel and we have the bearing, now we need to add the engines. The UTM parameters are the tugboat engines. By adding these to the links of the client campaign you can cause your entire agency to change the way it goes to market with digital advertising. These UTMs are a true eureka experience for a data scientist proving digital campaign performance. I’ll warn you though, if you’re working in one of those organization that has convinced itself that it’s too difficult to turn a big ship, your tugboat may need to be a patient but persistent little boat.

Tag management systems plus google analytics and UTM parameters are tub boats

Tugboat assisting a large tanker ship in to or out of port

What’s so special about these UTM parameters when proving digital campaign performance? In one word, reports. But, I would really say it better in two words, analysis, reports. By adding just 5 UTM parameters to the campaign link you add 120 additional variations to data mining and insights gathering — per link. All of this additional analysis without needing any pixels placed, without needing to touch the client’s website at all, no special database creation or sophisticated application development. Sounds almost impossible, doesn’t it? One last thing that has to be mentioned too is that every last little bit of the information shared in the campaign reports can be 100% verified by the client using their own Google Analytics account. The only difference is that most clients do not have the scientific background and knowledge to know how to use their data beyond the out-of-the-box standard charts and tables provided by Google.

Proving Digital Campaign Performance Parameters


Here’s how you set up your advertising to track and provide the deepest level of true-click-through performance analysis. I’m going to use the project I am currently working on as an example to better illustrate the method. The UTM parameters that can be tracked with a GA account are:
  • Source
  • Medium
  • Content
  • Keyword
  • Campaign
Source: This should be the advertising agency. If you are managing the advertising for the company you work for then the source would be your company. Even if you are purchasing the advertising from a vendor, the source is your agency/company. This will help you filter the advertising results from all other sources of traffic in the aggregator.
Medium: For this parameter I track where the advertising was published. Sometimes the publisher is a network and the actual advertisement may be seen on multiple websites, but for the analysis I want to use this parameter as a means to evaluate the publisher in aggregate and not the granular effect of each website in their distribution lists.
Content: This parameter provides the analyst with the ability to discover how the actual ad copy, creative, call-to-action, etc. performs. Sometimes the content is a text ad, sometimes it’s a banner, and sometimes the content is a video. I can get even more granular with this parameter. For example if I am experimenting with three text ads I can use this parameter to identify each one e.g., text-ad-1, text-ad-2, text-ad-3. This parameter can identify the specifics that your analyst will need so they can answer with precision and accurately, when you ask, “How many conversions did that monkey driving the Tundra through the jungle video get?”
Keyword: If you are fortunate to work with an SEO and PPC provider who will use your UTM standard (I envy you) this parameter can contain the keyword, the adgroup name, the modifier such as keyword-phrase-someKeyWordorPhrase-exact-match, etc. This can be very insightful when used in combination with conversion tracking and attribution models. Think budget allocation by return on add spend.
Campaign: Sometimes I chose the client expectation (coupon redemption, form registrations, white paper download, etc.) and sometimes I use the experiment name (click-to-call-1, click-to-call-2, graphic-1, copy-2, etc.), and sometimes it’s seasonal (superbowl, friends-day, thanks-giving, etc.). I’ve found that the campaign parameter when placed in a table sorted with the Source and by Medium can be a powerful way to reinforce the performance of the agency so I make the campaign name carry the significant communicator the client will resonate to.

When used correctly the UTM parameters can produce quick reference to analysis of the advertising performance. As shown below, the aggregator created table is filtered to Source/Medium (Your Agency/Publisher) and the Goal tracking is filtered to show results for Goal Set 4. For this client, Goal Set 4 is any add to cart user action. This table includes the site summary information to the goal set proving digital campaign performance. Alternatives to the site summary are site-usage, goal sets, and ecommerce.

proving digital campaign performance by agency and publisher

A line chart is also available or viewing the graph above the table information. These charts can be designed to color code a date or date range for specific events such as the day(s) your client ran radio, TV, or print ads. The line chart can visually identify significant lift from any events that have been set up in the event-calendar including known changes to Google Algorithms, site down times, etc.

proving digital campaign performance with keywords

These three components, Tag Management system, Google Analytics, and UTM parameters combined will prove the advertising performance the agency produces to meet the client objectives. They allow the analyst to easily filter and illustrate the specific data to the conversion goals, site metrics, and campaign summary reports. Setting the conversions and events is accomplished with the TMS and GA, the performance metrics are established and measured in the data aggregator. The reports are eye-candy and brand the agency. Perhaps the best achievement for using these three components is that the client can verify all of the charts and table data with their own GA accounts. Never again will sales have to outwit and over justify reports from third party vendors and publisher provided programmatic reports.

  1. Clean and repeatable data
  2. Deep data mining and additional insights
  3. Performance directly attributable from each campaign to client objectives
  4. Clear and insightful analysis, charts, and tables
  5. Verifiable results the client can access from their own account data

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