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Benefits Of Cross-Channel Analytics For Search Marketers

John Wanamaker once stated, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

One of the things we love to tout as search marketers is our ability to track our efforts. We pride ourselves on it. But, as much as our tracking capabilities would leave Wanamaker dumbfounded, there are still a lot of clicks which we can’t easily tie out to revenue.

For marketers, the question of accurately tracking revenues often comes down to a conversation about attribution. For some, the “last-click wins” model, which remains an industry standard, is insufficient.

Consumers may click on more than one link before they purchase.

Sometimes this works in the search marketer’s favor, as when a customer sees a Facebook ad which sparks a search, which in turn results in an online conversion, and a “point” for search marketing.

Other times, it doesn’t work in search a marketer’s favor, such as when a consumer searches, clicks, browses the site, but then ends up buying an item off of a retargeted banner ad. Point: Display.

But despite all of the John Wanamaker’s out there who want to measure precisely the contribution of each click, the debate about how to assign credit conversions is an oversimplification of the problem.

When looking at cross channel behaviors, advertisers need insight that goes well beyond an attribution model – they need cross channel analytics. Here are a few things to ponder.

What Is Cross-Channel Analytics?

Cross-channel analytics seeks to provide insight into the path that the customer takes to conversion. This can take multiple forms; including understanding which channels combine to drive conversion, what popular paths are across and within channels, and finally detailed analysis of specific visitor paths.

By analyzing customer behaviors, instead of simply trying to quantify attribution, businesses can gain a clearer understanding of the effects of each channel and how they work together.

Benefits Of Cross-Channel Analytics

Although there are many pluses to cross-channel analytics, here are three main benefits to consider:

  • Latency/Time Impact – By analyzing consumer-level data across the path to conversion, you’ll be able to identify the “true” latency pattern for visitors that converted through particular online channels.

    Using this insight, you can refine messaging for early and late funnel marketing to make ads more relevant to the customer purchase cycle.
  • Funnel Analysis – With cross-channel analytics you’ll be able to determine which channel combinations result in the highest return and gain visibility into the popular paths to conversion. With this insight, you can invest more in channels that combine to effectively drive sales, and align messaging across channels.

    For example, understanding the impact that retargeting has on certain early funnel search terms may justify additional investment in search. It also may drive you to change your search ad copy to focus on driving awareness and interest, leaving the retargeting ads to drive the subsequent sale.
  • Measuring Referrals – Analyzing URL referrals across your various online channels will allow you to identify high and low value placements. This information can be used to inform bidding strategy and exclusions on the Google Display Network.

The First Step

As is the case with most things, the first step in cross-channel analytics is the most important. Before devoting resources to it, you first need to decide what your goals will be.

Ask yourself, what hypothesis about cross-channel consumer behaviors do you have? And what data do you need to prove or disprove those hypotheses?

Clearly defined goals will go a long way towards helping you sift through the myriad data that is available. Defined goals will also help you set initial benchmarks, so once you start to realize insight from cross-channel analytics, you’ll be able to more effectively turn that insight into action.

We’re still a ways away from the world that John Wanamaker yearned for, but starting with cross channel analytics provides advertisers with the foundation required to tackle the question of attribution.

Specifically, marketers need to answer the question — does attribution matter? By leveraging cross channel analytics, marketers can quantify what percentage of consumers actually clicks on multiple links, and the value of these cross-channel interactions. This allows the advertiser to place attribution within its context and make the right choices when the time comes to assign credit for conversions.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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