Campaign Tracking and Affiliates

 Preamble
Promoting your site often involves advertising expenditures or agreements between yourself and your partners (for example, paying keyword campaigns with Google AdWords).

The huge advantage of the Internet compared with classic communications media is that you can actually know the return of each Pound spent on advertising! This would make any Communication Director's mouth water, who generally go by the old adage, "50% of advertising is wasted, but we don't know which 50%", so they change nothing in their strategy!

In many "free" cases, it is impossible to know exactly who brought you a visit and, consequently, a possible sale. For example, if a friend lists you in their site favorites or if you are reasonably well placed in a search engine, and a visitor comes to your site thanks to these references, it is possible to know this because the server can generally ask the browser: "Where were you before coming to www.mysite.com? " However, the answers can be very random and even if they are suitable for statistical purposes, they are not sufficient for calculating commissions or a return on investment.
 
 Method
When you spend a certain sum or give a certain commission for an acquired visit, the method doesn't consist of encoding the call to the site www.mysite.com (which doesn't allow for a clear definition of the source), but consists of creating a campaign tracking element and obtaining a unique URL, such as http://www.mysite.com/Redirect.asp?AccID=12345&AdCampaignID=6789 (a URL that the visitor will obviously never have to enter manually).

In this way, when someone comes to this URL, our servers don't need to ask where they came from because the campaign identifier will allow you to know which affiliate, keyword, or banner ad brought them to this URL.

By default, this type of call will open your site's home page. However, each campaign tracking element can be associated with a very precise navigation behaviour, such as "Open the Shopping Cart component to a certain product category or a certain product". When you define sponsored keywords (Yahoo Search!, Google Adwords, eSpotting), you can associate a precise campaign tracking element to each keyword or group of keywords that will bring the Internet user to the exact product they were looking for, providing maximum efficiency.
 
 Visit Tracking
Each time a customer comes to one of these campaign tracking URLs, we add an entry in a tracking table with the exact date and time of your visitor's arrival. Furthermore, their site will be automatically issued with a cookie. If they come back to your site directly, this cookie will allow you to know which campaign introduced them to your site.
 
 Data Entry Forms
In most cases, the goal of generating a large number of visits is to produce prospects.

The temptation is to display the phone number of the company on the site and wait for people to call. The problem with this method is that it is practically impossible to know which advertising campaign led them to contact you because you would first need to ask the customer for this information when they call, and then statistically manage this information.

This is why you will see a "We'll Call You" menu in many sites that will provide a form for the customer to fill out with their last name, first name, phone number and several other pieces of information.

The customer will have the advantage of not paying for the call. In exchange of the cost of the call, you will know exactly which campaign led your customer to contact you, you will have more details (in addition to the customer's first and last name), you will call the customer at the most opportune moment, etc.

When a visitor fills out a form on your site, and they have been brought there through the campaign tracking system, you will see a line on the bottom of the form indicating the name of the campaign.
 
 Campaign Tracking File Zones
Let's analyse the different zones of a campaign tracking file in detail.
  • Name: Carefully choose the name of the campaign. For example, "Keyword Group #1 (Google)" or "Keyword Group #1 (Yahoo Search!)". Make sure that you are explicit enough so that when you receive a form with "Keyword Group #1 (Yahoo Search!)" on the bottom, you can easily recognise the exact source campaign. If you simply enter "Keyword Group #1", it will be difficult to see that Yahoo Search! is more effective than another system.
  • Type:
    • The "Affiliate - Campaign" type is the default type. This type of campaign allows you to track the evolution of the campaign in terms of repercussions on your orders, submission of your forms, etc. This is the type you should use if you want to track a referencing campaign based on paying keywords.
    • The "Redirection" type redirects to a page of your site but does not implement the affiliate mechanisms. This allows you to provide a partner with a link, for example, and to vary the location of arrival to your site without having to ask the partner to change anything on their end. This is very practical for managing products on special offer that change from week to week or month to month.
    • The "Image" type allows you to display an image in a partner site and to know the number of times this image has been displayed, for example. Instead of simply providing a partner with the address of an image, you will give them the URL proposed by the tracking system. Each time the image is displayed, the system will increase the number in the table. If you associate an "Affiliate - Campaign" type campaign with this image per click, you will be able to know the number of displays and the number of visits, in addition to the number of forms filled out and even the prices of the orders that were placed.
  • Cost per Click (Excl. VAT): Allows you to enter the maximum cost of a visit. Warning: When you use sponsored keywords in search engines, the price you pay is not the highest price that you have accepted (and that you are going to re-enter in this zone) but is the price of your closest competitor increased by 1p. For example, if you accept to pay 50p for a visit, and your competitor is at 30p, you will be charged 31p, not 50p! It is impossible for us to know this information, which is not communicated by the search engines. Therefore, the cost that we use is the maximum cost of a keyword, which will give you return on investment statistics that are always lower than the reality. Another point: The system records the cost of each visit. In this way, if you vary the price per click from one day to another, the system will record W visits at £X and Y visits at £Z, and so on and so forth. This is why you will never see the cost of a click appear on the statistics report, but you will see the global cost of the set of clicks for a given period.
  • Categories: Allows you to classify your campaigns to facilitate their management. Note that the category indicated in the first zone plays a special role because it will be taken into account when establishing the statistics file.
  • Navigation Behaviour: Thanks to the navigation behaviour, you can direct the visitor to a certain page or component. In this way, you can propose different landing pages according to the origin of the visitor or direct visitors who come to your site because of a specific keyword to a certain category in your catalog.
  • Affiliate Program Period: This affiliate property allows you to define the length of time during which we consider that a customer belongs to a campaign. Example: A customer comes to your site on 10 October 2008, buys nothing, comes back and orders 10 days later on 20 October 2008. Do we consider that this order is linked to this campaign? If the affiliate period is 10 days or more, then we will consider that it is. Otherwise, this order will not be associated with this campaign. If you do not specify a value or set the value to zero, the affiliate period will be considered as unlimited. Warning: To track a campaign linked to the arrival of a visitor, we call upon the database stored on our servers and a cookie (an information) that we ask the visitor's computer to store and to communicate to us during future visits. If the user deletes their cookies, it is impossible to make the connection between their visits. This constraint affects absolutely all of the tracking systems in service on the Internet today.
  • Affiliate Order Count: This affiliate property allows you to define the number of orders for which we consider that a customer belongs to a campaign. This allows you to resolve the problem of the affiliate member who wants a regular income from a customer for X months and/or to consider that once a customer orders on a regular basis, their loyalty is no longer due to the campaign but to marketing and developed loyalty to the site. If you do not specify a value or set the value to zero, the affiliate order count will be considered as unlimited. Note that once a visitor becomes a customer, their name is recorded in the database and they are no longer anonymous. The fact that they delete their cookies will still have an influence on campaign tracking, but is no longer important for the system in order to know if they have placed one or several orders.
 
 Campaign Tracking Statistics
The statistics page allows you to work on a specific period or on the set of remaining data and to define a filter for the campaign categories that will be used for the analysis.

For each campaign that has received at least one visit, the system displays the number of redirections (visits, redirections, image displays), as well as the maximum global cost that they represent, the number of completed forms, the number and amount (excl. VAT) of delayed orders (that is to say, orders that were not placed during the first visit linked to a campaign, but when revisiting your site at a later time), the number and amount (excl. VAT) of direct orders placed during the first visit linked to a campaign and the total of these two groups. Lastly, the system proposes a ratio (Order Total Excl. VAT) / (Total Cost Excl. VAT of Visits) that will give you an idea of the profitability of each campaign.

The information about each visit and return visit, each form and each order are stored for 75 days, which allows you to analyse 2 full months online. We highly suggest downloading the CSV file (Excel format), which is created by our system for a given period (using the "Build an Analysis File" function), and to add this information to a larger Excel table where you can easily use the Data/Sort and Data/Subtotal functions, which will allow for a more advanced analysis of your data.
 

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