Why Your Marketing Reports Don’t Match (And Why They Never Will)

businessman looking at computer and tablet confused about why your marketing reports don't match It’s an age-old problem for marketers: Your media platform reports show glowing results, but your client’s site analytics data tells a conflicting story. Who’s right? While the numbers don’t lie, they aren’t necessarily telling either of you the whole story. Before you apologize for a mistake you didn’t actually make, get the real answer to why your marketing reports don’t match.

Site Analytics versus Media Platform Reports

Every (Milli)second Counts: The Problem with Site Latency

hourglass graphic of how long users wait for a website to loadMost technical problems in reporting stem from when each system counts an interaction. A media platform report will note a viewable impression served when over 50% of an ad is onscreen for more than one second. And if the ad is clicked, the ad server will immediately register the action. However, site analytics won’t count the action until the landing page fully loads.

This disconnect in reporting time frames is a common problem for sites with a high latency, or long page load times. For example, when someone clicks your ad but bounces from your site before the page completely loads, your website tracking code may not register the visit. So your media reports show a click, but your site analytics do not.

For every second that you shave off your load time, you’ll boost consumer engagement and the likelihood that your conversion numbers match up. But remember, latency isn’t the only technical problem to watch out for. Cookie blockers, setup mistakes and other errors can also impact how different systems interpret whether or not an action took place.

Out of Sight, (Not) Out of Mind: The Problem with Last-Click Attribution

Last-click attribution, also known as last-touch attribution, is when the last touch point in the customer’s journey gets conversion credit. For example, if users see a display ad for a new bicycle, they might check out reviews on the company’s Facebook page before clicking to the website to buy the bike. Since most site analytics platforms use a last-click model, Facebook would receive 100% conversion credit in their reports and the display ad would receive 0%, even though it was an important awareness touch point in the buyer’s journey. While this can be very appealing to bottom-of-the-funnel marketers, the flaw in this system is that it ignores all other touch points in the purchase path that influenced the user to make the buy. In today’s media-saturated world, advertisers can’t rely on clicks alone to accurately measure the impact of their ad campaigns. It’s the same concept in traditional advertising. No one expects a viewer to run out the door to buy their product immediately after watching a TV commercial. Advertisers know that just seeing the ad can drive brand awareness — by as much as a 24% lift, according to a recent study — and help nudge the consumer along in the conversion funnel for a later purchase.

bar chart of digital exposed brand lift in awareness, familiarity and consideration Making a Good Impression: The Problem with Post-Impression Tracking

Post-impression tracking, also known as view-through tracking, attributes conversions to a given media channel well after the user saw the ad, even if the user didn’t click the ad. Media platform reports typically include post-impression tracking, whereas site analytics reports never do. Even if you limit your media reports to only show post-click, they still may not match site analytics post-click data due to the latency and last-click issues already mentioned. This is another reason why your marketing reports don’t match and will likely never match, and helping your clients understand this difference between last click and post-impression tracking is critical to building a foundation of trust and explaining differences in your reports.

Strategies for Reporting Success

  • Clarify possible reasons for any gaps between reports to justify your results.
  • Show how every stage of the customer journey, including awareness, plays into your metrics.
  • Look at the big picture to uncover opportunities for media optimization and improved efficiency.

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