It’s a big world out there for those of us in the ADOTAS community who want to measure offline conversions. More and more businesses are pushing money into search advertising and other online marketing vehicles, but they’re not able to accurately evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign with a simple count of clicks. Instead, these marketers want to figure out how many of the visits and pageviews result in phone calls.
Lately, I’ve noticed that some marketing consultants are trying to get around the installation difficulties by encouraging advertisers to use proxy websites as landing pages for online advertisements. When Cathy’s Flowers runs a sponsored ad campaign on Google, she’ll normally send the visitors to her own website. The proxy method would instead require her to send visitors to a mirror-version of her website that sits on a different server. The hosting company creates a proxy of the original website that looks just like the original site.
There are several problems with this approach. It’s bad for organic search optimization, it creates an inconsistent experience for the visitor if forms and other basic functions are involved, and it prevents advertisers from truly controlling the online campaign.
If those problems don’t scare you, I’ll be a bit more basic: proxy website applications don’t work very well. Websites that are built with simple do-it-yourself tools cannot be easily replicated on proxy servers. (This creates a paradox because the less-advanced advertiser websites that need to use the proxy application are usually the exact sites that cause the most trouble with this approach.)
We thought about going down the proxy path for our services, so I’ll shed some light on how it works. Instead of sending a visitor directly to cathysflowers.com, the sponsored ad would take the visitor to our server.
We would recognize that we need to show the visitor Cathy’s website, so our engine immediately reads all of the HTML from Cathy’s site and recreates it on our server in real-time. If Cathy’s home page contains a Flash animation, then we’re left without anything to display.
If someone can present a compelling case in favor of using proxy websites for online marketing, we’re certainly willing to listen. It’s an easy thing to build, we just don’t think it’s an effective approach that benefits advertisers.