Crossing the Channel Part 5: Web Analytics, Ad Servers, or Tag Management?

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The last Crossing the Channel column discussed the framework for the collecting digital KPIs, highlighting Web analytics, ad servers and tag-management systems. Today we will look at each of those in greater depth, including the steps you should take as you implement each.

Web Analytics at the Center

Typically, companies will use Web analytics to collect digital KPIs when choosing to integrate ad management platforms with delivery and conversion metrics with Web analytics tags.

Step 1: Examine Platforms

Learn with which platforms your Web analytics systems is integrated. If several integrations are lacking, consider the cost and benefit, and whether the ad server or tag-management systems would be better options for you.

Step 2: Check Processes

See which processes are used with which platforms. There can be significant differences from platform to platform.

Step 3: Request Company References

A Web analytics vendor will sing that solution’s praises. You can find plenty of articles and seminar discussions asserting that Web analytics is the solution. But those won’t tell you whether or not Web analytics is right for your situation.

Pro:
One large advantage Web analytics provides: You will have access to every URL that sends traffic to your site, enabling you to analyze every page that your web analytics system has tagged. (Ideally, that will be all of your pages.)

Con: Remember that most ad server systems are unable to pass post-view impressions to web analytics systems. Systems that do provide this capability are very costly, and may not be worth the expense. You are limited to the reporting that the web analytics system or API provides.

Web analytics at the center is a good solution if your marketing programs revolve primarily around SEO, social and mobile conversion steps on your website.

Ad Server at the Center

Ad server at the center may be your best choice if you integrate your ad management platform’s delivery and conversion metrics with your ad server tags.

Step 1: Inspect Ad Server Integration

You need to inspect your infrastructure to make sure you don’t need to make forklift integration changes. Each ad-management platform you use needs to be integrated with your ad server. Such integration is usually handled on the platform side, rather than the ad server side.

Step 2: Check Processes

Inspect the processes used for each platform. For each, determine whether you can integrate delivery and conversions. If you can only integrate conversions, what consequences will that have on your ability to accurately track key metrics, such as performance and cost?

Step 3: Request Client References

Just as with Web analytics, you want to make sure that the Ad Server solution will be the best option for your needs by talking to reliable references.

Pro: You will have access to post-view conversion metrics, as well as the additional variables you might be capturing in your ad serving tags, such as products, line of business, etc.

Con: When relying on the ad server, you will want to carefully select and prioritize items to be tagged, because you will likely tag only a portion of your website. Remember that some platforms have impressions and costs for parts of your media buys that are not tracked by the ad server.

Ad server at the center is a good solution if your marketing programs revolve mainly around paid digital advertising programs such as Display, Programmatic or PPC.

Tag Management Systems

If considering a Tag Management system, follow the same guidelines as for examining Web analytics at the Center or ad server at the center.

Pro:
Tag management systems offer several features in addition to simple tag integration, such as page-load-time monitoring, security frameworks, and others.

Con: Tag management systems become a gateway for all of your tagging. So you will need to thoroughly think through your setup, and budget enough time and resources to correctly implement the system.

A Tag management system can be a good solution if you need to use a large number of tagging systems, and have access to internal systems that can monitor and maintain the setup to take advantage of all of the additional value that such a system can provide.

While none of the above solutions will work for all companies or in all situations, asking the right questions should help you decide which option will best suit your company’s needs.
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