If you’re a web ana­lyt­ics pro­fes­sional at a large com­pany, you may have to work with sev­eral ad agen­cies or other part­ners that are respon­si­ble for man­ag­ing dif­fer­ent aspects of your online mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tives (dis­play ads, paid search, SEO, social media, email, web design, etc.). If it’s chal­leng­ing to man­age web ana­lyt­ics across just inter­nal teams, it can be even more demand­ing when you add exter­nal par­tic­i­pants to the mix. If you want to become a truly data-driven orga­ni­za­tion, you can’t limit your web ana­lyt­ics gov­er­nance efforts to just your inter­nal teams. If your part­ners are strate­gic to your busi­ness, they need to be a part of your web ana­lyt­ics focus.

When my kids invite friends over to play, they are expected to abide by the same “house rules” as my chil­dren (e.g., pick up toys, no fight­ing, no bad words, etc.). As a par­ent, it’s hard enough to get my own kids to pick up their toys con­sis­tently, let alone get­ting their friends to do so as well. Friends that repeat­edly don’t observe these rules are not wel­come in our home, and our kids are encour­aged to find new friends to play with. Part­ners which are not will­ing to abide by your web ana­lyt­ics program’s stan­dards should be changed for those that will. You need to extend your web ana­lyt­ics pro­gram to include your part­ners in order to be effec­tive as a data-driven orga­ni­za­tion.

Are you work­ing with the right partners?

Before I get into some spe­cific best prac­tices for work­ing more effec­tively with agen­cies, you first need to eval­u­ate whether you’re work­ing with the right part­ners. A data-driven part­ner will not bom­bard you with lots of mean­ing­less met­rics — they mea­sure the per­for­mance of their adver­tis­ing efforts based on appro­pri­ate met­rics or KPIs. Some ad agen­cies are still uncom­fort­able with the “t” word (trans­parency) and fil­ter the results. When­ever alter­na­tive met­rics are used in place of the expected KPIs, you know some­thing isn’t right. Your spi­der sense should tin­gle when you hear some­thing like: “The con­ver­sion rate on the last cam­paign wasn’t as good as we hoped for, but the view-throughs were through the roof!”

You want to work with part­ners that embrace trans­parency like an overzeal­ous Care Bear. These data-driven agen­cies are aware of your key busi­ness goals, under­stand your KPIs, and are closely mea­sur­ing the suc­cess of each cam­paign against those key met­rics. Along with increased trans­parency comes the client-agency under­stand­ing that some fail­ures will occur along the jour­ney. With­out full trans­parency, part­ners and clients will not learn from these bumps in the road and can need­lessly waste adver­tis­ing dol­lars. Data-driven agen­cies learn, improve, and max­i­mize your ad spend.

Data-driven part­ners also approach mea­sure­ment con­sid­er­a­tions at the begin­ning of a project instead of rush­ing through them at the end. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen sit­u­a­tions where a client’s agency is scram­bling to add tag­ging the day before a website/campaign launches. Would you rather buy a new car from a man­u­fac­turer that approaches safety from the very first design of the car or one that scram­bles to include safety fea­tures on the pro­duc­tion line?

Best prac­tices for ensur­ing web ana­lyt­ics suc­cess with partners

Many enter­prise clients have asked our con­sult­ing team for best prac­tices in work­ing with mul­ti­ple ad agen­cies and other part­ners in terms of web ana­lyt­ics gov­er­nance.  In our expe­ri­ence, there are five key areas that can make a big dif­fer­ence in how suc­cess­ful our clients are with their agency part­ners. Even if you’re only work­ing with one part­ner, many of these best prac­tices still apply.

1. Train­ing and Certification

  • Ensure all agency part­ners have been trained on Omni­ture prod­ucts and are cer­ti­fied Omni­ture part­ners. The exper­tise of the agency web ana­lyt­ics staff can vary greatly from part­ner to part­ner, and Omni­ture cer­ti­fi­ca­tion can be a good yardstick.
  • Reduce your ros­ter to a smaller group of cer­ti­fied part­ners. Work with your inter­nal teams to see how the active list of agen­cies or part­ners can be consolidated.

2. Doc­u­men­ta­tion

  • Require a Busi­ness Require­ments Doc­u­ment (BRD) for all projects, which includes tag­ging needs. Most part­ner projects will include a BRD, but many times mea­sure­ment require­ments are not fac­tored into the busi­ness require­ments gath­er­ing and definition.
  • Pro­vide a cor­po­rate stan­dards doc­u­ment to part­ners so that they know what stan­dards are in place and why they are impor­tant to over­all mea­sure­ment efforts.
  • Cre­ate a process guide with clear instruc­tions on the entire process from begin­ning to end. This doc­u­ment can come in handy if you’re work­ing with a new agency or need to for­mal­ize the process with an exist­ing agency. It will help with estab­lish­ing clear expec­ta­tions for both sides.

3. Sin­gle Point of Contact

  • Des­ig­nate an inter­nal con­tact per­son who is famil­iar with the tools and stan­dards to field all ques­tions from agencies.
  • Require a sin­gle point of con­tact from the agency side as well. If there’s an issue with the tag­ging which needs to be cor­rected quickly, you need a des­ig­nated go-to person.
  • Hold weekly or bi-weekly meet­ings to coor­di­nate efforts across dif­fer­ent agency projects.

4. Qual­ity Assur­ance / Sign-off Process

  • Require agen­cies and inter­nal IT teams to per­form QA on all tag­ging — both from a tech­ni­cal per­spec­tive (e.g., data is being col­lected) and busi­ness per­spec­tive (e.g., data is sound). In addi­tion, make sure that any new mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tives (includ­ing test­ing and redi­rects) do not inter­fere with cur­rent site tags or implementations.
  • Build val­i­da­tion of imple­men­ta­tion and report­ing into the final sign-off process to ensure spec­i­fied busi­ness require­ments have been met.
  • Struc­ture your part­ner con­tracts so that post-launch changes or enhance­ments are not painful to exe­cute. Rather than wait­ing for a cam­paign or web­site to run its course before ana­lyz­ing the results, it can be valu­able to make opti­miza­tions mid-stream in order to drive greater over­all success.

5. Account­abil­ity

  • Hold agen­cies account­able for non-compliance with stan­dards or poor qual­ity of tag­ging. Lost or bad data trans­lates into missed insights and opti­miza­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties, and part­ners need to be aware of the ram­i­fi­ca­tions to the business.
  • Hold inter­nal groups account­able for not fol­low­ing the estab­lished process for agency engage­ments. The part­ners may be will­ing to fol­low a defined process, but never learn about it from the rogue inter­nal teams they are work­ing for.
  • Cre­ate alerts to catch poten­tial cam­paign or web­site tag­ging issues early. A thim­ble of good data is bet­ter than a bucket of bad data.

If most of your online mar­ket­ing exe­cu­tion is han­dled by part­ners, your orga­ni­za­tion will need to build part­ner con­sid­er­a­tions into its web ana­lyt­ics pro­gram. You can’t ignore the fact that ad agen­cies and other part­ners can make or break your ana­lyt­ics suc­cess. In order to achieve your goal of becom­ing more data-driven as a mar­ket­ing orga­ni­za­tion, you’ll need to work with capa­ble, data-driven part­ners. Using the right part­ners and the high­lighted best prac­tices, you’ll be able to achieve new heights in web ana­lyt­ics awe­some­ness and more impor­tantly greater suc­cess with your mar­ket­ing efforts.

Brent Dykes
Brent Dykes

Richard, Thanks for your comments. As Mark Twain stated, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. As you know, web data can often be "massaged" in any number of ways to show exactly what the audience wants to hear. Ideally, your trusted partner isn't going to do that as transparency is critical to really understanding how your online marketing efforts are performing and optimizing them. However, I have seen companies that have done what you proposed -- essentially creating a "separation of church and state" where an independent partner or group analyzes the campaign and website results. It is an option and is a role that our consulting team often performs. Brent.

Richard, Web Design Leeds
Richard, Web Design Leeds

Completely agree about transparency being very important. If companies can afford it, I'd probably actually recommend that they occasionally get someone with no interest in the results of a campaign to check that the data they have been given has not been cherry picked for a positive outcome, and that it has been correctly gathered. Certainly, many glowing SEO reports I have seen are not so hot when analysed.