I figured it’s about time I started blogging again. I’ll bet some of you thought I had died. No, I did not. I’ve just been busy adjusting to life as a Product Manager and working hard to help implement as many of the fantastic ideas that I learned from you on Twitter and elsewhere over the past two years as possible.

In fact, this post is about one of those ideas, although it is one that I played very little part in bringing about. If you logged in to SiteCatalyst today, you may have noticed something cool: a new set of reports called “Marketing Channels.”

The Marketing Channel menu in SiteCatalyst

If you’ve ever wondered how your e-mail marketing as a whole stacks up against, say, your SEM campaigns in terms of revenue or any other conversion metric, this is the set of reports for you. If you’ve ever wanted to see both first-touch and last-touch acquisition side-by-side in the same report, this is the set of reports for you. And not only do these new reports look great, but they offer the ability to dig into individual channels and subrelate keywords/tracking codes/URLs/referring domains/etc. with other reports of your choosing.

SiteCatalyst has always offered ways for you to compare visitor acquisition channels as groups; the most common solutions to date have been the Unified Sources VISTA rule and the Channel Manager plug-in. These solutions continue to deliver unique value, but we are excited about the Marketing Channels reports for a number of reasons, and we think you will like them, too. Why?

  1. They do not consume any additional custom variables.
  2. They are based on processing rules that you configure in SiteCatalyst. Most of the time, no implementation changes are required
  3. Not only does that make setup easy, but it means that the whole thing is marketer-controlled. In short, you likely won’t need to involve IT.
  4. The Marketing Channel reports are 100% free—they don’t even involve additional data collection.

Now, if you clicked to try to view these reports in SiteCatalyst right away, you were prompted to set them up. Do not panic; what you saw is normal. Although they are based on your existing data collection, these reports do not populate data automatically, because you first need to customize them to your organization’s marketing efforts and standards. Fortunately, with your help we developed a handy wizard to walk you through setup. As you are familiarizing yourself with the Marketing Channels reports, we strongly recommend using the wizard. This is because things like order of rules does matter here; once a traffic source matches a rule, the visitor is “claimed” by that rule. The wizard helps ensure that rules are established in the correct order and syntax to begin populating these reports immediately.

So how does it work? We capture a lot of data from your site, and we can glean a lot about marketing channels from that data. For example, if facebook.com is the referring domain, it’s probably a social media campaign. If that’s important to you, you can set it up directly in the tool—we already grab the referring domain, so there is no additional data collection required. Similarly, if a URL has a query parameter of “cid,” you might be able to tell us that it’s gotta be an affiliate campaign. And if there is a page view where the referring URL is identified as a search engine, but your paid search query parameter isn’t present on the landing page, we can be sure that the user came through the Natural Search channel.

This nifty graphic shows how these Marketing Channels rules process your incoming data:

How the Marketing Channel reports process incoming data

Note that, as mentioned above, once something matches a rule, it doesn’t see the other rules “below,” so in most cases you will want to make sure that your most general rules (usually “Direct”—the absence of any other acquisition channel) is at the bottom. (NOTE: The absolute bottom is not shown above.)

It may take you a bit of effort to get these set up; you’ll need to consider how you want to define each channel, and then work in SiteCatalyst to make it happen. (Or you can get Omniture Consulting to help you.) But when you’re done with setup. . . ummmm, wow:

A fully populated Marketing Channel overview report in SiteCatalyst

Kinda jumps off the page, doesn’t it? (That’s because we put a shadow behind it on this blog. . . I kid!) But it’s more than just a warm “ZOMG SHINY!!!11!!” It’s all of your marketing channels in one place, so it’s easy to see how conversion compares not just between individual campaigns, but between entire channels: Natural Search versus Display, Direct versus Social Media, E-mail versus Affiliate, and so on and so forth. (Of course, you can also add your own channels that the rest of the world hasn’t even thought of yet.)

As you can see in the screen shot above, each of these channels can be broken down by the values that roll up into them. For affiliate, this might be campaign tracking codes that you tell the report to capture in that channel. For Natural Search, this could be the search engine; it could also be the search keyword, or even the search engine and the search keyword concatenated together. You get to define the “detail” that rolls up into each channel. You also get to define the “engagement period,” or the amount of time that a visitor’s initial acquisition channel information is retained prior to conversion.

There is a lot to cover with regard to the Marketing Channels reports, and this is really a topic for a future post, but we figured you would probably want to see not just conversion data, but also ROI for different channels, so we built that into the tool for you. This release of SiteCatalyst comes with a brand new, super-flexible version of numeric classifications which allow you to apply cost data to each channel. One of the best things about these new numeric classifications is the ability to assign a certain cost to a channel for a specific date range, then assign a different cost to the same channel for a different time period. The cost of running, say, SEM campaigns is certain to change over time. With numeric classifications and Marketing Channels reports, you can reliably analyze and compare ROI over time for all of your acquisition channels.

I haven’t really attempted to “re-document” the Marketing Channels reports here, and I’m not going to do it right now because we believe our documentation team hit a home run with this one. You can access the help documents for Marketing Channels reports within the reports themselves by clicking the “View the documentation” link at the bottom. If you have any specific questions after reading this post and the user manual, please leave a comment and we’ll address your questions here and/or in the FAQ in the documentation. (I know there are a number of great questions I’m not answering here, and I’m sorry. I hope we can still be friends.)

A few tips before I leave you to geek out on your own Marketing Channels reports:

  1. Query string parameters should not contain equals signs (“=”). When you’re setting up a rule for, say, affiliate campaigns, you might tell the Marketing Channels reports, you may want to tell the tool, “Every URL on my site that contains the query string ‘sc_cid=’ is an affiliate campaign.” That is great, but in this case, leave off the equals sign when you’re inputting the query parameter. Input the query parameter as “sc_cid” only.
  2. Processing rules do not affect any data outside of the Marketing Channels reports. Everything is wholly contained within these reports, so areas such as the Traffic Sources, Campaigns, and SearchCenter reports are entirely unaffected by changes you make in the Marketing Channels processing rules. SAINT data based on these other reports is also untouched when you change a processing rule.
  3. Do not delete the “Direct” or “Internal” acquisition channels. Direct happens; people come directly to your site without clicking anything. Internal happens; people sit on your site doing nothing for 30 minutes and let their visit expire, then click to start a new visit. The referrer, in that case, is going to be a URL on your site. The reason we recommend not deleting these is that they are pre-defined channels that do naturally occur; if these channels are deleted, you will end up with “No channel identified” in your reports instead when users meet the vacated criteria.
  4. You may not need to reinvent the wheel. In some cases, we’ve pre-configured certain channels with attributes that we think most users will like. For example, the Social Media channel makes its default determination based on a large list of referring domains from known social networking sites. You may not need to change this. Don’t feel like you have to change something just to make it yours. If it looks okay, go with it and update as necessary.
  5. You may need to make implementation changes to differentiate one channel from another. As I said above, in many or most cases, implementation changes won’t be required to use the Marketing Channels reports. But let’s say you want to use a query parameter in the URL to define both the affiliate and e-mail channels. What if your e-mail links and affiliate links both currently populate the same query parameter on the landing page? In some cases, SiteCatalyst might not be able to tell these channels apart. So, in such cases you may want to start using one query parameter for e-mail and another for affiliate (for example, “e_cid” versus “a_cid” or something). You’ll want to make sure to update your SiteCatalyst code to make sure that both e_cid= and a_cid= values get captured in the appropriate variable just as they were before you split them out into separate channels in the Marketing Channels reports. (Alternatively, you could just have your e-mail vendor add a new query parameter to your e-mail links and key off of that in your Marketing Channels setup. That’s just about the only potential implementation change we could foresee.
  6. Use your Marketing Channels data across a whole bunch of tools. You thought this was SiteCatalyst only? Pshhht. Try SiteCatalyst, Data Warehouse (for reporting and segmenting), Discover (reporting and segmenting), ReportBuilder, Excel Client, Reporting API (minus the numeric classifications, at present), and Data Sources.
  7. Subrelate channel details with just about anything. You will need an Omniture representative to set this up for you, but you can subrelate your marketing channel details with any custom or standard conversion report—eVars, Time Spent on Visit, Mobile reports, Test&Target, etc. This type of subrelation is done individually—report to report—so you’ll pick the reports that will be most valuable to you when broken down by marketing channel details (and vice versa). In most cases, these subrelations will be absolutely free. Contact your Account Manager for details.
  8. Classify tracking codes, keywords, etc. The classification tool in the Admin Console allows you to classify keywords, tracking codes (probably the same classification file you’re using for campaigns today), and more. This means you can classify natural search terms by brand, etc. to further organize your Marketing Channels data.
  9. Unique value limits do apply. The Marketing Channels reports are limited to a total of 500,000 unique “details” values per month, across all channels. You’ll want to keep this in mind as you determine the details to record in each channel. For example, for the Natural Search channel, you might choose to have the keyword as the detail. You are certainly going to have more keywords than search engines; in fact, you might have more than 500,000 keywords alone per month (let alone details values in other channels). And choosing to concatenate the search engine and keyword in the details would yield even more unique values.

I think I have rattled on longer than I intended to, but I hope you can see how excited we are about the Marketing Channels reports and what they can mean for your visitor acquisition analysis and optimization. So please go nuts and have a blast bringing your site more quality visitors who are likely to convert.

As always, if you have any questions about anything posted here about Marketing Channels reports or anything else related to the Adobe Online Marketing Suite, please leave a comment here or contact me on Twitter and I’ll do my best to get you the information that you need.

20 comments
Barcodes Software
Barcodes Software

Again you start with an interesting topic with great enthusiasm. Can I know initial requirement for establishing this channel in more details and how more I can improve it?

Amy
Amy

Is the click-through metric in the Marketing Channel reports potentially over-stated if the getValOnce plugin is not enabled?

Ash
Ash

Hi Ben I am a bit concerned about the No channel identified. A large portion of our traffic is sitting under No channel identified. I have gone through the help documentation. I did not want to use the option "others£ and push all unidentified traffic and revenue through to Direct or Referers. Please help. Thanks Ash

Jim Humphrys
Jim Humphrys

Ben, Nice post. Great functionality. Is there a reason that some of the channels have an additional rule of 'first page in the visit' and others don't? Wouldn't we want to have those all set to the first page? Just a note- 'clickthroughs' in this report are very different than the campaign metric. Thanks, Jim

sibel akcekaya
sibel akcekaya

Ben, This is a great addition to Omniture Site Catalyst. I thought we needed CVP plug for these reports. Now I can not wait to set them up for free..wohoooo..

Dealer Marketing
Dealer Marketing

@Gary I agreed I saw these reports, but no wizard. Just "found no data matches the criteria. Please matrix, date range and filter. Authenticate" There is a way to get the wizard?

Peter
Peter

Hi Ben, Good to hear from you again. Have been waiting on these reports a long time and it does appear a lot of thought has gone into them, especially the simple set up process. Couple of questions though: * if setting up for an affiliate campaign defined by a parameter CMP=AFL_affiliate_name, is the rule any of the following? - Query String Parameter CMP exists AND Tracking code starts with AFL - Tracking code starts with AFL - Query String Parameter CMP starts with AFL * Are these reports meant to be available in ReportBuilder because I can't see them currently? It would be great as well if visits could be enabled by default on these reports, allows you to split traffic by traffic source and to calculate conversion rates.

Yuhui
Yuhui

Ben: thanks for the info about "No Channel Identified". I found it in the FAQ and it recommends setting up an "Other" channel. Seems to me like "Other"'s settings should be the default for "No Channel Identified", i.e. automatically have the Marketing Channels report list the referring domains in "No Channel Identified", to at least make it moderately useful without any additional tinkering. Just my $0.02 worth.

Michelle
Michelle

I viewed these reports for the first time, but no wizard. Just got "No data match this criteria. Please verify the metrics, date range and filters." Is there a way to bring up the wizard?

Michelle
Michelle

I'm excited to tinker with this new feature! But when I went to view, there was no wizard. I simply got the old "No data match this criteria. Please verify the metrics, date range and filters." Is there a way to bring up the wizard?

Yuhui
Yuhui

2 questions: 1. Are Marketing Channels retroactive? I.e. if I set up the channels today, will SiteCatalyst process historical data, or only from today onwards? 2. How do I see what is in "No channel identified"?

Ben Gaines
Ben Gaines

Possibly. The Marketing Channels report is subject to the rules you specify, and to your implementation. If you define a rule as dependent on a referrer, tracking code, etc., then every time your implementation passes that value, the Marketing Channels report will respond accordingly. If a tracking code is passed repeatedly, and Marketing Channels is counting a click-through whenever it sees that tracking code, then you may see multiple click-throughs if the getValOnce plug-in has not been implemented.

Ben Gaines
Ben Gaines

Ash, I know what you mean. We built the Marketing Channels reports for maximum flexibility; the downside of this, of course, is that confusing situations can arise with various rules doing different things and trying to account for all possible acquisition sources. This may sound elementary, but have you contacted ClientCare about this discrepancy? They have tools which allow them to debug Marketing Channels data very effectively. If you've already been down that route, let me know and I'll see if I can take a look (although I won't be back in the office until Friday). Thanks, Ben Gaines Product Manager Adobe Systems, Inc.

Ben Gaines
Ben Gaines

Jim, That is a great question. I am not sure why "first page in visit" appears only sometimes. I'll try to get you an answer ASAP. Thanks, Ben

Ben Gaines
Ben Gaines

Sibel, Great to see the enthusiasm! Ben

Ben Gaines
Ben Gaines

The wizard is currently designed to be shown only once, the first time the reports are viewed in a report suite. However, you can still make all of the necessary rule updates by going to Admin > Report Suites, choosing the desired report suite, and then going to Edit Settings > Marketing Channels > Marketing Channel Rules.

Ben Gaines
Ben Gaines

Peter, It's great to be back in the saddle, so to speak! :) If you specify both the query parameter name and value, as in the example that you gave, then both would need to be present for the channel to be counted as affiliate. For example, a URL containing "?CMP=AFL_mysite" would be counted in the affiliate category, but "?CMP=BGM_mysite" would not, nor would "?DNQ=AFL_mysite." Does that help? The Marketing Channels reports should be in ReportBuilder. If you have upgraded to ReportBuilder v4.0 and are not seeing these options, you'd want to open a ticket with ClientCare. I seem to remember seeing someone tweet that they were able to get the data in ReportBuilder, but I could be wrong. As you and I discussed, I love your ideas for this set of reports. Most are things that we are thinking about currently, but all of them should be submitted at the Idea Exchange as soon as you have a chance, so that others can vote on them and collaborate with us to create the best possible implementation of these requests. Thanks, Ben

Ben Gaines
Ben Gaines

Yuhui, I see your point—why add a step when the tool could feasibly handle it for you? Would you mind submitting this at the Idea Exchange so we can collaborate with you and others on it? We will definitely be watching for ideas related to the Marketing Channels reports over the next few weeks and months. Thanks, Ben

Ben Gaines
Ben Gaines

Michelle, The wizard is currently designed to be viewed only on first launch of the Marketing Channels reports in each report suite; after that, you can use the Marketing Channels management tools in the Admin Console. (Our Marketing Channels documentation discusses how to use the more in-depth setup features available in the Admin Console.) You can also access the wizard by using a different report suite. Also note that we are looking into ways to make the wizard more readily accessible in a future release of the reports. Thanks, Ben

Ben Gaines
Ben Gaines

Yuhui, Both great questions. 1.) They are not retroactive. The rules that you set up run "on the fly" against incoming data. However, you can set up rules on an ASI slot and then process historical data into that ASI slot. 2.) One way would be to take a look at the raw clickstream data; ClientCare can help with this, but it can be a time-consuming process, so my first suggestion would be to check the documentation (specifically the FAQ). There is a section that deals with explaining "No Channel Identified." Let me know if you have any additional questions or needs! Thanks, Ben