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 face​book​.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