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Demystifying Direct/Bookmarked Traffic in Analytics Reports

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One of the biggest challenges a marketer faces when trying to accurately attribute campaign success to different mediums is consistent use of campaign parameters to further segment and demystify the "Direct" or "Bookmarked" traffic sources in analytics software.

Many marketers don't immediately appreciate the huge impact of improperly attributed campaign tracking. For instance, direct or bookmarked traffic is very expensive and labor intensive, so you'll want to ensure these high-priced referrals to your site are adequately tracked to calculate the true ROI of a campaign.

Some examples include television and billboard referrals for URLs that are used across multiple markets, which are often redirected with vanity URLs to actual landing pages. These wreak havoc on campaign attribution and traffic source reports if not properly tracked.

A second consideration when doing any kind of in-depth campaign analysis is the granularity of the traffic sources or tactical approaches used in any given campaign.

For example, you may have social efforts that span numerous sites, all utilizing a single URL with a single campaign tracking code, which is a great first step, but any further analysis on original site and messaging is rendered impossible.

Having reviewed some of the pitfalls of campaign attribution, here are some basic guidelines you can follow to demystify direct and/or bookmarked traffic:

  1. Define a naming convention for your tracking codes and always include, at minimum, the campaign medium in your tracking code parameter value. For instance, "ppc" for paid search, "dsp" for display advertising, "tv" for television, "bill" for billboard, "dm" for direct mail, etc.
  2. Regardless of how amazing your analytics software can resolve a referrer, include it in your campaign parameter anyways.
  3. Include a campaign name and other meta-data in your tracking code. There are minor differences between how analytics vendors handle this, but include as much as possible to ensure all information is available at the time of analysis.
  4. Become your organization's data integrity ambassador. Enforce campaign tracking code usage, come up with a standards guide for your digital and traditional agency partners, and seek approval from your executives to hold people accountable.

Examples of strong campaign tracking codes:

  • Google Analytics:
  • Adobe Marketing Cloud (SiteCatalyst):

If you follow the above guidelines, you won't only be able to demystify your direct or bookmarked traffic, but you'll also build a strong foundation of data integrity, so that your calculations of ROI are as accurate as possible with client-side code.

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