Google Analytics' Cross-Channel Measurement

One big problem brand marketers face today is developing an understanding of their optimal marketing mix. However, Google's recent announcement that they're providing tools to measure the impact of Audio ads raises some interesting possibilities.

As the lines between types of media continue to blur, Google Audio Ads allows search marketers to use the skills they've developed in pure search to advertise in other media.

Before we get into that announcement, let's look at some of the traditional methods for offline marketing measurement.

Coupon Codes

In my recent interview with Matt McGowan, we talked about coupon codes that users could use to get a discount on the product.

Incisive Media regularly sends out direct (snail) mail campaigns to market its Search Engine Strategies events. Only 10 percent of those who bought as a result of the mailer used the coupon code, McGowan said.

While the data from coupon codes is useful, 10 percent is an amazingly low number. This underscores one general problem with these kinds of schemes: people don't want to deal with a coupon code, even if it saves them money.

How the Buyer Learned of the Product

During the sales process, whether it takes place online or offline, ask the purchaser how they heard about the product. If the person responds "I heard about it on the radio," you have a great indication of a win for that ad. The great thing about this technique is that you can do it both online and offline.

Once again, there are issues with the level of participation by consumers, and in the accuracy of the technique. Consumers want to complete their purchase and leave, not hang around to fill out a survey, even a simple one. However, even if they respond, their answer may not be accurate or complete if they can't recall where they heard of you, or if they heard of you through multiple channels.

Look For Spikes in Sales

If a sales spike corresponds in time to a major advertising campaign, you have a strong indication of success. One of the big keys to the validity of the data is that any spike you see needs to come up off of a baseline to a higher level of activity, and return to that baseline when it's done.

This is a valuable technique, but it clearly lacks in precision. For example, if you ran two or three ad campaigns simultaneously, you wouldn't know which of those had the biggest impact.

Cross-Channel Measurement

One way to see the impact of a TV ad campaign on online sales is to show a special URL (e.g. www.yourdomain.com/tvoffer) for the viewers to use. This has the same limitations as coupon codes, but provides the value of seeing a data point on how the TV campaign is affecting online sales.

Summary of the Problems

Each traditional method of measuring traditional marketing campaigns is limited in some way. Limitations of the various methods include:

  1. Small sample size (i.e. the data point above that only 10 percent of people who respond to an ad in a mailer use the coupon code).

  2. Questionable accuracy of consumer-supplied data.

  3. Cross-correlation is hard. The work needs to be done manually, to line up ad campaign dates with traffic and sales takes extra time and effort.

Bedding.com Case Study

A brief case study from Bedding.com was contained in the Google Analytics announcement. I decided to follow up on this and speak with Ted Kavana, the CEO of Bedding.com.

Bedding.com is a privately held online company that has been around for 10 years. They were 100 percent online-focused for a long time, but recently decided to expand into offline advertising to expand their sales.

One thing that attracted them was Google's auction model for radio. For a fast-moving company like Bedding.com, a few things were attractive about the model:

  1. The self-service model makes it easy to execute.

  2. Geo-targeting is extremely easy.

  3. The reach is significant -- the Bedding.com audio ads campaign has reached millions of listeners.

  4. The cost was reasonable, well less than $10,000 for the campaigns they ran.

Of course, the bottom line was essential as well. Bedding.com saw a 32 percent increase in unique visits, and a 28 percent increase in sales since adopting Google Audio Ads.

Measurement by Google Analytics

The nice thing about Google's announcement is that is simplifies the process of cross-channel measurement, by allowing you to line up audio impressions and site visits on a single chart.

I spoke with Brett Crosby, group manager of Google Analytics, about the announcement. He talked about the importance of bringing accountability to offline media. He also said the Google Analytics team was working hard to move beyond simple Web tracking.

As part of this, Crosby said it would be possible for them to provide similar tools for TV and print advertising in the future, although he couldn't provide a date for when that might happen.

Join us for SES New York March 17-20 and for training classes March 21.