Sometimes, in the afternoon, between cups of coffee, when my eyes droop and I drift off, I daydream of a world where the roads are paved with golden bricks and I know exactly which advertising channel to credit for a sale or a site visit. Did the billboard with a URL lead to the sale, or the tweet with the bit.ly short link, or the hyperlinked news story (press release) on the newspaper website, or the ad in the magazine, or the postcard, or the TV commercial telling you to “Text ‘Ruby Slippers’ to 526727”, or the natural search listing or the paid search ad or the dozens of mentions in the dozens of blogs or the lions and tigers and bears, oh my…

And then I wake up and remember that as the Director of Integrated Marketing at a direct marketing focused agency, (albeit in Connecticut, not Kansas) it’s my job to attempt to give credit where credit is due, and I smile because yesterday, thanks to Google, my job got easier.

Yesterday Google announced the beta testing of their AdWords Search Funnels. Currently, the last search ad clicked on gets credit for a conversion. But the fact is that many people perform more than one search before they finally click on an ad and then convert, sometimes over the course of days and even weeks. But with Search Funnels, Google can tell you which keywords contributed to the conversion, and which didn’t, for up to 30 days. It will show you how many clicks and impressions happened before the conversion, as well as time lag from first to last. I’m not part of the beta test, but when Google rolls out the product I’ll have a much better sense of which parts of my search campaigns are helping, and which aren’t. Who knows how many keywords I’ve paused erroneously, actually hurting my conversions, when I should have given them credit for an “assist.”

Google’s Search Funnels will help you go beyond the last click, but Microsoft’s Engagement Mapping is even more transformational. At a panel I attended at this year’s AdTechNY, Microsoft discussed their initiative to get beyond simply crediting the last click in order to help advertisers more properly attribute the impact of all advertising, not just search, on a conversion.  Engagement Mapping was developed by the Microsoft Advertising Institute, whose recent research showed that “searchers clicking on a result are 56 percent more likely to convert if they have been exposed to online display ads.”

I remember when DoubleClick (now owned by Google) first released “View Thru Conversion” statistics that showed that the impact of banner ads persisted well beyond their first impression, and that many people who didn’t click the ads converted later. DoubleClick could only do that because their ad serving technology and tracking mechanisms gave them a vast data pool to look at, and it breathed new life into online display advertising.

It’s important to know which advertising efforts should get the credit for the sale, because without it how can you truly determine ROI?

Think about it this way. A friend tells you about a movie. You read an interview with the director in Entertainment Weekly. You see the preview in a movie theater. And on a video rental. And online. You fan the movie on Facebook. Another friend tells you about the movie. Someone sends you a promotional clip from YouTube. And then your significant other says, “What movie do you want to go see tonight?” and you go to Google or Bing or Yahoo and type in NYC Movie Times and there’s the movie you heard about and then you check out RottenTomatoes.com real quick to make sure it’s not a dog and then go to Fandango and buy your tickets.

Who would you credit with influencing your choice? In the world of “last click gets the credit” the winner is a rotten tomato.

True direct marketers don’t know, they test. We try to base our decisions on data. We have so much more data than ever before, and the more we learn, the easier it becomes to fill in the gaps and make better assumptions. Better assumptions lead to more successful tests which lead to better results.

Sometimes, like with Search Funnels, the new data teaches us that we didn’t know what we thought we knew, or what we thought the data was telling us. And sometimes, when we look behind the curtain, the wizards dispensing that data turn out not to be wizards after all.

So can someone please explain to me why some people seem more eager to trust a wicked witch who promises them an unrealistic certainty over a good witch who only promises to do her best?

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Comments
  1. Agree! Shopping used to mean going to the old brick and mortars, browsing around and making a purchase. Now the “shopping” experience takes place 24/7 and the actual purchase is the last step of what could have been weeks of researching, engaging, sampling and being influenced.

    • jlsimons says:

      And with over 81% of internet users researching their purchase online first, whether they buy or not (Pew Internet & American Life Project), and Google having the lion’s share of searches (65.5% in Feb 2010 according to Comscore), Google’s Adwords Search Funnels are going to deliver really useful information to optimize marketing to them. Hey, Keith, I love your new site, http://www.TheIdeaAdoptionAgency.com. Nice work. If you ever need help from a jack-of-all-trades marketing copywriter, you know where to look.

  2. jill says:

    Great! For the layman here, this was a jaunty movie trailer to the full epic to come….the byways and highways to marketing magic in the 21st century.

    • jlsimons says:

      Yeah, unfortunately the epic is stalled in post-production. The director is fighting with the producers, the studio can’t decide whether to promote it as a comedy, a tragedy or horror, and at over 10 years (well, 15, really!) and counting the running time is just too long. Thanks, Jill. Much harder than couples therapy, right?

  3. Josh says:

    I could almost hear Brudda Iz Somewhere over the rainbow… Ahhh!

    I always keep a D6 handy for those big decisions. Which may explain why I didn’t get married until 44.

  4. I usually agree with what you post here, but in this instance I ought to say that I do not share your views.

    • jlsimons says:

      In what way, CritiqueDirect? If you’re not spam, and I hope you’re not, I’d love to discuss this further here on the blog. What was it about what I said that you didn’t agree with?

  5. Josh says:

    I have a question. When Google goes from “Do no evil” to “Big Brother”, will there be a tone or something?

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