Home > Marketing > Confidence in Analytics: Reporting, Referral Spam and Trust in Data [UML]

Confidence in Analytics: Reporting, Referral Spam and Trust in Data [UML]

Confidence in Analytics Reporting Referral Spam and Trust in Data [UML]

The push for better measurement in marketing and PR has been something of a groundswell over the last decade.  Indications of success and key performance indicators (KPIs) have come a long way toward suggesting whether marketing is on the right or wrong track.

The focus on measurement in marketing has become so intense that some argue it’s choking creativity.  As I’m prone to believe, usually when there are two schools of thought arguing from opposing sides, the truth usually rests somewhere in the middle.

Web analytics have played a pivotal role in the advancement of measurement.  Just as the content management systems have made it easier to create and publish, web analytics platforms have made it easier to measure and report.

However, a darker side of measurement is emerging with a glut of spam and erroneous data. Perhaps even, the people behind the platforms that provide analytics, see a misguided incentive for inflation.

These trends put the whole science of marketing at risk.  After all, garbage in leads to garbage out. Amid the epidemic of fake news, the industry can ill afford a controversy that calls into question the veracity of data.

And that’s the theme for this week’s Unscripted Marketing links – confidence in analytics. As always below are three articles I’ve read and recommend for your perusal.

1) Four Flaws in Facebook Measurements

I’ve been a longtime advocate of Facebook ads in B2B, it just requires thinking a bit differently about targeting.  No matter the focus, businesses are made of people and there are more than a billion people with Facebook accounts.

However, the analytics the company provides is questionable, according to reporting by Mark Bergen in a Bloomberg article titled, Facebook Measurement Mistakes Test Advertisers’ Ardor.

“Facebook Inc. built a colossal business based on measuring something older advertising methods cannot: the granular details about people. Two months ago, the company copped to a flaw in that measurement. Then Facebook did it again. And again.”

The article suggests marketers will more closely scrutinize their digital marketing spend on the platform as a result. The growth in digital spend has essentially been split between Google and Facebook – the two companies account for 68% of the market share according to Bloomberg.


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2) The Scourge of Referral Spam in Google Analytics

Google Analytics referral spam

Referral traffic reported by Google Analytics (GA) is being gummed up by bad actors. It’s been a problem for several years and it’s getting worse. In a piece for Marketing Land titled New wave of referrer spam wrecking Google Analytics data, columnist Jonathan Hochman writes:

“A new surge of referrer spam is damaging Google Analytics data sets. These attacks have rendered the Traffic Referrals report useless for many Google Analytics properties. The problem can even be so significant for small business sites that it seriously distorts the number of sessions and page views.”

And later explains how this happens:

“Some attackers run bots. Some use hijacked computers in botnets.

Some attackers generate ghost visits without even sending a bot to your site. The attacker just needs to run the Google Analytics tracking JavaScript to ping the Google Analytics data collection servers with fraudulent information.

Google Analytics is an old product created when security was not a high priority. Tracking is done with a unique number for each property; a property can be a website, an app or some other digital artifact. Unfortunately, the tracking numbers are sequential, which makes them very easy to guess.”

Those that use GA regularly know, this has been a whack-a-mole problem for years – and it’s getting worse. I don’t understand why Google hasn’t pounced on this with all its might. If it doesn’t, then it’s analytics could come into question.

3) More tools to Measure, but Less Trust in Data

More tools to Measure but Less Trust in Data

Marketers use six or more tools for measurement, but half of them “don’t trust the results.” That’s according to a joint survey of 250 marketers by Conversion Logic and IDG Connect.

Writing for Convince and Convert – Survey: Most Marketers Use 6+ Measurement Tools But Don’t Trust the Data – contributor Alison Lohse of Conversion Logic says:

“These findings certainly validated our instincts that measurement is a complicated tangle for marketers to unravel. But what struck us the most is that while marketers have so many tools at their disposal, they still aren’t getting what they need. 59% of respondents said that data collection and centralization is their biggest challenge, while 46% struggle to gain actionable insight from their reports. That means that even with six or more solutions pulling seemingly endless data from across channels and vendors, marketing professionals continue to lack certainty into the performance of their tactics and strategies.”

More isn’t always better in marketing. Adding a bunch of tools to the mix doesn’t necessarily translate into higher data integrity.

Note:  Image nearby from an infographic included with this contribution.


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Photo credit: Flickr, Vicky Brock, web analytics washing, (CC BY-SA 2.0)  

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