Campaign Tracking Overview

The Urchin Campaign Tracking Module accurately tracks visitors from a source, such as a search engine or email link, to a conversion or transaction on your site.

With the Urchin Campaign Tracking Module, you gain the benefits of:

  • Multi-Session Tracking: Track visitors from lead to conversion across multiple sessions.
  • ROI Analysis: Buy the keywords that convert. Cut those that don't.
  • Goal Conversion: Verify conversion to purchase or any other goal.
  • A/B Testing: Test content and go with what works.
  • Day Parts Reporting: Don't waste money when your audience is away.
  • Multi-Dimensional Comparisons: Marketing campaigns, advertising channels, e- mail blasts, search engines, specific keywords, organic searches, and more.

How does it work?

The Urchin Campaign Tracking Module tracks data from a variety of sources to provide closed-loop ROI analysis. Let's look at the steps.

Step 1: From Link to Web Page

Each visitor to your site enters via a link indicating where they clicked from, the keywords they used, if any, as well as campaign and medium information. The patent-pending Urchin Traffic Monitor (UTM-3 and UTM-4), which is part of the Campaign Tracking Module, parses the link to obtain this information.

The UTM is a small amount of JavaScript code in each of your web pages. You can install the UTM-3 or UTM-4 manually in each web page or automatically via server side includes and other template systems. Once installed, the UTM is triggered each time a visitor views the page. The UTM performs three tasks;

  • it ensures that a page hit is registered in the web log if the page was cached or proxied,
  • it parses the link to obtain and log campaign information, and
  • it updates visitor activity information.

Step 2: Parsing the Link

The UTM parses the incoming link to obtain the campaign information. For example,

indicates that the visitor clicked on a cost-per-click link on the Google search engine. (UTM-4 automatically detects the keywords that the visitor searched on.) Although this particular link uses only two variables, utm_source and utm_medium, which indicate the source, Google, and the medium "cost-per-click", your links may incorporate three additional variables: utm_campaign, utm_content, and utm_term. These three variables are available to indicate a specific marketing initiative, ad content, and a paid search term (necessary for UTM-3), respectively. Information on these variables and how to set up your Urchin Campaign Tracking Module software is provided in the article Step 1: Track Campaign Data.

The UTM is not limited to parsing links that you embed in emails or paid keywords, but also parses keyword information from organic links. This is important because it enables you to make side-by-side comparisons of paid versus unpaid search results. The UTM recognizes links from the top search engines and parses out the source and keyword information. In addition, the Campaign Tracking Module can also be configured to recognize and parse links from custom organic search engines, if required. Information on how to do this is provided in the article Adding a Custom Search Engine.

Step 3: Logging Campaign Information and User Activity

The UTM does two things with the campaign information it parses from the links; it

  • formats a web document request that allows the web server to make a special entry in the web log, and
  • updates the client first-party cookie.

The UTM formats the information it parses from the link into the appropriate web document request that will result in the web server adding the referral information to the web log. The UTM also reads the client's first-party cookie, updating user tracking information as required. For example, if this is the user's first visit to your site, the UTM will add the campaign tracking information to the cookie. If the user previously found and visited your site, the UTM increments the session counter in the cookie. Regardless of how many sessions or how much time has passed, the UTM "remembers" the original referral. This gives the Campaign Tracking Module true multi-session tracking capability.

Step 4: Adding Goal and CPC Data

For the purposes of campaign tracking and ROI calculation, the Urchin Database receives

  • a conversion goal via the Urchin Admin interface (optional),
  • search engine cost-per-click data (optional), and
  • data from the web log.

Once a page in your web site has been defined as a conversion goal, the Urchin Campaign Tracking Module will be able to calculate metrics indicating how successful your site is at converting visitors. By comparing referrals, sessions, and visitor activity to conversions, the Urchin Campaign Tracking Module can report on the effectiveness of your keywords, mediums, campaigns, and content. The system can also report latency metrics such as time to goal and sessions to goal. To learn how to define a conversion goal, read Step 3: Define a Conversion Goal.

The Campaign Tracking Module allows you to import your cost-per-click data directly from your Google and Overture spending accounts. This allows the system to report ROI at all levels of granularity, from per-keyword/per-search engine to per-campaign aggregates. To learn how to import spending data from Google, read Import Cost Data from Google. To learn how to import spending data from Overture, read Import Cost Data from Overture.

Updates from the web log to the Urchin Database occur according to the schedule that you establish for your profile, as part of your Urchin base product configuration.

Step 5: Closing the Loop: Reporting and ROI

Once the the Urchin database has been updated with visitor activity, a conversion goal, and cost-per-click data, the Urchin Reporting Engine is able to create over fifty campaign tracking reports. Among these reports is the following report excerpt, which compares ROI for the keyword "analytics system architecture" for each search engine (both "cpc", cost-per- click, and "organic") on which visitors searched for the keyword.

In this case, the keyword "analytics system architecture" was purchased on Google Adwords (google[cpc]). Visitors clicked on the sponsored link 102 times, for a total cost of $6.34 to the advertiser. A revenue amount of $89.15 resulted from these clicks, for an ROI of 1306.15The average value of each click indicates that the advertiser should bid a maximum of 88 cents per click on this keyword. There was also one click on an organic (unpaid) search link, but it did not result in any revenue.

The Next Step

With visitor tracking and referral link parsing by the UTM and E-commerce revenue and cost-per-click data import, the Campaign Tracking Module can accurately correlate conversions to specific campaigns and keywords, provide side-by-side comparisons of paid versus unpaid keywords, and calculate ROI and conversion ratios for keyword buys. To begin realizing these benefits, read Step 1: Track Campaign Data.