Omniture is the kind of tool where redundancy in data allows you to still get reporting and measurement from one kind of report when something breaks in another report. Ironically, sometimes not following “best practices” can provide measurement and reporting capabilities in places you might not expect. When websites are being launched with minimal control over tracking, or convoluted technical impediments to clean implementation, this redundancy or “dirtiness” can be a life-saver for reporting.
Take the familiar “best practice” guideline of filtering out internal domains. When you set up a report suite in Omniture (or an account in HBX or WebTrends), guidelines and support will tell you to make sure you define what your internal domains are, so that these can be treated as “internal” and can be filtered out of referrer reports. Sounds good – internal campaigns, or campaigns being driven by affiliate channels, would be measured and tracked through campaign reporting, with the appropriate campaign tracking codes appended.
But suppose this campaign tracking breaks? Tracking codes from vanity URLs might not be implemented correctly, or the tag is on a page-frame that can’t pull the parameter from the URL, or a dozen other technical bugs might be present that could interfere with tracking these campaigns. Source data is therefore lost, and marketing managers frustrated. But if you did not define internal URL’s, often this kind of data will show up in referrer reports. Here are some of the data we’ve been able to pull from referrer reports because (unintentionally) internal URL’s were never defined:
· Incoming campaign source codes: the parameter is usually still preserved in referrer reports. Data Warehouse can even de-duplicate this for visits metrics.
· Engagement or success clicks from external sources: your media initiative goes to an external website, where the visitor is encouraged to drive to your website. The source code www.external.com/?source=MEDIA shows up in your external referrer reports. Combined with third-part media response reporting, you can get conversion rates without any tag being present on the external site.
· Universal header and footer links driving to your site: your tag may be on the main frame of your site, blind to universal headers or footers. But you might find www.mysite.com/include/header.html in referrer reports.
· Links and pages per visit: when your site is not treated as an internal domain, you might find in referrer reports data such as “www.mysite.com/page2….1,025 instances. This data should be interpreted carefully, but can be used to supplement or reconcile pathing or link reports. Furthermore, unlike these latter reports, you can get data from pages on your site that are not tagged.
· Internal Search Terms: these are usually URL parameters, and if tracking them in a custom variable either never happens or doesn’t work, these can often be pulled from referrer reports.
Am I saying that defining internal URL’s is a bad practice? No – defining internal URL’s makes referrer reports more clean and reconcilable to overall traffic metrics. Without internal URL filtering, these reports should not be digested by anyone other than a web analytics practitioner who can interpret the data correctly. But in messy or uncontrolled implementations across many sites, one might consider NOT defining internal URLs in such places as global report suites, so that some of this data may be available in case something else breaks or slips through the cracks.