How to Untangle Your B2B Attribution

Posted by on Oct 4, 2017 in Analytics, Reporting
How to Untangle Your B2B Attribution

Whether you’re in an agency role or part of an in-house team, there will inevitably be a time when you’ll be asked: “What’s the business impact of our advertising campaigns?”

For many digital marketers, our Pavlov reaction will be to open up the network ads manager or a spreadsheet and point to individual network conversion performance (total conversions, cost per conversion, conversion rate) to justify the media spend. However well-intended, this approach is often misguided.

There are a few key issues with using ad network conversion tracking to reveal business impact.

1. It Defaults to Last-Click Attribution

There’s a reason why your branded search themed ad groups or your social retargeting ad sets post the lowest cost per acquisition trends. Your ideal prospect has likely already engaged with a marketing campaign in the same ad account or within a different network, yet you don’t see the full picture.

To see this for yourself, open the conversion window options in the network ad platform.

conversion window for Facebook Ads - PPC reporting software

*Conversion window options for Facebook Ads

2. It Doesn’t Account for Marketing Touches From Other Channels

According to the Online Marketing Institute, “it takes 7 to 13+ touches to deliver a sales qualified lead.”

Pull a Conversion Path Report from Google Analytics, and it likely will reveal that many of the common conversion paths include multiple touch points and sources that aided in driving the conversion action.

multitouch attribution ppc reporting software

3. Conversions Aren’t People

Have you ever ran a demand generation or acquisition campaign only to find the total amount of conversions reported across all your ad networks are higher than the number of new prospects added into your database? Your retargeting campaigns are likely leading to double counting.

For example: someone clicked on your search ad on Google, visited your website, and then converted on a retargeted Facebook newsfeed ad by filling out a demo form. In this scenario, AdWords would report a conversion – as will Facebook Ads – despite there only being one person who filled out the form.

network reported conversions - ppc reporting software

In the chart above, notice the difference in the total amount of conversions and cost per conversion trends reported by the native networks, versus the cost per new prospect and cost per acquired new prospect trends reported out of the marketing automation system.

4. Online Conversions Only Track Web Actions, While Sales Often Happen Outside of the Website

E-commerce marketers have the luxury of being able to track all of their customer journey metrics, from the initial touch to the purchase, captured in web analytics. They can easily understand the impact of marketing campaigns and channels, and associated return for each digital advertising dollar spent.

For the rest of us, especially for those in B2B businesses, a customer journey includes various touch points: sales phone calls, emails, on-site events, and the occasional steak dinner to land the deal. With sales cycles ranging from weeks to months versus e-commerce purchases that happen in hours or days, it can be very tricky to understand the impact of ad campaigns on business metrics such as opportunities created and closed-won revenue.

5. Lead Generation and Sales are Often Two Different Things

Forrester revealed in a report that less than 1% of marketing leads turn into new customers for B2B businesses. A core reason for this trend is a lack of reporting visibility into marketing campaigns effectiveness after the initial interaction occurs. Which makes sense, as marketers optimize what they can track: total leads and cost per lead.

However, if you have been in the game for awhile, you know that web conversions don’t account for a crucial component: lead quality. Online tracking stops at the web action, while your CRM tracks the entire customer lifecycle. Customer data is crucial when understanding if your ad campaigns are leading to more opportunities and sales.

There are four core stages in a B2B sale:

*Note: Individual company stages, models, and definitions can fluctuate, but they are typically rooted in this design.

Lead A prospect has an interaction on your website or offline touch point such as an event. Their information is added to the business CRM. Most network conversions track up to here.
Sales Qualified Contact A prospect meets certain criteria: company size, revenue, geography, budget, product need, or demo request.
Opportunity A need and fit for your product or service is established. This is the negotiation stage to see if the prospect and company will buy.
Closed Won or Lost Customer The outcome of the negotiation stage, hopefully resulting in a new customer and closed-won sales contract.

If you track performance down to the opportunity and sale level, it can often unearth areas where relying on conversion tracking or cost per lead metrics alone are short-sighted. For example, take the table below. Both campaign A and B have a total budget of $3,000.

Relying on web conversion tracking, it appears that Campaign B is outperforming Campaign A with an average cost per lead of $88 versus $94 trending. However, as we track the performance deeper into the sales funnel, it reveals that Campaign A not only provides a lower cost per opportunity, but a higher overall return on ad spend.

return on ad spend - PPC reporting software


Conversions reported by the native networks are still very helpful. Before you have a large amount of sales data, they should be used to aid with bid optimization (especially Facebook’s objective bidding or oCPM). They can also be used as the initial line of defense to quickly spot trends of what is or is not performing.

However, marketers should not rely on them solely. Instead, they should combine data from web analytics, ad performance metrics, and their CRMs to reveal the true impact of advertising on the business.

Let’s review the steps to getting full-funnel tracking for your advertising set-up.

Track Down Funnel Sales Impact with Uploaded Conversions

There are four key steps needed to report, analyze, and optimize for deeper metrics such as opportunities, sales, or revenue with your ad campaigns:

Step #1: Add URL Tracking Parameters to All Your Ad Creative Destination URLs

Adding additional tracking parameters to each new ad creative will help inform both your CRM and web analytics exactly which ad account, campaign, and ad variation led to a desired action (and which did not).

Here’s an example of a destination URL with applied custom tracking parameters:

Learn more about the process in our post on tracking conversions with Google Analytics.

There are a few ways to add tracking parameters to your destination URLs:

  1. One-by-one using the Google Custom URL builder.
  2. Use templates such as Google’s ValueTrack parameters or Facebook’s URL parameters section when creating an ad.
  3. Use an Excel or G-Sheets template.
google analytics tracking - ppc reporting software

Google’s ValueTrack parameters

I personally like to use Effin Amazing’s Google Chrome plug-in with presets which pipe into a central G-Sheet as they are made.

Step #2: Add Hidden Fields to Your Forms

Out of the box, your web analytics and ad destination tracking parameters will not talk to your CRM. With hidden fields in forms, this information can automatically be captured and mapped in systems like Salesforce.

Hidden fields are invisible to web visitors, but pass tracking attributes to your marketing automation database.

Within your marketing automation system, create a form that includes a hidden field that will capture the tracking elements in your URL and transcribe them into common fields in your marketing automation and CRM systems, such as lead source and lead source details.

Learn how to add a hidden field to your forms in HubSpot, Marketo, or Pardot:

how to add a hidden field in CRM - ppc reporting software

Step #3: Add Custom Fields to the Account and Contact Records in Your CRM

On the contact (prospect) and account (company) record pass through and map the hidden fields collected in your CRM.

add custom fields in crm

Learn how to add new custom fields in Salesforce.

Step #4: Upload and Map the Data Back to Ad Campaigns

To add and view your down-funnel sales metrics next to your advertising performance metrics for networks like Facebook and Google, you must map the data to “offline conversions” columns. Offline conversions are essentially any key metrics that are not captured using web tracking pixels. Learn more about Google and Facebook’s offline conversion offerings.

You can either manually download your campaign and ad performance for each network alongside your Salesforce data, map it in Google Sheets or Excel, and then upload the combined data as separate lists for each network. Alternatively, you could pull it all into Google Sheets and update your offline conversions across all networks in one swoop with access to network APIs.

How We Upload Offline Conversions Across All Networks in One Batch

As official advertising partners of Google, Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, we knew there had to be a way to better streamline this process for our own marketing ad accounts.

Here are the steps we took to map down-funnel business metrics to offline conversion columns across all networks:

adstage google sheets connector

adstage google sheets connector

  • Then we use some VLOOKUP formula magic in G-Sheets to merge campaign and account IDs with sales metrics.

adstage google sheets connector

  • We download our Google Sheet as a .csv, then convert it to JSON (a data exchange format read by our Universal Data API) using the CSVJSON online converter.

adstage google sheets connector - ppc reporting software with multitouch attribution

  • This information is sent to AdStage’s Data API and revealed in the platform as AdStage Custom Conversions.

Introducing AdStage Custom Conversions

Speaking to others who market businesses with off-website sales touches, we found that many advertisers struggle with multi-touch attribution. They are flying blind or dealing with very manual and error-prone processes to simply understand the business impact of their search and social advertising campaigns.

We’re excited to announce the release of AdStage Custom Conversions, allowing customers to map their down-funnel sales data from sources like their CRM next to their advertising campaign and ad level metrics to make better, more informed decisions on optimizations.

Find your AdStage Custom Conversions as available metrics to in our Report and Automate products, allowing you to analyze the impact of your ad campaigns, then take action by deploying optimization rules and monitoring alerts.

Analyze and build reports using AdStage Custom Conversion metrics, then take action by creating campaign monitoring alerts and optimization rules using your custom data.

advertising data integration

What PPC Marketers Need to Know about Third-Party Data

Posted by on Sep 6, 2017 in Advertising, Analytics
What PPC Marketers Need to Know about Third-Party Data

Data. It’s the fuel of every marketing campaign. Marketers won’t stop talking about it. First-party data, second-party data, encrypted or masked data… So much data, and so little understanding of what it all actually means.

If you advertise on Facebook or Google, you likely run remarketing campaigns. You’ve installed a tracking pixel on your site and show your ads to people who have visited this site recently. In other words, you’re using first-party data. W-w-wait a second. First party? Third party? Where are all these parties and how do you get invited?

Glad you asked! This article will help you learn the real story behind these parties, what they have to do with your customer data, and why marketers say that GDPR means kiss your third-party data good-bye.

1. Which Party’s Is My Company’s Own Data?

That’s first-party data. Your company’s privacy policy guards this type of data: who’s visiting your website or app, how your visitors interact with your brand, and how it changes over time.  If you have an app, your users share information about their devices and operating systems. That’s also first-party data. The clicks and conversions you measure in Google Analytics? First-party data. If you — not your vendor — are tracking data, you’re dealing with first-party data.

2. How Should I Use First-Party Data?

Your company’s privacy policy and terms of use protect customer data, and you can use it in accordance with that policy. Marketers usually use first-party data to make ads more relevant through personalization and remarketing.

3. What If We Share Our Data with Partners?

That’s second-party data. If people shop with Brand A and Brand B, A and B have an overlapping marketing segment. If these businesses don’t compete, they could partner up and share data with one another. Think hotels and car rentals, airlines and credit card companies, fashion brands and media publishers.

4. How Should I Use Second-Party Data?

Second-party data can increase the relevance of your advertising campaigns and help you reach highly-qualified leads. If you find the right partner, you could benefit from enriching your first-party data with new insights for better segmentation. Second-party data is very valuable. Anyone can buy third-party data; second-party data comes from a direct relationship with your partner. Second-party data can help you understand what kinds of content your potential buyers prefer, and reach them once they’re on your partner’s website.

5. So Is Second-Party Data Basically Someone Else’s First-Party Data?

Pretty much. Second-party data is another company’s first-party data that you can use through a partnership agreement.

6. We Buy Our Data. Which Party’s Is It?

That’s third-party data. This third party doesn’t really have a relationship with your audience. They collect data from multiple sources, piece it together, and sell it to advertisers. These third-party guys are data brokers. They purchase data from media that people consume, quizzes they take (“Which ‘Games of Thrones’ character are you?’”), and through other channels.

7. How Should I Use Third-Party Data?

Combining your first-party data with third-party data is where the magic happens, because you can really nail down the segment through lookalike modeling. Like if you needed to target audiences of 25- to 35-year-old women who like dogs and eat vegan. Data could be inferred. For example, Yelp recently partnered with LiveRamp to offer location and search activity for its 100 million users available to advertisers. Assuming people who go to $$$-rated steakhouses may also shop for luxury watches, you could create a custom segment similarly to Facebook and Audience Network.

First-party, second-party, and third-party data. Image source: Clearcode

8. So What’s the Deal with Third-Party Data and GDPR?

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect on May 25, 2018. Under GDRP, businesses must obtain explicit and freely given consent from users to use data. Which means, consumers will be asked to give permission to sell their data to third parties, and they don’t have to agree to access the business’s product or service.

9. Should I Care About GDPR If I Don’t Live in Europe?

Yes. GDPR applies to anyone that collects information from EU residents.

GDPR, third-party data, first-party data, privacy regulations

GDPR requires a person’s consent before a website can drop a cookie on his or her browser

10. Any Other Type of Data I Should Know of?

There’s also self-reported data, or data your customers share with your brand proactively and intentionally (for example, through surveys or preference centers). It doesn’t come cheap. In fact, you can’t really buy it. But this type of data is essential because it builds trust and loyalty. Once you receive this data, it becomes first-party. I wanted to group it separately from first-party data, because there’s a difference between software fetching your clicks and a human proactively saying what kinds of offers they want or don’t want to see from your user acquisition team.

Imagine an online shopper who once bought baby clothes for a friend’s baby shower and instantly got bucketed into the “parents” segment by an advertiser. Now she keeps getting ads for strollers and nursing pillows, and she’s not interested. If that person is a loyal customer (clicks on the brand’s  Facebook ads, opens emails, and frequently spends X amount of money on orders), she may be okay with sharing her preferences if she gets a quick survey. A little self-segmentation goes a long way!

Sum Up: What’s First-Party Data, Second-Party Data, and Third-Party Data?

Confused about all the different types of data in advertising? Here’s a quick primer:

  • First-party data is data owned by your company. For example, it’s the site clicks, conversions, and user paths you track in Google Analytics.
  • Second-party data comes from partnership agreements where two or more partners with an overlapping marketing segment choose to share consumer data with one another.
  • Third-party data is sold through data brokers to enrich first-party data for more precise targeting.

We post on this blog around three times a week. Want to join 40,000+ marketers and get a free weekly update?

Sign up and join our email list.



Tracking Conversions With Google Analytics

Posted by on Nov 26, 2013 in Analytics
Tracking Conversions With Google Analytics

This post was updated on May 5, 2017
google analytics

Mature self-serve ad platforms like Google AdWords, Bing Ads & Facebook Ads each offer their own proprietary tools to track conversions generated by ads. Or measuring conversions from other traffic sources like LinkedIn Ads that just started with conversion tracking solutions. In this post, I’ll walk you through tracking conversions from any traffic source with the help of Google Analytics and their custom reports.

What Are Conversions?

A conversion takes place when a visitor to your site takes an action you care about and “converts” to a customer. This could be through filling out a form, completing a purchase, or by simply showing a high level of engagement with your site. This post will help you define and measure which traffic sources result in conversions.

How to Track Conversions

If you’re already using Google Analytics, all it takes is a defined goal and a special URL that reveals the source of the click. If you haven’t installed Google Analytics yet, you can learn to configure it here.

Step 1: Build your tracking URL

Google Analytics URL BuilderYou’ll need to use the Google Analytics URL Builder to tag your URLs with custom campaign tracking parameters. Simply fill out the form by inserting your landing page URL along with the rest of the campaign details.

For example, if I’m trying to track conversions from a new LinkedIn Ads campaign, I’d fill out the form as follows:

  • Website URL This is the URL of the page you are linking to:
  • Campaign Source This will record the campaign’s source:
  • Campaign Medium This will record the type of campaign:
  • Campaign Term This can be used to record the keyword that is being targeted:
  • Campaign Content This can be used to record the ad that was shown:
  • Campaign Name This will record the campaign’s name:

The URL Builder will take these details and return the following URL with the appropriate tracking parameters:

Step 2: Use your tracking URL

new linkedin ad

Use the tagged URL as your ad destination

Now take your new URL and use it in your campaign in place of your standard URL.

Google Analytics will assume that anybody that clicks this URL is from this campaign. Consequently, it will attribute any actions they take to this campaign as well.

Step 3: Define your goal

If you don’t have them set up already, you’ll need to create goals in Google Analytics for the conversions you want to track.

For example, if you’re an e-commerce site, you’ll want to track shopping cart checkouts. You can do this by creating a goal that counts visits to the URL of the order confirmation page that customers see when they complete their order.

To create you goal in Google Analytics, follow these steps:

  1. Click “Admin” in the navigation bar.
  2. Click “Goals” under View.Google Analytics Admin Settings
  3. Click “+New Goal”.
  4. Create your goal by following the

Once you’ve created your goal, Google Analytics will track your goal performance and attribute it to the appropriate sources.

Creating Custom Reports

When you’ve created your goals in Google Analytics and you’ve tagged your ad URLs, you’ll be able to create easy-to-read reports that reveal your campaign’s performance. My favorite way of viewing this data is with Custom Reports in Google Analytics.

To create your first custom report follow these simple steps:

  1. Click “Customization” in the navigation bar.
  2. Click “+New Custom Report.”
  3. Give it a title.
  4. Click “+ add metric” and choose the metric columns you’d like to see. Search for the goal you just created and select the metric for Completions [e.g., Purchases (Goal 1 Completions)]. This will show you the number of conversions of this type. You can add multiple metrics columns.
    Google Analytics Metrics
  5. Click  “+ add dimension” and choose how you would like to break up the data in rows. You can also add multiple dimensions in order to drill down into each successive level. I suggest adding “Source / Medium” as the first dimension, then “Campaign.”
    Google Analytics Dimensions
  6. Click “Save” and you’ll be presented with a beautiful custom report to measure your conversion performance.
    Google Analytics Custom Report

With these steps, you can measure conversions across any digital source easily!

Are you ready to go deeper?

Here are three more articles to help take you to the next level!

1) 5 of the Best Google Analytics Integrations to Improve Customer Insights

2) 4 Must-have Google Analytics Reports for PPC Advertisers

3) How to Analyze Hourly Ad Performance with Google Analytics for Effective Dayparting


AdStage Demo