On the right side of tracking

In an online world that is becoming more complex, brands using digital analytics need to move away from device-dependent to user-centric strategies. 

Met Office
The UK’s Met Office

As people spend more time online using their smartphones, tablets or old-school desktop computers, it has become more important for marketers to be able to track what they are doing. By analysing online data, brands can gain meaningful insight, which in turn helps to drive actions and provide functionality that better serves their consumers. And the opportunities for tracking are multiplying, as the UK’s weather forecaster the Met Office has recently discovered.

The Met Office wanted to make sure it was providing services that customers wanted, attract more people to its website – it has an average of 4.5 million unique visitors a month – and maximise opportunities for advertising revenue. 

It was therefore key to get to know what the Met Office’s users expected from the site and to use this understanding to provide a better service. It worked with Experian Hitwise, which monitors the behaviour of 8 million internet users – a quarter of the UK internet population – every day, giving the brand access to high-quality data resources. It then transformed this information into insight that could drive high-value traffic to the national weather service’s website.

Nuffield Health
Nuffield Health wanted a system that could track both online and offline activity

The Met Office optimised key content for high-volume search terms associated with weather, increasing awareness of its services, building visibility and boosting incremental visits. This led to a dramatic increase in the number of customers using the site, with page views increasing by 183 per cent year-on-year. Advertising revenue also increased year-on-year.

“Today, we are confident that the Met Office website is seizing every opportunity to drive our business and achieve financial goals. It’s encouraging existing users to return and getting us new customers too by giving them access to the content they really want,” explains Simon Swan, online marketing and planning manager at the Met Office.

Nuffield Health, which has a number of websites for its private hospitals and gyms, has similarly put analytics at the heart of its strategy. It needed a clearer understanding of what leads people to enquire about medical procedures, health services and fitness facilities and why customers choose one particular facility over another.

It wanted a system that could track online and offline activity, where its customers came from, what path they took to get there and what keywords they used when searching online.

“We wanted a tool to give us better insight into how our inbound traffic interacted with the website and, from a digital point of view, wanted to understand the efficiency of our marketing spend, so that we could evolve to increase conversion, cut out wastage and reinvest funds that we saved back into the channel,” explains Solomon Degia, head of digital marketing at Nuffield Health. 

Working with call tracking and web analytics company ResponseTap, Nuffield Health placed a code on each of its websites and a unique telephone number began to display to each concurrent visitor on the site at any one time.

That number provided each person visiting the website with a unique identifier, enabling the brand to automatically track that person as they clicked through the site and discover whether their visit resulted in a phone call.

The company discovered that a large proportion of enquiries from the website were being made by phone rather than through filling in an online form, the only channel it previously had been tracking. Using individual telephone numbers allowed offline activity to be monitored and the response evaluated. The brand also needed to fully understand the search terms used by its customers. This information allowed it to tailor the content of ads appropriately.

“The conversion rate in 2011/12 for the hospital side of the business increased by nearly 3,000 per cent. We were missing so much data that we were able to show this growth year-on-year and the efficiency and effectiveness of digital marketing just by adding better reporting tools,” says Degia. “It’s about spending pay-per-click money in the right way. 

Auto Trader iPad page
Auto Trader has signed up to Google’s Enhanced Campaigns service

“It has helped our digital side stay in step with the Nuffield Health ethos. As a charity, we reinvest all our revenues back into the business, so making working practices more efficient, and being able to more accurately measure what does and doesn’t work is what digital is doing now.” 

Digital analytics certainly provide useful insights. However, as the number of devices – PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones and TVs – people use to surf the internet increases, it has become difficult for marketers to track
what they are doing and on which devices.

Ninety per cent of people move sequentially between several screens to accomplish a task, according to a recent Google study, in partnership with Sterling Brands and Ipsos, of consumers using different devices.

Google AdWords has recently introduced Enhanced Campaigns, which it claims will help marketers better target consumers, no matter which platform they are using (see below).

UK used-car trading website Auto Trader is exploring how sellers and buyers interact with the brand across different devices, to optimise its marketing campaigns (see viewpoint, below).

“We’re in a constantly connected world, so being able to target our consumers at the right time with the right message across whatever device they are using is now more important than ever,” explains Berian Reed, head of search marketing and online partnerships at Auto Trader.

“We’ve got a mobile website, a desktop website, a tablet app and an iPhone app. It’s massively important that we’re able to understand that path to conversion across different devices,” he says.

As a result of Enhanced Campaigns, Reed hopes to make use of location-based bidding, targeting consumers on their mobile phones in a particular location. 

“We’re able to target someone who is in the London area with a specific message to drive them to a particular dealer or set of stock near that location. It’s not something we’ve been able to do on desktop computers. It opens up a whole new layer of targeting for us,” he explains.

Using digital analytics to target mobile users in specific locations is gaining momentum. Mobile advertising technology company Blis Media targets mobile ads to specific locations using demographic data from users through internet service providers. It has worked with companies including the Met Police, RBS and Volkswagen.

The Met Police was looking to increase awareness of the danger of street robbery among a young London audience. It targeted key London boroughs, universities, underground stations, pubs and fast food outlets. The result was more than 900,000 views of its mobile banner ad and a 0.53 per cent click-through rate. Estimates of the average mobile click-through rate overall vary, although a report by Point Roll in March put it at 0.15 per cent.

Similarly, RBS wanted to raise awareness of its sponsorship of the 6 Nations rugby tournament among males aged 20 to 44. It targeted financial districts, commuter hubs, airports and four and five star hotels with mobile ads and achieved a click-through rate of 0.62 per cent.

As journeys through the online world become more convoluted, when it comes to digital analytics, brands must move away from a device-dependent strategy to a more user-centric one.



Berian Reed
Head of search marketing and online partnerships, Auto Trader

Our core online marketing activity focuses on driving response to our dealer customers and attracting consumers who are in the market to sell their car. This means attribution has to work in both directions: we need to understand how buyers and sellers arrive at our site and we need to be able to demonstrate offline physical car sales driven by Auto Trader to our dealer customers.

We invest heavily in search and display advertising, using bid-management platforms like Marin Software to intelligently track which keywords and campaigns are performing most effectively in terms of driving response to our customers.

Historically, we have always provided dealers with traffic reports detailing clicks generated through their Auto Trader listings. But we also offer unique trackable phone numbers. This enables us to report on the number of actual phone calls generated from our website, a stronger lead than a website click and closer to the end sale.

We also integrate with dealer CRM systems to track which Auto Trader leads resulted in an actual sale. This is a huge step towards completing the ‘end to end’ marketing-to-sale journey. Coupled with our postcode data, we are able to demonstrate the physical number of forecourt sales generated from advertising with Auto Trader.

‘Remarketing’ has become very important to us in the past six months and we’ve seen massive uplift in our click-through rates and reduced our cost per acquisition. We have been experimenting with dynamic search retargeting – so, for example, a private seller may arrive at our site via a search engine, start completing a listing for the BMW they want to sell, but then abandon the transaction.

We will retarget that person with bespoke advertising messages when they are next searching. This is quadrupling the effectiveness of our advertising in some cases.

We’ve also gathered some interesting insights from this. For example, many people start looking at listing a car on a Monday, but do not complete the listing until the following weekend when they’ve had time to take photos and upload them. We have found that we are wasting money by serving ads to these people during the week
it is better to wait to see if they complete the listing over the weekend. That represents a huge

A big focus for us this year is to understand how consumers (both sellers and buyers) interact with Auto Trader across different devices. We know that sellers tend to browse on tablets in the evenings but complete more transactions on their desktops.

For our marketing campaigns to be effective and attribution to be accurate, we need to follow people across the devices and target with the right messages at the right times. With our new single sign-on feature that joins up our users across desktop, mobile and apps, we are one step closer to building a clear picture of people’s behaviour across these platforms.

Enhanced Campaigns

Google’s AdWords recently launched Enhanced Campaigns, which Google says will make it easier for marketers to reach consumers in different contexts.

People search for products and services wherever they are and on whatever device they have, be that a computer, tablet or smartphone, moving seamlessly across them. 

Signals such as location, time of day and the capabilities of devices have become increasingly important in showing users the right ad. Enhanced Campaigns helps marketers reach consumers with the optimum ad based on their context, such as location, time of day and device type across all devices without having to set up and manage several separate campaigns.

For example, a pizza restaurant may want to show one ad to someone searching for ‘pizza’ at 1pm on their PC at work (perhaps a link to an online order form or menu), and a different ad to someone searching for ‘pizza’ at 8pm on a smartphone half a mile from the restaurant (perhaps a click-to-call phone number and restaurant locator), explains Google AdWords on its blog.

Auto Trader is presently migrating to Enhanced Campaigns, says its head of search marketing and online partnerships Berian Reed.

“We’ve spent a lot of time over the past 12 months unifying our desktop and mobile experiences, so no matter what device you access Auto Trader on we’re going to run a consistent experience. Now we’re looking to achieve that via marketing as well.”

Enhanced Campaigns opens up new possibilities for marketers. “What it will let us do is deliver a better customisation of the user experience for paid search visitors, whether they are on a desktop or a mobile device,” Reed says.

Digital marketers are migrating their campaigns before the 22 July deadline, when all campaigns will begin being upgraded automatically to Enhanced Campaigns. 


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