The Misnomer of Traffic Source Reporting

by · December 31, 20128 comments

Businesses that execute on the practice of measuring revenues, conversions and, yes, return on investment, especially as they relate to social media, primarily derive those measures using Google Analytics, or similar. And it makes sense. You either track online purchases and amend each purchase to include the traffic source (direct, organic search, paid search, Facebook.com, Twitter.com, etc.) or you do the same with conversions and backtrack the math to know what each conversion’s average value to your company is and you have fairly accurate reads on where revenue is coming from.

But there’s also a big misnomer in reading your revenue by traffic source most companies forget to take into consideration. You may have derived revenue from Facebook or Twitter, YouTube or LinkedIn, but you’re not further asking the question of Why you’ve derived that revenue.

Look at this chart from a random Google Analytics screen shot I found online and made some minor edits to ensure the sources aligned with the discussion:

I can see that $3,055.99 came from Facebook, but did that revenue come from posts I proactively placed on my page that drove visitors to my site to purchase or did that revenue come from my fans organically sharing my deals and promotions with their friends? Or was it a combination of the two?

This is why campaign tracking, custom URLs and the like are so important in measuring what you’re getting out of social or any other channel. SEO folks understand this since tracking revenue and conversion by keyword helps them optimize and maximize efficiency in their campaigns. Too few social media marketers or even general digital marketers are overlooking this important granularity in your campaigns. You know you’re deriving revenue from Facebook or Twitter, but not what part of your activity on Facebook or Twitter is effective.

Challenge yourself to get granular. Lose yourself in the details … at least when setting up various promotions and campaigns. If you know your coupon of the week program drove $1,300.57, your organic posts that lead back to the website drove $425.67 and your Get-It-By-Midnight-Friday campaign drove $89.67, you can better delineate where you were successful and not within your activity on that channel.

None of this should be news to you. But for many of you, it is. How about we make 2013 the Year of Measurement for our social efforts?

For more on understanding the intricacies of tracking campaigns in Google Analytics, check out Nichole’s explanation of how to do use them with HootSuite on her old blog.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://jonloomer.com/blog Jon Loomer

    Guilty as charged over here, Jason. I admittedly don’t track these things, and I should. I’m actually a stats guy, but this is an area I’ve never fully understood. Put it on my list for things to do in 2013.

    Thanks for the info, my man!

  • OBVAVirtualAssistant

    Hi Jason wish you a very happy new year. Surely lets give it a try and make 2013 the Year of Measurement for our social efforts.

  • http://twitter.com/CPollittIU Chad Pollitt

    Jason:

    I’m glad you wrote this. Conversion attribution is one of the least appreciated and misunderstood sciences on the web IMO. Given your example above, the next question could be, “is the revenue credit attributed to the visitor’s first touch, last touch or some permutation of them all?”

    Slingshot SEO’s multi-touch attribution study shows that 100% of the top 20 paths (channels) to conversion required two to nine visits from various channels. It’s likely that the conversions above have been to the site before from a different traffic source without converting. Should that source get some credit, too? Should all of the sources get some credit?

    Unfortunately, as an industry, we’re not all on the same page on this one yet. What are your thoughts?

    @CPollittIU:twitter 

  • http://blog.socialmediahq.com/ Nick Robinson

    Just started doing this with a client, and link tagging is so crucial to our ongoing optimization plan now. I’ve probably said it a million times, and she’s probably sick of me at this point, but Nichole rocks!

  • http://www.seobywebmechanix.com Arsham Mirshah

    Yes, yes, and YES! – UTM track every link & use custom landing pages #FTW!

  • http://missfigg.com/blog Jesse Bouman

    Great post. I’m definitely working on getting more granular this year. 

  • https://twitter.com/sanketpatel Sanket Patel

    This will be new year resolution for me. Well, Social networking is very growing now a days , so I am sure that It will definitely rocking.

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