How to Get Credit for the Traffic You Drive to Your Advertisers
When I work with a publisher on their digital strategy, the first thing we do is look to better monetize the digital assets that they already have. This includes an in-depth analysis of how they’re fulfilling and reporting on digital ad programs.
Almost invariably, I discover that the publisher isn’t properly setting up their ad campaigns, emails, or social links to get credit for the traffic they send to their advertisers.
You can provide advertisers with your own reports, but ultimately, they’re going to look at their own Google Analytics (GA) data to see an independent view of who and what is sending traffic to their website or landing page.
How Advertisers See You in Google Analytics
Advertisers see how people get to their website by going to Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium. Here is an example of a what a typical advertiser might see as the top sources of traffic to their website.
The publisher doesn’t even show up as one of sources of traffic:
- Traffic from ads on the publisher’s website is lumped into the (direct) / (none) source.
- Traffic from the publisher’s email newsletter is shown as ActiveCampaign / email.
- Traffic from the publisher’s mention of the advertiser on Facebook is being credited to Facebook referral, not the publisher.
However, if the publisher properly sets up links to the advertiser’s site in their ad system, email, and social media, the advertiser would instead see something like the following.
All of a sudden, that “hidden” traffic is being properly credited to you. As a publisher, you’ve gone from being completely off the radar in your advertiser’s Google Analytics to being a major source of inbound traffic.
How to Properly Use UTM Variables
Google Analytics automatically assigns the source and medium it thinks is appropriate for the traffic that comes to your advertiser’s website. However, you can control this for traffic you send through the use of UTM parameters.
UTMs are special code at the end of a URL that help people track traffic sources in Google Analytics. You can use the Google “Campaign URL Builder” to help you set up UTM parameters.
Let’s look at a specific example. Kerridge Commercial Systems wants a publisher, LBM Journal, to drive traffic to the Kerridge home page. The base URL is https://www.kerridgecsna.com/
Instead of just putting that URL as the clickthrough URL in their ad server, LBM Journal instead uses the Campaign URL Builder, puts in the base URL, uses lbmjournal as the source, banner as the medium, and 1910-sponsor as the campaign name.
This results in the following URL that LBM Journal uses in their ad system as the clickthrough URL for the web ad campaign:
For the sponsor mention in their email newsletter, they use the following, similar URL. All they do is change the medium to email.
Suggested Source / Medium UTM Variables
First, look at the root domain name of your website. For LBM Journal, their website is https://lbmjournal.com/ We’re going to pull out just the lbmjournal part of that URL and will always use that as the source.
I then recommend the following combinations of source / medium UTM variables whenever you link to an advertiser’s website.
- Editorial links in articles – There is no need to add UTM parameters for links in your website posts as Google Analytics automatically recognizes these kinds of links. For example, this would show up in the advertiser’s analytics with com / referral as the source / medium.
- Ads on your website – Use your domain as the source and display as the medium. For example, this would show up as lbmjournal / display.
- Links in email – Use your domain as the source and email as the medium. For example, this would show up as lbmjournal / email.
- Social media mentions – Use your domain as the source and social as the medium. For example, this would show up as lbmjournal / social. Don’t worry about differentiating which social network you used to link to the advertiser.
- Remarketing ads you run on Facebook or Google on behalf of your advertiser – Use your domain as the source and ppc as the medium. For example, this would show up as lbmjournal / ppc in the advertiser’s analytics.
UTM Variables Are a Publisher’s Best Friend
Sometimes advertisers or their agencies will give you a clickthrough URL that already has UTM parameters in it. Work with them to adjust the source and medium parameters according to the guidelines above so that you get proper credit for the traffic.
You can also show your advertisers how to filter the Source / Medium view just to show traffic specifically from your publication.
UTM parameters are not difficult to use, but you must ensure your ad trafficking, production, sales, and editorial teams are familiar with the strategy and executing on it properly and consistently.
If you do this, however, you will help prove your value to your advertisers across multiple media: web, email, social, and even PPC audience extension ads.
Eric Shanfelt is the founding partner of Nearview Media, a consulting firm that helps publishers with their digital revenue, audience and platform development. Eric is a 25-year digital media veteran and has been the Chief Digital Officer for several large publishing companies. You can reach Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org.