First Things First: Get Your Mobile Tracking Right
Is your mobile tracking actually working? Columnist Craig Weinberg offers some insight into how you can capture the right data to help you know if you’re meeting your goals.
Saying “no” to a client who wants to spend more money in your channel isn’t usually a digital marketer’s first instinct, but it’s a whole lot better than letting your client spend money without knowing the outcome. And that’s a problem mobile advertisers are still facing all too often, thanks to improper tracking and attribution.
At 3Q (my employer), we refuse to let anything go out the door with our clients’ name on it that doesn’t have proper attribution and tracking in place. You can’t recover data that’s never captured — if it’s not attributed, logged, and then analyzed, it’s as though it never happened.
Installing mobile attribution tracking for your app, site or mobile product isn’t hard. But in the priority order of your dev team’s sprint cycles, where does it fall? Last? Second to last?
We get it: It’s the nuts and bolts of advertising. It’s not building the next great product.
But if you don’t capture all the data you can, you might never even know whether that product you built is the next great product. Capturing the right data and using that data to optimize both your paid and organic audience development will inform the entire direction of your product.
I’m going to cover a few of the scenarios I see all too frequently, and then I’m going to dive into app-focused insights that should help you chart a course to better data — and bigger success.
Tracking Gone Wrong
Here are some of the issues I’ve seen with tracking and attribution (Believe me, this is scratching the surface):
- Internal numbers not reconciling with SDK (software development kit) data.
- Limited visibility into how mobile data (app or site) translates into full-screen actions.
- Tags not firing correctly.
- Limitations with platforms that don’t correctly track all mobile channels.
The ramifications of all of these usually boil down to either severely decreased spending or delays in launch. Performance may actually be great, but any of the above situations make it impossible to know this — or to react properly to what’s actually happening.
So how do you get it right? It’s not easy, of course. But it’s not rocket science, either.
Steps To Better App Tracking
Before we launch into how to improve your tracking and attribution, let’s review what tracking and attribution should actually do for you.
The Drum says it well:
“Utilizing attribution properly should:
- “Give you total visibility into post-impression in-app or mobile web activities that are most critical to your campaign. Examples include product purchase, request for more information, app download and activity, etc.
- “Tell the full story of your campaign success by tracking both view-through and click-through activity. Track attribution for your entire campaign, including ads that run on different devices, publishers, and ad networks – across both in-app and mobile web environments.”
Sure, it gets complicated when you need to feed your data into Google Analytics, Omniture, Convertro, Adometry and so on, for cross-device funkiness and total-screen visibility. But realize that if you can’t get the first step right, you won’t get to the next three or four.
It boils down to knowing your goals and the basic mechanics of how to track them. This applies to every device and channel, but for the sake of brevity, let’s restrict this conversation to where the world’s headed: apps (which is also where I spend most of my day).
The goal of app install tracking is to make sure you know which sources of traffic are most effective at adding new users via installs of your app. Installs alone, though, don’t tell you how engaged users are with the apps that get downloaded, and as Momentology notes, the cookie-less mechanism for tracking this sets a lot of marketers back on their heels.
Often, tracking gets ignored in the development process. Developers aren’t marketers, and they often forget that in the hurry of the push to properly organize, communicate and then implement tags tied to the app’s most important KPIs (key performance indicators) — which are exactly what marketing teams optimize against.
Without being 100 percent clear with yourself, your team, your agency and your developers on what your KPIs are and the importance of tracking them, you’ll never know if the goals you’re pursuing are in sync with what your users are telling you (and they tell you simply by how they use your app).
The events that track conversions against those KPIs are called “tags,” and they send signals to your SDK (Kochava, TUNE, Adjust, AppsFlyer and more). Your developers may need to get on the phone with your tracking partner and actually work through some event firing, link setting and QA testing and so on — the horror, I know!
Experienced teams may be able to do this on their own, but newer teams need the help, and it’s okay to ask for it. That’s why the experts are there.
I could go on (and on) about this stuff, but this should be a good start — at least, it should get you curious to know if your mobile tracking is actually working.
I don’t care how good your strategy is or how good the product is — without tracking, it’s amateur hour. You’ll never know if you’re meeting your goals or, more broadly, if your goals were even the correct hypotheses to test in the first place.