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Keeping Track of Tracking Services

  |  July 29, 2008   |  Comments

A look at some tools to monitor reputation, track competitors' paid search campaigns, and more.

Almost every agency running online ad campaigns uses some kind of ad tracking solution, ranging from third-party ad servers like DoubleClick's DART, Microsoft's Atlas, Bluestreak, and ValueClick's Mediaplex to similar proprietary software. These solutions alone, however, can't do it all when it comes to the growing complexity of integrated online campaigns.

The agency might simultaneously be running an online display ad campaign, a paid search campaign, and a social media/word-of-mouth/buzz generation campaign, and on top of that, be asked by the advertiser to track competitors, monitor its reputation, and possibly even its affiliate activity. No single solution tracks them all, so what's an agency to do?

Welcome to the multi-faceted and ever-growing world of tracking services. At the broadest level, we have Google Alerts, which tracks content by keywords and delivers alerts by e-mail. Most of the more sophisticated tracking services operate within narrow silos, even if their purposes often overlap. Here's how the silos mainly break out and some players in each:

Competitive-Sponsored Search

Competitive-sponsored search tracking services like AdGooroo and The Search Monitor help paid search advertisers stay abreast of competitors' paid search campaigns. Components of these services include identifying changes in competitors' ad copy and ad positions, uses of the advertiser's trademark in competitors' ads, new competitor e-mail alerts, geo-tracking, and calculating the advertiser's share of voice compared to competitors'. Through the data these tools provide, these solutions can also assist with keyword research, copywriting, landing page, bidding, and budgeting strategies.

Tracking Word-Of-Mouth and News

As the fastest growing sector of Web activity right now, social media both excites and frightens advertisers. They want to participate, but they're afraid to let go of control over their brand. Newsflash: consumers will be talking about brands, regardless of how much the advertiser wants to control it. Lump into this discomfort the volume of articles and news that get regularly published online and it makes for a massive tracking undertaking.

Advertisers concerned about their brand and reputation can use any number of tools to consolidate and track information. For news tracking there's Filtrbox or Trackur; for word-of-mouth there are solutions like Andiamo, Twing and CoComment. New solutions are cropping up all the time.

Ad Intelligence

Gaining an understanding and making decisions as to why and where to advertise online grows more challenging as options continue to expand. Online measurement tools are imperfect, but they maintain their dominance over ad buying decision-making.

A few companies complement this space: TNS Media Intelligence provides high-end media intelligence solutions for large brands; The Media Trust offers competitive share-of-voice research for new media along with automated screenshots for campaign verification; and New Media Search, a new company not yet out of alpha, will be launching with a solution to crawl, categorize, and provide data about smaller yet highly relevant and qualified niche sites not covered by panel based monitoring.

Affiliate Monitoring

Affiliate monitoring has, to date, been relatively under-served. Whatever monitoring goes on mainly falls under the category of competitive-sponsored search right now.

The Search Monitor, however, offers far more robust services which merit mentioning. For example, its Terms Compliance element allows merchants to detect affiliate violations of such things as paid search bid ranking compliance, keyword use restrictions, and ad and landing page copy requirements and restrictions. Search Monitor has also developed a means to identify URL hijacking by affiliates who use the merchant's display URL, but which is actually a URL that redirects traffic through the affiliate URL before passing that traffic through to the merchant's Web site.

The Search Monitor affiliate monitoring solution can also track and report on a merchant's competitors' affiliates, data that can be then used to recruit those same affiliates into the merchant's own affiliate program.

The Bottom Line

There are many tools to help us find, track, filter, and analyze our new media campaign data. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the volume of information you're being asked to follow and trying to follow on your own, check out some of these solutions to see if they can help you through the morass. I'm sure I've missed some of your favorites. If I did, please e-mail me so I can add them to the list.

Now all I'm curious about is if the companies creating these tools will be tracking themselves well enough to find this article!

What's your favorite marketing tool or service? Which one made your campaign a success? We want to know! Nominate your choice in the 2008 ClickZ Marketing Excellence Awards. Nominations are open until August 14. Nominate now!

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Hollis Thomases

A highly driven subject matter expert with a thirst for knowledge, an unbridled sense of curiosity, and a passion to deliver unbiased, simplified information and advice so businesses can make better decisions about how to spend their dollars and resources, multiple award-winning entrepreneur Hollis Thomases (@hollisthomases) is a sole practitioner and digital ad/marketing "gatekeeper." Her 16 years working in, analyzing, and writing about the digital industry make Hollis uniquely qualified to navigate the fast-changing digital landscape. Her client experience includes such verticals as Travel/Tourism/Destination Marketing, Retail & Consumer Brands, Health & Wellness, Hi-Tech, and Higher Education. In 1998, Hollis Thomases founded her first company, Web Ad.vantage, a provider of strategic digital marketing and advertising service solutions for such companies as Nokia USA, Nature Made Vitamins, Johns Hopkins University, ENDO Pharmaceuticals, and Visit Baltimore. Hollis has been an regular expert columnist with Inc.com, and ClickZ and authored the book Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day, published by John Wiley & Sons. Hollis also frequently speaks at industry conferences and association events.

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