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 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.
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 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!
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A ClickZ expert columnist since 2005, Hollis Thomases (@hollisthomases) is president and founder of Maryland-based WebAdvantage.net, an online marketing company that provides results-centric, strategic Internet marketing services, including online media planning, SEO, PPC campaign management, social media marketing, and Internet consulting. Author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day and an award-winning entrepreneur, Hollis is the Maryland 2007 SBA Small Business Person of the Year. Hollis speaks extensively on online marketing, having presented for ClickZ, the American Marketing Association, SES, The Newsletter and Electronic Publishers Association, The Kelsey Group, and the Vocus Worldwide User Forum. WebAdvantage.net's client list has included Nokia USA, Nature Made Vitamins, Johns Hopkins University, ENDO Pharmaceuticals, K'NEX Construction Toys, and Visit Baltimore. The agency was recognized as a "Small Giant" by the Greater Baltimore Tech Council and was chosen as a "Best Place for Business Women to Work" by "Smart Woman Magazine."
March 19, 2014