Thursday, November 29, 2007

Advanced Ad Tracking

The Need for an Ad Tracking Program

There are two main factors that make an ad effective – Content of the ad and the sites where it is advertised. Most experts would agree that constant testing and experimenting is the only way to ensure that you get the right combination. However, the question arises – How do you test your ads? An integral part of any advertising campaign is

knowing which ads bring you the most visitors. After all, you may have banner ads, newsgroups ads, ads in newsletters and articles, ads in autoresponders, or a simple classified ad on a website. Every marketer needs to know:

.. which of the ads received the best response
.. whether free classified sites are worth the effort
.. which newsletters are the most profitable
.. how a sponsored newsletter ad compares to the standard one
.. whether animated banners are better than static ones
.. how effective email ads are
.. whether an ad at the beginning of a newsletter or article outperforms the one at the end

Ad tracking programs would answer all of these questions. They can help you analyze the effectiveness of every single ad, and hence they should be an integral part of every marketing campaign. At the basic level, an ad tracking program records when your URL has been clicked. It can detect where your visitor came from (the referring URL), the browser and operating system used and the exact time the visitor arrived. It can also record total hits and unique hits (i.e. where one visitor may click several times). This data is kept in the system so you can then pull reports on any ad campaign over any period, e.g. by month, day or even by hour.

Types of Ad Tracking Tools

There are two types of Ad Tracking programs. However, the operation of both these types is the same.

CGI Script
You purchase these programs outright and it is installed on your site. If you have some technical knowledge, you should be able to install it yourself; otherwise the supplier will charge an installation fee. There are certain minimum software requirements for programs which run on your site, including access to the cgi-bin. Hence, most free sites would not allow you to install CGI scripts. With CGI scripts, your tracking URLs will carry your own domain name.

Online Services
These programs operate completely independently from your site - no software installation or use of your system resources (such as disk space) is required. However, such programs run at the supplier site. You pay a rental (monthly or yearly) for the program. Thus, you are dependent on the supplier’s website for your ad tracking. With an online tracking service, your tracking URLs usually carry the online service’s domain name.

The main difference between these types of ad tracking tools is the installation. For some businesses, running CGI scripts may be more advantageous, whereas for others, online services would be more useful and easier to manage.

There are many ad tracking tools available at reasonable rates. Two of the most popular tools are discussed below:
This is an online ad tracking tool. AdMinder provides an ad tracking service that can be used with multiple websites. It provides the capability to track clicks, actions and sales. AdMinder provides reporting as well as the ability to export your data in CSV format, which you can use in MS Excel for additional analysis. Some of its key features are:

.. Browser-based-service, so no installation required
.. Works with all major web browsers
.. Provides key financial stats
.. Allow for grouped reports
.. Unlimited campaigns

ProAnalyzer Ad Tracking System is a CGI program that installs on your website's cgi-bin directory and tracks your ad click-throughs and sales without paying a monthly fee. When a visitor enters your website from an ad URL, a cookie is placed on his web browser and a clickthrough is recorded. If the visitor purchases a product, that cookie is read on the Thank You page with the purchase total, and the sale is recorded for the ad that generated it.

You can track sales or results either by the campaign name, the revenue generated by a sale, or the action accomplished (lead generated, etc.). The Administration Area allows you to monitor each of your campaigns showing hits, sales, and the conversion rate for each. You can configure how the program calculates the conversion rate (by raw hits or unique hits) and how results are sorted. There are lots of different ways to bring customers to your site. So far we’ve discussed search engines, banner ads, text links, classified ads and some “old-fashioned” offline marketing strategies.

As you learn these methods and begin to put them in practice, it’s important to remember that no single method has all the answers. The best marketing campaigns are a combination of them all. In the next chapter, we’re going to look at another exclusively online method of building a customer base and making money: affiliate programs. Of course, the best way to learn about affiliate programs is simply to sign up for a few of them yourself and do some marketing.

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