By Doug Logan
Are there gaps in your analytics? Chances are you have ad blockers to thank for that.
It seems every day I’m seeing an article or rant about how ad blockers are dooming the advertising industry. Let me be perfectly clear: this isn’t one of those articles.
So what is this article about? Well ad blockers, for sure. But less about their original intended purpose (blocking annoying ads on websites) and about another issue, one that I feel has a possibly even bigger impact. I’ve taken the liberty of naming this issue “Analytical Blackouts” and that, my friend, is what this article is really about.
If you have ever seen a pop-up ad you can easily understand why ad blockers exist. Even Ethan Zuckerman, the guy who created pop-up ads in the first place, regrets their existence. But as we all know, annoying online ads didn’t stop at pop-ups.
Ad blockers are becoming more and more popular and while they present a real problem to media sites that rely on advertising to support their bottom line, they are also creating another problem: they are blocking popular analytic tools (like Google Analytics), as well.
Look, I get it. You don't want to see ads. I don't blame you. I pay for Netflix for a reason. Heck my kid may never know what a tv commercial is. And I think our clients would agree that serving up an ad to someone who has zero interest in seeing an ad is probably just a wasted effort or worse - a wasted dollar.
We’ve been noticing gaps in our client's analytics - hence the name "Analytical Blackouts." Where essentially, due to ad blockers, there are gaps in our reporting.
But the schmucks that abused the internet with annoying ads that slow everything down are starting to ruin it for the rest of us. How you ask? We’ve been noticing gaps in our client's analytics - hence the name "Analytical Blackouts." Where essentially, due to ad blockers, there are gaps in our reporting. There's traffic coming in, we know it exists because we are paying for it (i.e. Google Paid Search, Facebook Ads, etc.), but we don't see the traffic accounted for in analytics. This results in inaccurate reporting where we will get leads, sales or other conversions that we know are being generated from our efforts but know very little else about where they are coming from. While these blackouts vary in intensity depending on the media source, they can sometimes be in the 25-50% range.
If everyone could just stop abusing the internet we could all stop using ad blockers. But since that day is rather far away, here's some things you can do if you, too are experiencing Analytical Blackouts:
- Use more than one analytics platform. Google Analytics is great and by far the most popular analytics platform mainly because it's free and because it’s from Google. But the problem with being the most popular is that you are commonly the most picked on. More and more ad blockers are blocking Google Analytics. This could also have something to do with the fact that Google Analytics uses a universal tracking code that in addition to reporting on user behaviors, also tracks users for remarketing purposes. So in addition to Google Analytics, try a less popular analytics platform as well, maybe something smaller like Kissmetrics or maybe something bigger like Adobe Analytics.
- Go old school. Instead of relying solely on analytics to determine where your traffic is coming from or relying on dynamic landing pages that adapt to traffic sources automatically, go old school and create landing pages that break down the traffic source manually with attribution being hard coded into forms and other conversions.
- Talk to your doctor. I'm partially joking and partially serious. If you are working with an agency, talk with them to see if you are in fact experiencing Analytical Blackouts and make a plan on how to fix them as best as possible.
Using the above 3 steps will go a long way in making sure you’re accurately tracking and attributing your marketing efforts. If you’re still experiencing blackouts and tried the steps above, feel free to get in touch with us and we would be happy to take a look at your unique circumstances.