The 3-Part Checklist for Tracking Paid Ads

Tracking the performance of your marketing campaigns and their results on your ecommerce site can feel tedious and complicated, making it very tempting to put tracking on the backburner. Why get caught up in the weeds when you could spend that time creating and optimizing more ads, right?

The problem with not paying attention to tracking is that your paid marketing is only as good as your data is helpful. Not to mention, being a data-driven company is the only way you will be able to achieve consistent, predictable success.

Is It Bad Marketing or Bad Data?

If you are not tracking results correctly and optimizing accordingly, your marketing plan is basically gambling. The only way to learn whether your campaigns are successful and to adjust accordingly is to have correct tracking in place and know how to read it. And while it might feel like a hindrance, the ability to track data and see what effect your ads are having on your site in real time is actually a benefit of digital marketing over traditional advertising. So take advantage of it!

How hard is it to set up proper tracking for paid ads?

Most advertising and marketing platforms make setting up proper tracking very simple. But there are a lot of ways to look at the data and attribution gets messy, so it can be confusing to know where to start. For tracking to be effective, you need to know you’re measuring the right metrics (and doing it accurately) before you do anything else.

Why is tracking so important?

Why is that so important? You’ve likely heard the saying “garbage in, garbage out”, and that is true for marketing too. If your tracking is not set up and read correctly, the “results” you’re reading doesn’t mean anything. But if you have the right tracking set up, you can never really fail with any marketing campaign. The goal is almost always to acquire purchases, but even if you don’t, the data will provide learning so you can systematically improve marketing with each campaign.

In this post, we’ll talk about the three areas of tracking you should implement before running any paid advertising, what they’re used for, and how they work together. Let’s get into it.

The 3 Categories of Tracking for Ecommerce Paid Advertising

There are several methods for tracking campaign performance and the effects they have on your site. These methods can be boiled down to three main categories you need to get right:

1. Ad Platform Integration

Main Function: Provides the marketing platform with information from your site so the platform’s algorithm can continuously optimize for better results.

Person Responsible: Ad Engineer or Specialist, Media Buyer

The data you see within your ad platform comes from the digital ad platform’s tracking pixel placed on your site (for example, your Facebook pixel or Google Ads snippet). This pixel watches what users do on your site after clicking on your ads, and uses that to optimize your ads for better results.

Tracking is generally simple to install on your ecommerce store, especially if you use Shopify or Shopify Plus. The key step to remember is to make sure the pixel is tracking key events on your site, such as email sign ups, view content, add to cart, initiate checkout, and purchases. For most platforms (like Shopify), these events are automatically configured when you add the tracking code to the site, but it’s important to verify they are tracking correctly. If your store or ad platform does not add these automatically, you will need to add them manually and then verify they’re working. This is very important and very much worth your time.

The importance of proper pixel installation and tracking setup with your ad platform can’t be over emphasized. If you’re spending money on paid advertising, it’s critical to accurately track what users do when they get to your site so you can see what results you’re getting and learn how to optimize your ads to perform better.

2. Ecommerce Analytics

Main Function: Provides information needed about your website’s performance in relation to all marketing channels (paid and organic). Helps your business make the right decisions about what needs improvement and answers questions about weak areas on your site.

Person Responsible: Executive Level / Leadership is typically responsible for reading and analyzing the data being tracked.

When it comes to ecommerce analytics, the most common tracking tool is Google Analytics. This is installed on your ecommerce platform. Again, this is typically simple to install, but what you do with Google Analytics next is the important part. You must be tracking key events and actual revenue for each purchase in order for Analytics to be an effective tool for your business.

Google Analytics has so much data available that it can be overwhelming, so let’s think about it this way. GA is the place to go to dig into questions you have about your site and problems you’re seeing. For example, you might have had a great month but want to have a big picture understanding of how each channel contributed to that bump in traffic or revenue. Or, you may notice your conversion rate is down and need to understand where that dip is coming from.

One important thing to note is that Google Analytics can and should be used to guide your business, but it’s best to use this to find answers, not create questions. With so much data available, it can be tempting to get taken down a rabbit hole of metrics that seem to be a big deal, but aren’t actually relevant to your high-level ecommerce goals. Instead, approach GA with a specific question (like “What is contributing to the decrease in conversions this month?”) and let the data provide an answer.

3. 3rd Party Tracking Tools

Main Function: Provide additional data for certain areas of your site to help scale and optimize your overall marketing efforts. For example, if you’re struggling with user engagement, you can install a heat map tool.

Person Responsible: Chief Marketing Officer, Marketing Manager

Additional tracking tools such as heatmaps and user recordings can be very useful in understanding what is happening with user traffic on your site. Your team may be wondering why a marketing campaign is driving so much traffic but users aren’t buying, or why users are adding to cart but not completing checkout. These additional tracking tools help you “look over the shoulder” of a user to see what they’re clicking on and where they get stuck.

Remember, the success of your marketing is a team effort. Ads, email marketing, organic components, your website, and other factors all play a role in getting the site visitor through checkout. Extra tracking tools can give visibility into all these areas and that can be very helpful to give indications of how well your site is actually converting customers.

If you’re not sure which tools to use, reach out to us and we can recommend some that could be helpful for your business.

Start Tracking Today

If you’re not sure if you have proper tracking installed for your marketing platforms, or if you just never take the time to dig into them, now is the time. It’s often overlooked, but the ability to read data and use it to inform your business decisions is the only way ecommerce businesses can achieve consistent, predictable growth year after year.

Think of it as your company’s eyes. On the body, the eyes are a very small part of the entire system, but essential for moving and acting with clarity and focus. This is exactly what tracking does for your business. It’s worth taking the time to get it right.


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