I believe entrepreneurship is building your ship in the middle of a storm, so that you sail to the shore of success. After one such stormy day, when I thought will end the night on a high note by checking the Google Analytics dashboard for our product website. I was already very confident of the traffic numbers as the team was keeping track of the ad campaign dashboard and it was showing strong website click numbers. This entire process of checking the analytics dashboard was to make myself feel good before I go to sleep after a hard day. But what followed was never expected…
Alright to get perspective it’s important to go back a little to understand how important is this…
Building a brand through online advertising has always been under shadow of doubt. And most big brands till few years back even doubted the power of digital to get ROI otherwise. Hence, digital advertising was considered just a tick box media in the media plan. But, things have changed now, at least that is what I was told.
We ran a campaign for the launch our new product BECK Friends to get sign ups on www.beckfriends.com. We were positive that the only way to build the brand online and get incremental sign ups is using digital platforms. And when we say digital platforms then definitely the way to go is using Google & Facebook ad platforms, this covers 80% of the traffic on web and also it is not surprising that these two companies contribute to the 80% of the spends online in India! This is a worrying trend, but more on that maybe next time.
For now the problem at hand is something else. Something bigger maybe not for the big companies, but definitely for a small bootstrapped startup like us. We are self funded which means we are trying to build a brand get users to sign up & try our product with our own money. This means our budgets are low so every click count. And that’s exactly why we use digital advertising extensively, because NEWS!!! NEWS!!! Digital Advertising is where you can track every click.
Now with little experience we knew what to expect from social media advertising. Low cost clicks, but not necessarily converting into sign ups. So, we tried to divert traffic at low cost to the website and hook up the user with the value proposition we have with the product. But, we never expected what we got!
Cut to reality…
I check the Google Analytics dashboard for our website basis of a high performing campaign we are running on Facebook over the last ten days. To my shock every 100 Clicks charged on the ad campaign has only led to only 20 visits on the website.
The first feeling that it is a goof up at our end, so you start checking on the analytics tracking code on the website then move to checking the download speed of the website. All seems ok. We also add a second analytics code on the website to cross check, but it throws up similar numbers as the Google dashboard. So you try to research on the problem to figure out that there are many who are facing this issue and usually the discrepancy is 20-25%, which I feel is high too. But in our case it was 80%
Only thing left now was to shoot a mail to Facebook customer support to find out the reason. After which I get a prompt call from them where a very courteous customer support person says she understands and recommends that I should pause the campaign for now. This is followed by what seemed like a standard template email reply stating nothing conclusive, but suggested us to use unique tracking click thru URLs that can track the website traffic generated from the ad campaigns better. We do that, but still after couple of days of running the campaigns find the discrepancy in the numbers are the same.
Leaving us confused and staring at the two lines mentioned in the earlier email: “Kindly note that we aren’t able to provide any support or verification for any third-party tracking implementation or data collected. Our sincere apologies for the inconvenience.” In a way washing away from any responsibility of any variation that may occur in the tracking.
Come on guys you are Facebook, we look up to you when we build products. Advertising is from where you generate over 90% of your revenues and tracking the performance of the ads can’t be broken.
I have been the biggest endorser of digital advertising all these years. And as we all know that digital advertising is a complex subject as there are many factors that surround it. But one thing that sells that digital advertising majorly is because the performance can be tracked.
But, now this experience has put a big question in my head: How authentic are the numbers that we see on our campaign dashboard?
Deep Malhotra is the Co-Founder of www.beckfriends.com and Gemini Group. Deep has an entrepreneurial and startup experience in working & building companies like Google, MySpace.com & rediff.com.