Mary Hoy

Mary Hoy

Director of Marketing Analytics and Performance

A How To Guide: Designing An Audience Centric Campaign Structure

Mary Hoy

Jun 18, 2018

“Audience-centric modern marketing” gets a lot of buzz. Do a search of the term, and you’ll be inundated with images, blog posts and white papers.

But how do we, as marketers, objectively measure the success of our strategies, content and dissemination mechanisms?

Many marketers have access to primary or secondary data that says a specific audience gets information from a specific channel and therefore you have the opportunity to use said channel to drive traffic to your website. (Primary data is specifically created for you — think about surveys of your target audience. Secondary data is more general — industry publications, trend reports, etc.)

If you’re relying on these insights, you create and distribute content aligned with those recommendations, then wait for the traffic to roll in. These are common questions that you might be asking:

  • Did those links I posted on < platform> for <audience> drive any traffic to the section of my website?
  • What did <audience> do on my website?
  • Did those links I posted on <platform> drive any conversions of <goal>?

There are many ways to do it — here, I outline a potential solution for creating a campaign tagging structure to understand inbound traffic by audience and what to do with the information after you’ve tackled the implementation.

Creating Your Tagging Infrastructure

This methodology is dependent on the use of Google Analytics Urchin Traffic Monitor (UTM) codes. If you’re using digital marketing to drive traffic to your website, you may already be using UTM codes on your inbound links.

If you aren’t, read this overview on why you should. If you see a boatload of direct traffic, but manage lots of email campaigns, you nearly must. Then, move to the next step.

Essentially, you add parameters to the end of your URLs that feed into Google Analytics to support tracking.

Defining Your Campaign Tag Structure

To understand holistic impact of marketing efforts for given audience or objectives, design an audience-driven, comprehensive and consistent structure you can use across ongoing and long-term activities. These will be more intuitively linked to existing sections of your sites and choice objectives.

A university inherently has many departments with lots of audiences and lots of website goals. Luckily for universities, objectives are generally strategically aligned across units and can be largely categorized for a handful of audiences. Here is a potential sample of a campaign code naming framework that could support your ongoing work:

  • Future Students | Applied to content for student recruitment
  • Future Employees | Applied to content for employee recruitment
  • Future Patients | Applied to content for future patients
  • Current Students| Applied to content for current students
  • Parents | Applied to content for parents
  • Giving | Applied to content design to drive giving
  • Alumni Engagement | Applied to content to support alumni engagement
  • Faculty and Staff | Applied to content for faculty and staff
  • Awareness | Applied to content with a mixed audience

A quick disclaimer: There are many instances when a complex and comprehensive campaign (such as a paid advertising push or otherwise) may warrant a completely separate campaign outside of the ongoing activity structure, even if it’s meant for a particular audience and supporting a particular objective. Don’t despair! The recommendation is to consider an evergreen structure for ongoing activities.

Things to Avoid

  • Inconsistency. Good data in means good data out — and that goes for data classification. Creating a spreadsheet or other tool to automatically concatenate campaign tags for you is a great strategy to maintain consistency. If multiple people are creating content that drives inbound traffic, work together to figure out a system of sharing. (This doubles as a fun check on strategic alignment.)

  • An overcomplicated campaign structure. Too many segmentations, and you’re going to always have to dig for insights. A test: If you are consistently combining campaigns to get a clear understanding, consider consolidation. You’ll want to create a campaign structure that contains the least amount of variables to get to the information that’s actually actionable.

  • Undercomplicating your campaign structure. Don’t oversimplify; otherwise, you’ll be in secondary dimension space too often, which can be a bear when analyzing over long periods of time (sampling issues) or looking at your data frequently.

  • DO NOT USE UTM campaign parameters on internal pages. (And yes, I am currently yelling.) Doing so strips original source data from your analytics and may cause duplication of traffic. If you don’t want to take my word for it, take this guy’s. And Luna Metrics offers some great alternatives for internal and external campaign tracking.

How to Start Evaluating

Once you start distributing your content with your campaign tagging structure in place, you can use the standard reporting tools in Google Analytics to answer the questions we mentioned at the beginning of the post. Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Check out your overall acquisition report. Look for a source of “(Other)” to identify your campaign-based traffic. How much are you contributing to your sites’ traffic? Does it behave differently from other sources of traffic?

  • Check out the campaigns report. You’ll be able to stack up the audiences that are arriving on your site most from your distribution channels and understand which channels within campaigns are working the hardest. If you run special campaigns, utilize ad content tags to delineate so you can watch the impact and growth in your traffic.

  • See your conversation rates. If you have goals set up around common choice activities such as inquiries, applications, campus visits, contact information, event registration, newsletter sign-ups, etc., you will be able to see conversion rates for traffic from your campaigns and whether your intended audience is using your content to path through to a conversion goal.

  • Create custom segments using your campaign name as a parameter. Custom segments allow you to see a filtered view of the users that meet your parameter. Therefore, if you filter on users coming from any of your “Future Students” campaigns, you can see what resources and activities they do on your site, not just how much traffic is coming in. Beware again of potential sampling issues depending on how much site traffic and segment traffic you have, but the user flow reports here are pretty amazing!


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