Marketing Channels: Overrides – who gets the Credit?

This post is one more in the series on SiteCatalyst’s Marketing Channel reports. So far the series has covered naming your channels, setting up rules for search, campaigns and all other channels, as well as how to start trouble-shooting your report. If you are able to follow the full series you can become a master of the Marketing Channel report and take your marketing analysis to a new level. This post focuses on setting up Channel Overrides.

Everyone wants credit for the onsite conversion, but which channels should persist, expire or be ignored? Should some channel click-throughs get prioritized over other channels? Marketing Channels includes a feature to allow marketers to override certain channels. But what are overrides and how do they work?

Overrides are available in the Marketing Channel Manager when you first set up your channel names. By default every channel except Direct and Session Refresh has a check mark next to it. But what does that check mark actually do?

To answer that question let’s focus on last touch allocation (more to come on allocation in the next post). When accounting for 100% of all traffic entries (which the Marketing Channels report does), every time someone enters the site that entry is allocated to one channel or another. So every time a Paid, Organic or Direct click-through to the site occurs, it is being recorded as the visitor’s “Last Touch” channel. In this scenario the most recent channel always over-writes the previous channel.

Before the Marketing Channels report was included in SiteCatalyst, Campaigns were silo-ed into their own report so marketers would use an expiration period on the campaign to persist the tracking code until the campaign expired or the visitor clicked-through on another campaign. That means if a visitor clicked on a Paid Search Ad to the site, but converted on a subsequent visit from an organic or direct channel (within the expiration period) the conversion would be attributed back to that original Paid Search Ad. SEM and Paid Media teams loved this model, but SEO, Social Media and earned efforts were essentially ignored in the report. With Marketing Channels, organic channels can be on par with paid channels. Which means Natural Search can override Paid Search as a “Last Touch” channel, and Social Media can override Display, etc. Even Direct and Session Refresh can prevail over other channels, which is why SiteCatalyst includes the ability to determine which Overrides are available.

Maybe you don’t want Direct to overrule Paid Search. And we certainly don’t want Session Refresh to override any other channels. In this case you can elect Direct and Session Refresh (and any other channels) to be ignored, which would allow Visits and Success Metrics to be allocated back to the previous channel the visitor clicked through on.

Before we dive into examples, we have one more notion to sort out…Visits. The Visits metric in the Marketing Channels report is a conversion metric. That means that Visits will behave like other success metrics in regards to allocation. Let’s say I have 500 Visits to my site. In the Marketing Channels report I can see which channel each of those visits entered the site on; I can sum up all the visits from each channel and come up with 500. Yes! I finally have my channel Pie Chart for Visits!! If I let all channels override all other channels equally, then my Visit channel will always be the most recent channel clicked-through by the visitor (Click-throughs = Visits). But what happens if some channels are not allowed to override? Overrides essentially mean the channel will be ignored.

If Direct is not allowed to override (unchecked in the Marketing Channel Manager), that means that if I have a recognized channel already recorded in a previous visit, the Direct click-through will be ignored and the visit and success events can be allocated back to the previous channel. For example, a site has a visitor with 2 visits: the 1st from Paid Search, the 2nd from Direct and the visitor converts during that second visit. The conversion will be tied back to that Paid Search entry rather than the Direct entry. And since Visits are a conversion metric the Visit from the 2nd entry will also be allocated back to Paid Search.

4 Visitors in a world where all channels Override (everything checked):

Same 4 Visitors when Direct and Session Refresh are not allowed to Override other channels:

How does this change the game? Well, when making a decision on whether to use Overrides consider the following: