If you're like most Internet Marketers, you fully understand the importance of accurately tracking visitor behavior, and probably base most of your online marketing decisions from the information collected in your analytics.
Much of that essential data is derived from HTTP cookies placed on your visitor's hard drive during their visits to your site. These cookies are especially vital to measuring the number of times your visitors have been to your site, as well as attributing the visit or sale to the correct marketing source.
There's a tendency for the public to think that cookies are bad. Well, in truth, too many of the ones you eat can be dangerous to your well-being, however despite the hype about PC cookies, the ones found on your hard drive are not a security risk and instead can actually improve your web experience by remembering your preferences.
As a review, and to clear up any misconceptions, here's some information you can digest about HTTP cookies:
So instead of blocking cookies, growing numbers of web users have decided to go on a diet by deleting their cookies on a regular basis.
In fact, according to a 2005 study by JupiterResearch, almost 40 percent of web users delete cookies from their computer on at least a monthly basis, with over half of those folks deleting cookies on a daily or weekly basis. Ironically, the motivating forces driving these removals are the many common misconceptions about cookies among the public.
The unfortunate reality is that the deletion of cookies will materially effect your web metrics and could lead you down the path of bad decision-making. Here's a list of what to look out for:
There are a couple strategies you can use to minimize the impact on your metrics of cookie removal.
First, using your analytics, cross-reference all 1st time visitors that show no referring URL against your list of historical visitors, by matching the IP addresses. You should be able to do this by downloading a visitor report and exporting to MS Excel. Then sort on IP address.
Now, see if the IP address of any of those 1st time visitors appears in the historical list of visitors that arrived from a campaign. Where you find a match, you can conclude that it's quite possible that the visitor associated with that IP address is the same person from the historical list and deleted their cookies. You should then update your metrics to reflect that finding.
Be careful with this method for these reasons:
Some analytics programs can automatically report their metrics based on the analysis described on page two. For instance, both the eBusiness and Enterprise versions of Conversion Analyst have a default report type called "Intelligent" that can measure and report your metrics even when visitors delete their cookies.
By looking back through your historical analytics, Conversion Analyst ensures that your campaigns receive full credit for their sales by following these rules:
Along with campaign source, Conversion Analyst also will apply the above rules to the following data types:
Applying the rules above ensures that the reporting for all of our key performance indicators is corrected for those visitors who deleted their cookies.
Whether your analytics solution reports "Intelligently" or you setup your own in-house data comparison program, it's vital to ensure that you have systems in place to measure and attribute your visitor behavior and sales activity to the proper source. As an increasing number of users regularly remove their cookies, any lack of "Intelligent" reporting will surely lead you down a path to un-intelligent decision making.
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