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An Easy Guide to Ad Tracking in 2023

An Easy Guide to Ad Tracking in 2023

Last Updated:  
March 18, 2024

Clicks, impressions, conversions – oh my! As an online retailer, it’s easy to get lost in the world of ad tracking – especially with the iOS 14.5 update causing a ruckus in the ecommerce world.

If you’re new to running online ads, it’s vital you spend some time getting to know the specific channels, metrics, and tools you may want to use. With so many moving parts, we’ve mapped out the basics of ad tracking for ecommerce – plus some strategies and helpful tools to consider in 2023 – so you can feel confident on how to plan your marketing strategy and ad spending.

What is ad tracking?

At the end of the day, ad tracking is still the most effective way to measure campaign performance. Ad tracking refers to using data to measure performance. Such data is collected and used, in turn, to increase engagement and optimize your return on investment AKA Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). It’s all about ROAS for ecommerce – the best metrics to figure out whether an ad is working.

Guide Ad Tracking Content

However, ad tracking is a broad term. There are really two layers to ad tracking - the channels you can pull data from and all the different actions you can analyze within them. Let’s talk about that further.

Tracking Marketing Channels

  • Organic website traffic: This includes any visitors that found your website through a search engine like Google. Analyzing this data will reflect how well  your inbound marketing and SEO performance are functioning.
  • Paid website traffic: One of the most common forms of paid traffic is Pay-Per-Click advertising, or PPC. Google or Bing Ads would be an example of paid traffic advertising.
  • Social networks: Facebook, TikTok, Reddit, Snapchat - you doomscroll on it, you can probably run an ad on it. These need to be optimized for mobile viewing and quick to catch the attention of the viewer.
  • Email traffic: If it’s not broken… A tried and true form of marketing, email newsletters and blasts are a direct way to get customers to your website.

Tracking User Actions

  • Click and engagement tracker: Getting a user to click on your ad and engage with your content is an immediate marker of doing something right. It may not always lead to a sale, but it gets them on your site, and that’s something you want to repeat.
  • Impression tracker: While clicks and engagement result in more sales, impressions (or views) are also important to record. For instance, seeing how long someone spends viewing your ad might inform whether its attention-grabbing or not.
  • Conversion Path: The most common example of a full conversion path would be a customer clicking on an ad, viewing the content on your website, adding it to their cart, going through the checkout process, and finally, purchasing the item.

Note: conversion trackers can often be set to whatever action parameters best suit your business. Using the default settings is great to start, but customization of your tracker tools is worth investigating!

  • Cookies: A hot button topic in the last few years (see more on Apple’s iOS 14.5 update below), cookies are an excellent way to use retargeting for good. A potential customer may have eventually abandoned their cart, but with the help of cookies, remarketing ads can crop up while they’re browsing to remind them of the purchase that almost was.
  • Pixels: Tracking pixels are small 1×1 transparent images, that are placed over ads that tells you when an ad has been viewed. This is helpful with understanding when something has been seen versus clicked.
Guide Ad Tracking Content
Source: Instapage

These are just some of the main types of ad tracking marketers are using today. With so many options to dig into, you might be thinking: why?

6 Benefits of Ad Tracking

Two words: brand awareness! Being able to measure all of your digital advertising data from multiple streams and audiences in real time provides a unique advantage to e-commerce businesses. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, these build the foundation for a positive relationship with your marketing goals:

Access your progress

At its most basic use, having ad tracking tools at your disposal gives you a broad view of the numbers over time. You don’t have to wonder – the status of your advertisements is always available to you, 24/7.

Connect with your audience

While there may be initial guesswork to figure out what clicks with your clients, over time the numbers won’t lie. You can test out campaigns and pivot them when they aren’t as effective with your potential customers. The digital space lends to more flexibility. Don’t be afraid to use it!

Protect your budget

Don’t throw money at your ad spend when the latest set of advertisements suddenly aren't working the way they used to. Being able to run reports and notice dips in engagement or impressions allows you to pause or pull ads as you see fit. The tools are basically begging you to be proactive.

Guide Ad Tracking Content

Grow your business

If you’re a small business hoping to eventually expand, ad tracking gives you the power to scale your shop and have the numbers to back up your decisions. Feel confident in your moves and pitches when you can prove what’s worked really well, what mistakes you’ve made, and how you’ve learned from them.

Catch when your traffic isn’t human

Ad tracking can highlight suspicious activity, like a flurry of conversions that happen so quickly that they have to be bot-driven. Alert to fraudulent actions early, before it can hurt your bank account.

When to trust robots (hint: automation is your friend)

If all of this sounds like you need to hire more staff just to digest it all, remember there’s tools available to take some of the load off. Optimization tools can notice the trends in data for you and make adjustments as needed.

Big picture trends in a post-iOS 14.5 world

If you were creating online ads in 2021, the massive change brought on by Apple’s iOS 14.5 update is likely no news to you. If you have an iPhone, you’ll recognize the pop-up every time you download a new app that asks whether or not you’ll allow the app to track your data.

Guide Ad Tracking Content
Source: Apple

Putting this setting front and center for all Apple users has had a big impact on conversion campaigns. The data pulled by ad trackers isn’t as accurate as it once was, and often requires more digging or creative thinking to make it work for your business. If nothing else, it’s definitely impacted how you run Facebook ads. That’s because, unless a Facebook user has opted-in to sharing their data with Facebook, you can no longer track a user's path toward the conversion liek you once could.

Don’t hone in on just one channel’s data, like Facebook or Google, and instead look at the big picture of your online ads. With these recent changes, short-term tracking isn’t as accurate because the day-to-day data is mostly skewed to non-Apple users.

Triple Pixel by Triple Whale for Holistic Ad Tracking

Checking for big trends across blended data via apps like Triple Pixel will give you a more informed approach. Using first-party data, you will now have the ability to more accurately attribute ad clicks (from places like Facebook, Google, Snapchat, Pinterest & TikTok), to real conversions – hello, again ROAS!

In addition, it can help you:

  • Scale winning campaigns and have a deeper understanding of which ones to turn off
  • Our first-party pixel tracks what your ad platform cannot for more accurate ROAS
  • Increase visibility by comparing attribution types all on one interface
  • Easily visualize the time between ad spend and conversion value

Installing the Triple Pixel on your site will bridge the gap that Apple’s privacy policy has created between your website and digital ad platforms. Not to mention, if you do have ads on different sites, channels, and what-have-you, using each set of advertising tools can become extremely overwhelming. Triple Pixel has an accessible dashboard so you can see the full-picture in real-time, anywhere.

Ad tracking services are becoming a must-have for companies looking to get more return from their online ads and to help them navigate ad performance after iOs 14. Stay ahead of the (many, many) curves with knowledge and, of course, the right help when you need it.

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