How To Approach Ad Tracking With No Dev Resources

by Nick Schenck

The amount of time that companies spend troubleshooting ad pixels and fine-tuning their websites and apps so they play nice with ad platforms is staggering.

It can be a heavy lift to make sure attribution is not only set up correctly, but that it stays that way. Expensive dev resources are often necessary to verify that ad campaign data flows accurately between multiple sources (i.e. CRMs, data warehouses, ad channels, etc.). All of this effort is to give decision-makers clarity on the performance of their ad dollars so they can spend their budgets more wisely.

Could all of this time be better spent? It depends on your ad budget and available resources. 

In our experience, most companies don’t have the bandwidth to undertake these efforts. In these cases, our advice is don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

How To Approach Ad Tracking With No Dev Resources

Assuming you have limited technical expertise and no dev assistance, here are our recommendations to isolate paid performance and gain clarity on how your ad dollars are performing.

Understand Baselines
Before launching any new paid initiatives, establish baselines for your website (i.e., avg. conversion rate, avg. conversion value, etc.) so that you can see how performance fluctuates after introducing ad campaigns. In Google Analytics, add annotations to mark when new ad campaigns launch so it’s easy to track before-and-after performance across a variety of metrics.

DIY Approach
Certain ad channels like Meta allow you to set up on-click tracking without altering the backend code. This allows you to set conversion events on your site and attribute these on-click events to ad campaigns. 

UTM Parameters
Append UTM parameters to URLs in paid campaigns and filter by these parameters in Google Analytics to evaluate lead quality by campaign and paid traffic source:

  • Avg. pages per session for paid traffic vs. site avg.
  • Avg. time on site for paid traffic vs. site avg.
  • Bounce rate for paid traffic vs. site avg.

Use Google Trends
Check out Google Trends to track your branded search volume over time. If the only variable is paid campaigns launching (or more ad spend), and you’re seeing an uptick in branded search volume, that’s a good indicator that paid traffic is contributing to that.

Traffic Fluctuations And The Spillover Effect
If you notice an uptick in direct traffic from “new” users in Google Analytics, that’s a signal that paid campaigns are driving awareness. This essentially means people who have never been to your site before are suddenly typing in your URL, indicating something drove that behavior, i.e. ads, word-of-mouth.

Separately, the top-performing traffic channels for websites (in terms of sales, conversions, lead quality) are typically organic and direct. If you notice upticks in visitors from these sources of traffic that coincide with launching paid ads, that’s a good data point because there’s usually some spillover effect from paid campaigns on non-paid traffic channels.

On iOS app campaigns, track any growth in branded Apple Search impressions that coincide with spend increases on upper funnel campaigns targeting iOS users. 

Also, there’s frequently a correlation between YouTube ad campaigns and branded search volume on Google.

Landing Page Builders
This is more relevant for B2B lead gen campaigns, but you can use a landing page builder like Unbounce, Leadpages, or Instapage to create landing page variants that you send only paid traffic to. This gives you close-to-airtight paid attribution.

Test Lead Ads
This is also more relevant to B2B lead gen campaigns, but you can run lead ad campaigns on channels like LinkedIn or Facebook to track cost per lead and close rate directly without needing to separate traffic from non-paid channels.

Use Google Tag Manager
If you don’t have Google Tag Manager (GTM) installed already, the easiest dev lift to assist with attribution is just by installing this code snippet on your website. That way, your dev team doesn’t need to add a bunch of pixels/code from multiple ad channels. Once the GTM container is added, pixels can be added remotely through the GTM interface without messing with the code.

Want assistance on your ad campaigns? Are you interested in a free paid media audit? Reach out to us at [email protected]