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Using in-depth tracking in online marketing

Examining whether the free version of Google Analytics can be used effectively to analyse performance by country, brand or therapy area

Using in-depth tracking - free google analyticsMany pharmaceutical companies have multiple brands and operate in multiple countries. They have rolled out brand sites localised for each country. They have analytics in place to understand each individual site, but in some cases they do not have the ability to see rolled up data by country (multiple brands) or brand (multiple countries) or therapy area. With paid web analytics tools (such as Webtrends) they understand it is easy to create a rolled up view based on country or treatment area.

However, a client wanted to know whether it was possible to do all this simply by using the free version of Google Analytics (GA).

The client had three requirements:

  1. A rolled up view with data for all web properties.
  2. Each territory needed to be able to connect its GA account to Adwords, because each country managed its own budget and worked with a local agency that knew its market well.
  3. The rolled up view needed to be able to report on overall traffic for individual categories: continent, country, treatment area and drug, or any combination of these.

The solution
Delivering on requirements one and two was relatively straightforward. All that was involved was the creation of two GA accounts and adding two sets of tracking code on each page. One instance of the tracking code captured data to be added to the roll up view, and the other captured data for the regional affiliate. This second instance could also be used by the regional affiliate to link to Adwords. These details are obviously different for each regional affiliate.

Custom variables

The third requirement was a little more difficult. One option would be to categorise each of the pages and then set up a custom report that included each relevant page. In other words, create a report for each possible question of the type: 'Show me all traffic to country X and drug Y'. However, in this case there were dozens of sites, each having many pages, so this would not be a simple or time-efficient task.

The best answer was to tag each page with all the categories it belonged to. Fortunately, GA enabled that using custom variables. In each hit five different values can be set.

Custom variables are name-value pairs which allow the user to refine tracking. There are four parameters that must be specified for each variable: position, name, value and scope. Name and value are self-explanatory. Position is a value between one and five and the same one should always be used for any variable name, which was treated like an alias in this case. Scope can be set to visitor-level, session-level or page-level. This determines how often a value is stored against a variable name. For example, if a variable is set to visitor level then successive requests could be fired throughout a visit but only the last one would be recorded as that visitor's values for a particular variable and it would remain the same on a subsequent visit (until it was changed). If the variable was set to have a page level scope then a new value would be recorded for each request/page combination.

The GA documentation is the best source of information on this and the series of articles by LunaMetrics has some good examples to help with understanding of concepts such as 'position' and 'scope'.

Google Analytics custom report (click image to enlarge)

Google Analytics

Tracking code
Each page was tagged with all the categories which would be used to create custom reports. Each custom variable was set by a separate line of code, so the tracking code for the roll up view needed to include the following lines:

_gaq.push('_setCustomVar',1, 'Continent', 'Europe', 3)
_gaq.push('_setCustomVar',2, 'Country', 'GB', 3)
_gaq.push('_setCustomVar',3, 'TreatmentArea', 'treatment 1', 3)
_gaq.push('_setCustomVar',4, 'Drug', 'drug 2', 3)

In this case, it was a page in Europe, in GB for 'treatment 1' and 'drug 3'.

Setting up reports
That meant that it was possible to create custom reports which showed the traffic received by country and drug, or any other combination of the categories above.

This was achieved by clicking on 'Custom Reporting' and then '+ New Custom Report'.

In 'Metric Group' the measures needed were added.

In 'Dimension Drilldowns', Custom Variable 2 (country) was selected and as a second 'Dimension Drilldown', Custom Variable 4 (Drug) was selected.

When this report was run (see figure), it showed 'Unique Visitors', 'Visits' and 'Bounce Rate' by all countries, and clicking on any country gave a breakdown by drug visited in that country.

So that was how the third requirement was fulfilled, aggregating traffic by things such as 'treatment area' or 'country' across all websites. In addition to that, it was simple for anyone in the organisation to create reports.

Ultimately this allowed both people at the 'coal face', undertaking the daily implementation, and senior management to understand and improve digital activity across countries, treatment areas and brands.

Analysing Google AdWords
Although analysis of Google AdWords was not a client requirement, it is interesting to consider the next steps in multiple brand and country tracking.

In the case described, the client objectives were met and each regional affiliate now has its own instance of GA that is connected to AdWords, as well as the web analytics team at HQ having access to the roll up account.

At some point in the future, it could be interesting to compare the number of campaigns each affiliate runs, how much each campaign costs or what the cost is per KPI for each affiliate, for example. In other words, there is a roll up view for the analytics but there isn't one for the AdWords accounts.

There are two ways to combine information from multiple AdWords accounts. One is to use My Client Centre, which is a service offered by Google that can be linked to several AdWords accounts and can display relevant information for all accounts in one place in one dashboard.

Advanced choice
Another option is to combine the Google Application Programming Interface (API) with a dashboard such as Geckoboard. Here a set of metrics from AdWords to be collected from each profile is decided. The data is downloaded and made available in the user's dashboard. This approach requires programming and gives the power to specify metrics that are not easily available through the standard interface. However, it also means that once a set of metrics has been decided upon, it is not easy to go back to make changes. Therefore it is especially important for an organisation to have a solid measurement framework in place before it can take this approach. So it is most appropriate for monitoring the deployment of a tactically complex strategy. This makes it the next logical step to take only after all the functionality of My Client Centre has been exhausted.

Web traffic data from websites or media and social activity should be accessible and pharmaceutical companies should experiment with the tools themselves in order to optimise their marketing activity.

David Asfaha, Blue Latitude
The Author
David Asfaha
is associate consultant at Blue Latitude

18th May 2012


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