Your Marketing Metrics Are Misleading You—And It's About To Get Worse – Forbes

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Digital marketers are in the middle of an attribution crisis. Data you’ve historically used to measure the success level of your advertising campaigns is inaccurate, incomplete, and in some cases, phased out or going to be in the near future.
Marketers are often in the dark about the true effectiveness of their marketing and advertising strategies, and business owners are confused about why their organizations aren’t thriving.
It’s not just you.
It’s an industry-wide problem.
But, fortunately, there are solutions.
I’d argue the greatest strength of digital marketing is its intricate relationship with data. Following digital marketing strategies means getting access to much better, more refined data. Once you have that data, you can apply it in dynamic ways using a host of digital marketing techniques.
But this mutually supportive relationship relies on an important prerequisite—that your baseline data is completely accurate. If your data misleads you in any way, it starts to become detrimental, rather than helping in supporting your long-term marketing goals.
Historically, most marketers have blindly trusted tech juggernauts like Facebook and Google to provide reliable, eminently useful sets of data. But that’s beginning to change. There are effectively three major flaws when looking at in-platform numbers, and they are just going to become more prominent.
First, there’s the double attribution problem. Double attribution happens whenever a single customer conversion is counted twice (or even more times) across different touchpoints in the customer journey. This leads to an inflated sense of accomplishment in a given campaign, distorting your perception of your marketing performance and leading you to overestimate your earnings and ROI.
Second, there’s the problem of missed conversion data, which is only going to get worse with the new privacy law updates. Platforms often completely overlook or misrepresent certain pieces of conversion data. This is usually because of technical limitations or tracking issues. Either way, it distorts your total picture of how your campaigns are performing.
Third, Google and Facebook advertising algorithms preferentially select for remarketing and “warmed-up” traffic. They artificially prioritize people who are already familiar with your brand, giving you a boost in immediate results without giving you meaningful strides in terms of market reach or audience expansion. For example, conversion-based bidding goes after the lowest hanging fruit, and that tends to be warm traffic that the algorithm doesn’t know is warm.
In combination with each other, these problems produce an environment where it’s basically impossible to know your “true” conversion rate, estimate your marketing campaign’s effectiveness, or even glean insights to help you improve your marketing effectiveness in the future. It’s going to become impossible to determine the true effectiveness of your ads.
It gets worse.
Note that these problems have existed for many years in an environment with ample access to data. By late 2024, that landscape is going to be completely overhauled because of the degradation of third-party cookies.
Without getting too far into the weeds of this problem, Google, Apple, Mozilla, and a host of other tech companies have pledged to eliminate third-party cookies entirely by the end of the year. Originally, the plan was to eliminate these cookies by the end of 2023, but this plan has been moderately delayed. Third-party cookies are pieces of data linked to individual users, which are invaluable in tracking, understanding, predicting, and guiding user behavior.
Without third-party cookies, marketers and advertisers are going to have less data and less reliable data to work with. Compounding with the other problems of this marketing metric apocalypse, marketers and advertisers will be working with blinders on in late 2024 and beyond.
So what can you do in this environment?
It’s too late to rail against the death of third-party cookies and there’s not much you can do to change how companies like Facebook and Google present data. But what you can do is change your approach—and some marketing innovators are already doing it.
According to Caden Thompson of CProGrowth, “Our commitment lies in ensuring that our clients see tangible results reflected directly in their bottom line—results you can feel rather than just observe through misleading metrics. This holistic approach heralds a new era in digital marketing where P&L efficiency takes precedence over simplistic metric-based assessments.”
Thompson’s approach acknowledges the absence of strong, reliable data from tech juggernauts and fills that void by digging deep into a company’s performance data. Looking at items like P&L statements, net revenue reports, results from incrementality testing, and a host of traditional marketing metrics. The goal is to get a much more accurate, complete picture of your marketing results so you can refine your campaigns, increase your omnichannel efficiency, and therefore your profitability.
Digital marketers and advertisers are facing an uphill battle, and that battle is going to become even more fierce as third-party cookies face an admittedly slow, but inevitable demise. Without reliable data, marketers can’t possibly see optimal results. The only solution is to adopt a new paradigm of gathering and analyzing data for digital marketing campaigns, and it’s reasonable to conclude that businesses that adapt will have an advantage over businesses that don’t.
It’s still relatively early in this new era, so it’s hard to say exactly how it plays out from here. But already, digital marketing experts are finding success in drawing in broader sets of data and more effectively examining the impact of various marketing tactics on the financial health of the businesses utilizing them. P&L statements and hard, accurate data sources have always been important for determining effectiveness and optimizing marketing and advertising campaigns—but the gap between companies that do and don’t utilize these sources is going to become much more noticeable in the coming years.

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