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Growth Insights: Access and Implement Downstream Data to Grow Real Digital Performance

Published: February 19, 2020

Author: Stella Grenn

The majority of marketers optimize towards a simple conversion event and miss out on the bottom-line benefits reaped from evaluating the full conversion flow. This presents the challenge of translating early-stage conversions into business performance. The biggest opportunity costs lie in the failure to consider the access to downstream data and downstream data quality.

Downstream Data Gets You the Full Picture

The opportunity cost of optimizing an account without downstream data at the keyword or ad group level adds up quickly. Without granular downstream data, optimizations that any digital marketer would rely on become broad and short-sighted. Only with accurate and readily available downstream data can one start to implement full-funnel paid marketing strategies. 

A strong kick off-point is to identify the more profitable keywords or keyword groups. Traditional performance analyses may present contradicting results on keyword efficiencies compared with downstream analyses. Downstream performance insights can help to determine which keywords are better at getting people in the door and which are better at closing the deal. With a deeper understanding of the value that specific keywords provide to your business, routine bid changes and updates gain a new level of sophistication.
Without this deeper understanding of bottom-line performance, larger strategy decisions like budget allocation and KPI targets can be misguided and detract from the potential value that paid marketing adds to your business. In addition to identifying stronger performing keywords, downstream data provides a deeper insight into your channel and network performance. Paid marketers can use this information to balance their spending across networks to better achieve a more uniform downstream CPA or ROAS across a multitude of engines and channels.
In my recent experience, adjusting my bidding and budgeting strategy based on downstream data analyses allowed me to improve the application CPA for an online job marketplace organization by 15% while simultaneously driving application volume up by over 45%. These improvements in application volume and efficiency had a much larger impact on the business’s  bottom-line performance than any improvements that we had driven for registrations. The changes we made that set the stage for improved performance were auditing our tracking, establishing a more uniform UTM parameter strategy, and re-implementing tracking at a much more granular level. From there, we created labels in our engines to highlight the keywords, creatives, and audiences that were driving more downstream value. We worked to maximize our impression share on those higher-value terms and re-evaluated our creative strategy based on the strongest value propositions. As a more long-term strategy, we evaluated the downstream performance across networks and channels and re-balanced our investments to allocate more money to top performers. With all of these improvements in our strategy, we saw the above outlined improvements in performance within one quarter.

Don’t Settle for the Data You Have; Ask for the Data You Want

Access issues are particularly troubling because they don’t actively cause problems. If you’re using only 40% of what’s available, you may never know what you’re missing and how it can affect performance. Being able to take a step back and make sure that you are accessing the data that you want at the frequency you need will help to ensure that you are not missing out on any opportunities. Itemize the data that you want but don’t have, and verify that the data is not available. An ideal solution that we recommend to all teams is to set up a daily automated report with a 1-2 year lookback. 
Access issues can create harmful limitations on the granularity of available data. One of the most common problems we run into is that people accept the status quo and often have a false negative analysis of data quality based on data availability. Stronger teams will recognize the difference between what they currently have and what’s available. As a digital marketer, keeping track of all of the available parameters can be daunting. (Jay Hansborough of CallRail posted this super-useful article to  help you learn more about UTM tracking parameters and which type makes the most sense for your business.) Time and again, we realize a payoff from the effort to apply tracking at the most granular level possible to ensure that we have that much more data to work with when the need arises.
Improving lead quality is the name of the game, even when it comes at odds with front-end conversion efficiency. Rather than operating with the goal of driving the most registrations as possible, consider weeding out certain groups of people who register but never see the conversion flow all the way through. This will increase front-end CPAs, but it will help to reduce back-end CPAs over time as well.

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