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Anonymous People & Attribution

This post sets out to demistify the enigma of anonymous people and how they interact with your attribution smart campaigns. Once we have gone through the quirks of tracking attribution for anonymous people I will show you how to modify your smart campaigns so that these leads will always get their first and last touch attribution fields set correctly.

 

While this post focuses exclusively on attribution, if you want to learn more about anonymous people in general then see the Understanding Anonymous Activity and People documentation.

 

Attribution Program Setup

 

Before beginning with this post, I first recommend taking a look at the UTM Tracking & Automation post where I walk through how to set up attribution programs and smart campaigns to track visits and conversions from ad campaigns where UTM parameters are being used. The same setup outlined in this previous post can also be used for tracking organic search, social, and referral visits and conversions with only changes to the “01 Visit” campaign being needed.

 

Attribution Program OverviewAttribution Program Overview

 

 

Tracking Organic Page Visits

 

Since organic search, social, and referral visitors to your site are not tagged with UTM parameters the “Visits Web Page” smart campaign trigger needs to be modified to use the “Referrer” constraint to filter for the organic search (e.g. google), organic social (e.g. reddit), or organic referral (e.g. g2) platform that led the person to your site.

 

The “Querystring” constraint is then used to exclude any visits that contain UTM parameters from campaigns that we are tracking with other smart campaigns. This is to stop these organic smart campaigns from stealing attribution from these other UTM tagged campaigns, which are typically paid campaigns who we want to be prioritized in getting attribution.

 

Tracking web page visits for organic channelsTracking web page visits for organic channels

 

 

Tracking web page visits for campaigns that use UTM parametersTracking web page visits for campaigns that use UTM parameters

 

 

Anonymous People Attribution Issues

 

While anonymous people can qualify for campaigns with “Visit Web Page” triggers while anonymous, they will not appear as members of these smart campaigns until they become known i.e. they fill out a form on your site or get un-anonymized another way.

 

Additionally, when a lead becomes known they will pass through the flows of all smart campaigns that they qualified for when they were anonymous BUT here’s the rub:

 

  • The Change Program Status step will not work.
  • They are not guaranteed to pass through the smart campaign flows in the same order that they actually qualified for the campaigns. For example, if they do Action 1 to qualify for Campaign 1 at 1 o’clock and then do Action 2 to qualify for Campaign 2 at 2 o’clock, we are not guaranteed that the person will go throw the flow of campaign 1 before the flow of campaign 2 once they become known. As shown in the video below, this can be troublesome because attribution can be stolen away from your paid attribution campaigns and the person’s “Latest Touch” field may not be accurate.

 

Setting Program Status Of Unanonymized People

 

The 03 Anonymous smart campaign (from the “Attribution Program Overview” image above) is scheduled to run periodically and take anyone who is a member of the 01 Visits campaign and add them to the program in the Visited status if they are not already a member of the program i.e. they have not passed through the 02 Converted or 02 Contacted smart campaigns.


Detecting unanonymized people who need to be added as program membersDetecting unanonymized people who need to be added as program members

 


Adding unanonymized people to the program in the visited statusAdding unanonymized people to the program in the visited status

 

You might be wondering how they can be known without having passed through the 02 Converted or 02 Contacted smart campaigns of the attribution program and already being made a member. Well, this can happen when anonymous people become known from a campaign in a different program e.g. another attribution program, a webinar program, an email program etc, and while they will be a member of this other program they will not be a member of this current attribution program until the 03 Anonymous smart campaign runs.

 

Since the 02 Converted and 02 Contacted campaign triggers are based on a person filling out a form, being created i.e. unanonymized, or an existing known lead’s data value changing, the lead is already known when passing through the flow of these campaigns so the Change Program Status step works (see the “Conversion Tracking Campaigns” section of the UTM Tracking & Automation post).

 

Setting the Priority Order of Attribution Campaigns

 

pic vid.PNG

 

 

As shown in the example in the video, the former anonymous people passes through the flows of all the campaigns they qualified for while anonymous but the order that they pass through these campaigns is not the same as the order that they actually triggered the campaigns. This caused the organic Google attribution program to steal attribution from a paid search Google attribution program.

 

In order to stop the stealing of attribution from paid campaigns, delays are introduced in the flows of the organic search, social, and referral campaigns so that these campaigns are de-prioritized in the queue of smart campaigns, thereby ensuring that the paid attribution campaigns will always run first.

 

Within the “My Tokens” section of the overarching “Operations” folder, which contains all attribution programs, the delays for the organic search, social, and referral channels are set. In the example in the image below, we see that organic search will have the lowest priority and will run last since it has the longest delay.

 

The choice of the delays for each attribution channel is arbitrary. You can shorten the delays for each channel but make sure that you do not make the difference in delay between the channels too small such that Marketo no longer de-prioritizes the campaigns with the longer delays.

 

"Operations" folder hierarchy"Operations" folder hierarchy

 

Delay tokens for each organic channelDelay tokens for each organic channel

 

Once anonymous people become known and pass through any of the organic campaigns, a temporary time field is updated to the current time plus the delay for the organic channel. Then this time field is used in the “Wait Until” flow step to delay for the appropriate amount of time for this organic channel. Remember that since the paid attribution campaign flows do not have any delays they will always run first followed then by the organic social, referral, and search campaigns in this order.

 

Flow steps used to delay organic attribution campaignsFlow steps used to delay organic attribution campaigns

 

Stop High-Frequency Updates to “Latest Touch”

 

As shown in the video above, when former anonymous people pass through all the campaigns they qualified for while anonymous at the same time when they become known, this causes their “Latest Touch” field to update multiple times in quick succession.

 

According to the prioritization logic we have above, paid attribution campaigns will run first before any of the other organic attribution campaigns. While this means the former anonymous people will have their first touch attribution fields prioritized to be set to paid values, their “Latest Touch” field could be overridden by any organic attribution flows that may run afterward.

 

To prevent this from happening 3 smart lists are created to track recent changes in a person’s “Latest Touch” field and any recent web page visits they’ve had with UTM parameters in the querystring. Then the flow of all the organic attribution campaigns will only update the “Latest Touch” field if people are NOT members of the smart list for that organic channel.

 

  • Organic social campaigns will check that people have not visited any web pages with paid UTM parameters in the querystring in the past 30 minutes and have not had their “Latest Touch” field updated to a paid value in the past 5 minutes (UTM Activity Recently Paid smart list)
  • Organic referral campaigns will check that people have not visited any web pages with paid or social UTM parameters in the querystring in the past 30 minutes and have not had their “Latest Touch” field updated to a paid or organic social value in the past 5 minutes (UTM Activity Recently Paid + Social smart list)
  • Organic search campaigns will check that people have not visited any web pages with paid, social, or referral UTM parameters in the querystring in the past 30 minutes and have not had their “Latest Touch” field updated to a paid, social, or referral value in the past 5 minutes (UTM Activity Recently Paid+Social+Referral smart list)

 

Smart lists used to decide whether to update "Latest Touch"Smart lists used to decide whether to update "Latest Touch"

 

Updating the "Latest Touch"Updating the "Latest Touch"

 

The choice of 30 minutes as the constraint for the “Visited Web Page” filter was arbitrary but we thought that any web page visits within the same 30 minute period should all be classified as the same session and only lead to 1 change in the “Latest Touch” field.

 

Similarly, the choice of 5 minutes for the “Data Value Changed” constraint is also arbitrary but we thought that 5 minutes was long enough for former anonymous people to pass through all the backlogged attribution campaigns. Since we used a 2-minute delay for organic search attribution campaigns we had to at least wait this long and 5 minutes seemed like a good marker to choose as a result.

 

Anonymous People Cleanup?

 

After reading this post and finding out that organic campaigns might have been stealing attribution from your paid campaigns all along you might have some serious backdating to do to fix the first touch attribution fields on former anonymous people.

 

While this might sound like a nightmare, the API was made for doing bulk updates and might be able to help make this cleanup easier. So take a look at the Quick-Start Guide to the REST API post to learn how to make your first API requests and then see how it can be applied to modify leads and programs in bulk in the examples below:

 

 

The content in this blog has been reviewed by the Community Manager to ensure that it is following Marketing Nation Community guidelines. If you have concerns or questions, please reach out to @Jon_Chen or comment down below.

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