Coremetrics: Tracking Technology and Best Practices

How can we help business managers create highly targeted marketing campaigns to drive results? By implementing Coremetrics, a web analytics solution with the ability to handle data efficiently and provide customized reporting. This article provides a brief overview of the Coremetrics implementation process, and offers some best practices based on Zobrist Consulting’s experience tagging both average and high traffic websites.

Process

Coremetrics implementation consists of four phases: design, development, validation, and acceptance. In the design phase, a Coremetrics implementation engineer meets with marketing and development teams to gather analytics requirements and define an integration plan. The Web developer then tags the pages, and the website goes through validation to ensure that the captured data is accurate. The implementation acceptance phase follows successful validation, marking the official end of the implementation process and the point at which Coremetrics begins to store data permanently.

Tracking Technology

In order to facilitate the tracking process, Coremetrics provides JavaScript library files to be hosted on the customer’s servers. The library files consist of functions used to create tags and populate the correct values within the tags; the web developer inserts the appropriate functions on the site pages. When a webpage is rendered, the JavaScript code gathers data and encapsulates it in an image request that is sent to the Coremetrics servers. The relevant data is parsed out of the image request, and entered it into the Coremetrics data warehouse. A 1×1 pixel GIF image is then returned in the response, but the image is not written directly into the page, so the page layout is not affected.

Tag Overview

The JavaScript tags fall under two main categories: data tags & marketing campaign tags.

Data Tags

The following chart shows the tags that are used to capture data during the different stages of a typical shopping flow:

Data Tags Stages of a Typical Shopping Flow

Data Tags Stages of a Typical Shopping Flow

Marketing Campaign Tags

Off-site marketing: Paid search, micro site referral, email campaigns and other off-site marketing campaigns are tracked using a special URL parameter (cm_mmc). The cm_mmc parameter is appended to the referring URL. This tag offers flexibility, since the marketing team can add, remove or refine campaign tracking without modifying code.

On-site marketing: The Web developer appends either the site promotions tag (cm_sp) or the real estate tag (cm_re) to the appropriate links embedded within the code.  The site promotions tag measures the performance of links across multiple pages, while the real estate tag compares the performance of links on a single page.

Tagging Best Practices

  • The Coremetrics page ID is a unique identifier for each page that is tracked within the Coremetrics reporting system. Enforce unique page IDs across tracked pages to ensure that multiple pages are not counted as the same page.
  • The page ID for a particular page should not change over time. The same page would be associated with more than one page ID in the reporting, which would make it difficult to track the performance of the page over time.
  • The marketing team has two options when setting up page IDs: pass in an explicit page ID as a parameter to the pageview tag, or use the browser page title as the page ID (default behavior). Using the browser page title is often a quick and easy solution but should be avoided if not all web pages have unique titles, or if the marketing team plans to periodically update browser page titles, for SEO purposes for example.
  • Add a name attribute in HTML anchor elements to differentiate links. Without link differentiation, Coremetrics treats links that point to the same destination as one and the same. In this case, the collected data relates to the links as a group and does not provide enough detail on the performance and conversion of individual links.
  • When tracking traffic on intra-page content, such as video hop-ups and photo galleries, use element tags instead of pageview tags. Inserting more than one pageview tag on a single page usually causes traffic numbers to be inflated. The page count goes up, not because users are viewing more pages, but because a single page is sending multiple pageviews.
  • Reactivate the Coremetrics Test server if your site is continuously evolving. By default, Coremetrics will deactivate the Test server once the implementation has been accepted. The Coremetrics Test environment allows the team to detect tagging errors that may be caused by ongoing development before these errors get propagated to the production site.
  • Implement the Data Integrity Process. DIP is an add-on service to measure the implementation accuracy, and provides a quick and efficient way to detect e-commerce transaction tagging problems as the site changes over time.

Post-Acceptance: Keep the Tagging up to Speed with Site Changes

Site tagging does not end with implementation acceptance: implementing analytics is an ongoing process. The need for additional metrics increases as the site evolves and business needs change. If a marketing team redesigns a page to include a video module, for example, they will most likely need numbers to measure the success of the new initiative.

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