Programmatic Search Makes Attribution Tough For Marketers

What keywords generate the phone call? Many markets don't know. Why? As more media buys go through programmatic channels, it becomes increasingly difficult for marketers to track the complete purchase path.

The buying gets done based on automated rules and reporting structures, but the path doesn't consider phone calls.

What happens when the traditional interface to the Internet disappears and machine-to-machine advertising and marketing take over? It becomes automated, relying on humans to input creativity before the machine makes the bid?

Programmatic continues to outpace traditional direct sales for desktop and mobile. We've seen the numbers that suggest millions, if not billion, are going through programmatic channels from television to display, search and video. If someone makes a phone call to purchase a product, the marketer may never know how to attribute the call, says Eric Holmen, EVP marketing at Invoca, and Scott Hamilton, VP of business development at Inovca.



Programmatic automates the process, stuffing data into the system, but in the process, can lose sight of the path consumers walk through the marketing funnel. What-if rules muddy the view keeping marketers from understanding how much of what media drove the purchase.

Marketers know that the consumer made a phone call, but they're not sure how much of that phone call they should attribute to the sale.

Investing in consumers who pick up the phone to call makes sense, but attributing the phone call to the sale isn't easy. It's also important to follow closely what callers say on the phone. Consumers will typically say the very words on the phone while talking with a customer service or sales person they use to search for information on the Web.

Monitoring the phone conversation for specific keywords can tell the company at what stage in the purchase path the consumer sits, and use the words later for retargeting based on the context of the call.

The biggest problem: pick up the phone and the analytics to track attribution disappears. For some two-thirds of U.S. businesses, the cash register doesn't ring until the phone does, Hamilton says, citing BIA/Kelsey numbers. The analyst firm estimates consumers will make 77 billion calls to businesses from Google search ads in the United States this year, reaching 162 billion by 2019.

First marketers need to solve attribution, reporting, analytics and integration tied to programmatic media buying. Next comes the ability to make payment while on a call without giving the credit-card information to the rep on the other end of the phone.

Hamilton and Holman, who agree the world is not ready for this type of technology. They spoke about automated payments through voice calls where the consumer would store credit-card information in the cloud and authorize the payment with a command, such as "OK Google, authorize the payment." 

2 comments about "Programmatic Search Makes Attribution Tough For Marketers".
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  1. Blair Symes from DialogTech, September 4, 2015 at 5:07 p.m.

    Since most searches occur on smartphones and mobile now, and those searches often result in a phone call (billions each monthin the US), call attribution technology has become essential for marketers. If you are exploring a call attribution solution for search you should look for one that does things like track calls from Google call extensions at the keyword-level, integrate out-of-the-box with bid management tools, and give you technology to control and monitor what happens during the call. Here is an example from a case study of what that looks like:

  2. Jonathan Rykman from AdReady, September 8, 2015 at 2:36 p.m.

    By implementing call tracking on your campaigns, you are able to attribute the conversion back to the source, giving you full transparency into the funnel.  This allows you to see where campaigns are working well & optimize accordingly to maximize your ROI.  If clients aren't making money unless the phone rings, you can actually build out specific campaigns focused around generating inbound callers.  These campaigns typically yield extremely high quality & conversions as you have 3 levels of user engagement before they ever place a call.  We have seen great success for our clients in creating & scaling pay per calls for them. You can read more about this success on our site: 

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