Campaigns & The None Row [SiteCatalyst]
The “None” row in SiteCatalyst. You either love it or hate it. It is amazing how far I have seen some companies go to avoid it and banish it from their reports. Personally, I love the “None” row and often try to explain to people its uses. In this post, I will review what the “None” row is and explain why not using it for Campaign Tracking can hurt your SiteCatalyst implementation.
The “None” Row Re-Visited
Way back in 2008, I explained the “None” row (apparently before images were allowed in blog posts ;-)) as part of my explanation of Conversion Variables (eVars). For those unfamiliar, eVars store values that are collected along the way and when a Success Event takes place, the current value of each eVar gets credit for the Success Event. For example, if eVar 1 captures the zip code of 60035 and a form completion Success Event takes place, that form completion would be attributed to the zip code 60035. But what if no zip code had been passed to eVar 1? In that case, the Success Event would be attributed to the “None” row so that the total of the rows in the eVar report matches the total of form completions for the same time period. That is really all the “None” row is used for in SIteCatalyst. However, in the next section, I will show you the most common “None” row mistake I see and how to avoid it.
“None” Rows Gone Bad – Campaigns
The tracking of marketing campaigns is one of the most important uses of the “None” row. When visitors come to your website, it is customary to track their arrival with a marketing campaign tracking code. This might be a paid search keyword identifier, a friendly URL name or a tracking code associated with a social media campaign. More advanced companies (a.k.a. my clients) go even further and pass unpaid referrals a tracking code for things like SEO or external websites. Therefore, in the Campaigns (s.campaigns) SiteCatalyst report, the “None” row either represents the unpaid visits to your site or, if you are tracking paid and unpaid referrals, it represents your “Typed/Bookmarked” traffic.
So let’s imagine that in your implementation, you have tracking codes for all paid and unpaid referrals to your website and that the “None” row truly represents traffic that is typed/bookmarked. Let’s also suppose that you decide to have two versions of your Campaigns report in which the Campaigns variable (s.campaigns) expires at the Visit and another custom Campaign eVar expires after 30 days. The latter is common as many marketers want to see if the same visitor who came to the website from a specific tracking code comes back in the next 30 days and if so, to attribute success to that tracking code.
However, now let’s say that your new mean boss tells you that he/she doesn’t like seeing the “None” row in the two Campaign reports. They say to you:”If it represents Typed/Bookmarked, why don’t we just pass that into SiteCatalyst so it is easily understood by everyone” (Since executives are great at simplifying things right?). So you have your developer write some code that passes in “Typed/Bookmarked” in the s.campaigns and the custom eVar variable if no known referrer is found. There is no more “None” row and everybody is happy.
Unfortunately, I have seen this scenario play out too many times. If you do what I just described, you have just ruined your Campaign eVar that has a 30 day expiration. By passing in a catch-all value of “Typed/Bookmarked” in the 30 day expiration eVar, you have forced SiteCatalyst to replace its current value with a new value of “Typed/Bookmarked.” In the previous example, if the visitor who came from the paid search keyword comes back a week later and types in your company’s URL, the paid search keyword will be overwritten. This means that you are taking away credit from paid campaigns and punishing them in cases where visitors actually remember your brand and come back to you a second time (and decide not to cost you money both times!). Passing in a catch-all value of “Typed/Bookmarked” turns your 30 day expiration into a Visit expiration. In this scenario, we already had a Campaign variable that had Visit expiration, but thanks to your boss, who doesn’t understand SiteCatalyst, you now have two of them!
This example illustrates the magic of the “None” row. It provides a way to see what percent of your success can be attributed to a specific value and what percent cannot. In the case of marketing campaigns, the “None” row represents the Typed/Bookmarked segment, and since no value is being passed, it has the added benefit of allowing your Campaign eVars that expire beyond the Visit to attribute success as intended. The same principle applies to all other eVars, but I find that Campaigns is the area in which my clients make this mistake most often. Therefore, my advice is to not be afraid of the “None” row, but rather, to embrace it and bask in its glory!
If Your Boss Really Hates The “None” Row
Lastly, if for some reason, you cannot convince your boss to live with the “None” row, there is one more trick I can show you to appease them. Unbeknownst to many SiteCatalyst users, it is possible to classify the “None” row. When building a SAINT file, if you use the value “~none~” as shown here, you can put whatever value you’d like for the “None” row in the classification report. Here I am showing renaming the “none” row with “Typed-Bookmarked” in a Marketing Channel classification of the Campaign variable.
However if you really wanted to, you could create a new “Cleaned Campaign Code” classification of the Campaigns report and assign a different value to the “None” row. Personally, I think this is cumbersome and would never do it, but it is technically possible if you really need to have a version of your low level camapign codes and don’t want to see a “None” row.
Hopefully this post will help those who may have inadvertently fallen into the trap described above, or at the very least, help others avoid it in the future. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks!