Digital Marketing Measurement

Measurement is the foundation of marketing. Marketers measure responses to campaigns, click-through rates, conversions, bounce rates, and more, all to make more effective use of their time and resources. Without measurement, we’re unable to track the success rates of digital campaigns or customer journey attributions. 

However, as digital marketing has grown over the past two decades, so has the need for consumer privacy protection. Let’s examine the challenges of modern marketing measurement and how you can future-proof your campaigns with creative strategies.

The Challenge of Modern Marketing Measurement

Maintaining accuracy of measurement while ensuring customer data privacy is a challenge many modern marketers face. With the rise of online data privacy laws, innovative marketers must think outside the box when it comes to marketing attribution, consumer journeys, and more. Thankfully, this is an industry that’s always a match for whatever challenge comes along.

Data Privacy and Marketing Measurement 

Over the past few years, data privacy has become an increasingly important focus for governments. For example, the European Union passed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018. As one of, if not the toughest and strictest online security laws in the world, the GDPR imposes hefty fines against companies who violate the law’s “principles relating to processing of personal data.” In 2023, violation fines totaled over €2 billion.

2018 also saw the passage of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which informs consumers about how their data will be used and what they can do to opt out. Companies that violate the CCPA can be fined up to $7,500 per violation in civil lawsuits.

These are just two examples of the kinds of online privacy laws that are going into effect around the world.

While more privacy protection for consumers is a great win, what do all these new laws mean for marketers? We depend on the data collected by cookies and other analytics tools to measure marketing effectiveness, analyze consumer behavior, and target campaigns. What can we do now that won’t violate international laws?

Thankfully, marketers are adapting to the times. The biggest change is that they’re relying more on first-party data. Data collected directly from consumers not only creates more trust between users and corporations but is also a more reliable source of information for data analysis. Methods such as newsletters, surveys, and even social media interactions allow marketers to collect first-party data in essentially real time.

Companies are also trying out “data clean rooms.” These are secure environments that facilitate data sharing and analysis while protecting sensitive customer information that complies with international privacy laws. 

However, the full implementation of data clean rooms could take years. Marketers are, therefore, using another method of data collection called incrementality-based marketing attribution. This method emphasizes measuring the incremental effects of marketing actions on desired outcomes; in other words, maintaining careful observation of specific outcomes believed to result from marketing activities.

The Impact of Cookie Loss on Attribution 

The loss of cookies in the past few years has led to media under-reporting, as marketers are unable to track user journeys across websites or attribute sales to specific campaigns. Not all media channels are equally affected by cookie loss. Email and social media have seen little to no impact, but display awareness and display retargeting have been severely affected. That’s because these two media channels depend almost entirely on third-party cookies for measuring the effectiveness of specific campaigns (especially top-of-funnel). This can lead to marketers wondering where and how to spend their campaign money for maximum impact.

As an alternative, marketers are coming up with creative ways to track customer journeys and attribution beyond first-party data. Some of the more popular methods we’ve seen recently include:

  • Combining first-party data with web analytics, such as where and how your customer entered your website
  • Cross-channel optimization using Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM)
  • Anonymous identifiers that track a user through their journey
  • Server-side conversion application programming interfaces (APIs) that track user data from the servers that run your website, thereby bypassing third-party cookies. We’ll discuss this in more detail below.

Marketers are, by their very nature, a creative bunch. The loss of third-party cookies is but a hiccup for those prepared to try alternative methods of data collection.

Finding the Right Measurement Tools 

The right measurement tools are essential for collecting the appropriate data to help you make better marketing decisions. Tracking the data you need gives you more accurate results about how your campaigns are going and, therefore, where to continue spending your money, what’s working, and what’s not working.

Server-Side Tracking 

Server-side tracking collects data on a dedicated server that bypasses third-party cookie blockers. This allows for the modification and forwarding of data to marketers. Server-side data management, such as cloud delivery or gateway systems, streamlines data collection and distribution from a centralized server. This makes server-side tracking hugely beneficial for marketers, as they’re better able to comply with data privacy laws and gain a measure of data independence. 

However, server-side tracking isn’t without its challenges. It’s more technical than client-side tracking, which may require marketers to consider new hires or pay to upskill their employees. If these server-side methods aren’t implemented well, it could lead to insufficient or inaccurate data. 

Match-Market Testing 

Match-market testing focuses on comparing campaign results between similar markets. For example, placing an ad in one city but not a nearby city with similar demographics – say, Los Angeles vs San Francisco. The results show the impact your campaign has on consumer interest by giving you a comparable reference.

There are plenty of examples of successful test marketing campaigns to learn from. Before launching the iPhone to the general public in the late 2000s, Apple launched it in select markets. The feedback Apple gathered from these test markets allowed them to adjust the product and the campaign before the phone’s worldwide release. Although given only a small sample size, Apple was able to figure out what worked and what didn’t, thereby optimizing their more extensive iPhone campaign.

Best Practices for Marketing Measurement 

In marketing, as in any other industry, best practices help you work more efficiently and gain a better ROI for your efforts. As a refresher, here are some measurement best practices to follow:

  • Define clear objectives
  • Understand your target audience
  • Utilize a multi-channel approach
  • Make decisions based on data analysis
  • Stay agile and flexible

Continuous improvement and testing are two key ways to stay on top of your marketing best practices. Let’s examine them. 

Continuous Improvement

One of the most effective ways to optimize your marketing is through continuous improvement. Although this may seem obvious, it’s easy to forget when a campaign is working. Continuous improvement involves making incremental adjustments that increase the efficiency or attractiveness of your products, services, and processes.

Continuous improvement starts with regularly assessing and adjusting your measurement strategies. This helps you stay aligned with evolving market trends and customer preferences. It also allows you to identify areas where you can improve your performance and optimize your return on investment (ROI).

Through continuous improvement, you can also build more meaningful relationships with your target audience. When you consistently refine your marketing campaigns based on customer feedback and insights, you develop a deeper understanding of their needs and preferences. This, in turn, enables you to tailor your messaging and offerings to better meet their needs, giving you a competitive edge in the digital marketing landscape.

Experimentation and Testing 

Experimentation and testing, such as the match-market testing we mentioned above, allow you to assess the effectiveness of different strategies, channels, and campaigns. You can then better understand which tactics contribute most to conversions and customer engagement, which leads to more accurate attribution of marketing efforts. 

In the absence of cookies and other third-party measurement, testing can enhance accuracy by providing data-driven insights for informed decisions and better results. By running tests, you can gather information about how different variables interact with one another and how they affect outcomes. This information can then be used to make informed decisions that are backed by data rather than just intuition or guesswork. Testing can be especially valuable in complex systems where it’s difficult to predict how different factors will interact with one another. By running tests in these scenarios, you can gain a much deeper understanding of how the system works and how it can be optimized for better results.

Optimize Your Digital Marketing Measurement With Silverback Strategies

Silverback Strategies prioritizes effective measurement in all of our solutions and services, including Google Analytics Consulting. Our team of experts is ready to optimize your digital strategies, help you stay ahead of the competition, and establish yourself as the leading expert in your field.

Email us at or fill out our online contact form. Let’s work together to maximize your measurement success.