My Vision for SiteCatalyst Marketing Channels

Peter O’Neill
Reading time: 6 minutes
1st April 2011

Note: This post has moved from to Ayima as part of the 2018 acquisition.

Having used various web analytics tools, I found one of the biggest weaknesses of SiteCatalyst to be the lack of an out of the box report that covered all traffic sources.  The campaign reports only included campaign traffic, the referrer group of reports didn’t identify the channel and visits weren’t de-duplicated across the different reports.  There were alternatives, Unified Sources is built off a VISTA rule and Channel Manager uses JavaScript but while both were said to produce the reports I was after (I never actually used either), they were not standard and cost extra.  So I was very relieved when Marketing Channels was released last year.

Upon first impression, here was everything I wanted and the UI for setting it all up was remarkably easy and intuitive too.  All traffic sources were included and users had the option of either First or Last Touch attribution methods.  As many channels as desired could be included and then it allowed for the user to drill down a level.  The set-up was so easy, anyone with some knowledge and experience with web analytics could do it themselves instead of requiring an implementation specialist to be involved.  Basically Omniture/Adobe had resolved one of my key issues with SiteCatalyst.

However, now having used Marketing Channels with various clients, I want more.  Hopefully Adobe is working to evolve this feature although I haven’t read anything related to an upgraded version with the recent announcements of SiteCatalyst v15.  So I thought I would give my feedback but also provide my vision for an improved version of SiteCatalyst Marketing Channels.

Classifications built off each channel separately

SAINT Classifications can be applied to Marketing Channels in just the same way as other variables.  For all channels that are derived from links tagged with a SiteCatalyst campaign ID, the Channel Detail generally is that SiteCatalyst campaign ID.  Therefore, you can migrate your Campaign classifications over to Marketing Channels.  The problem is that you might have five or six classifications for each channel with only a couple overlapping.  This causes three issues:

  • The limit of 30 classifications for a single variable can be exceeded
  • It makes the process of uploading classifications more intimidating with lots of blank columns
  • When looking to select a report within a channel, the full range of classification is presented to select from with this again intimidating to non-analysts.

The solution is for Adobe to build functionality for SAINT Classifications for Marketing Channels to be unique to each channel.  If you have 10 channels, then you have the options to set up 10 sets of classifications.  Some fields can be common across multiple channels such as campaign but the majority would be unique to each.

Visits and bounce rate as default metrics

I think this will be resolved with the introduction of SiteCatalyst v15 but I have a few basic metrics that I start with whenever comparing the performance of traffic sources.  Key metrics in this list are Visits and Bounce Rate.  Now visits will be available for all eVars by default in the future while Bounce Rate will be introduced as a standard metric finally.  This must be available as a default metric for Marketing Channels as well.

Linked to pathing reports

I like to know how visitors access a website and whereabouts on the site they land.  That means traffic sources and entry pages (via pathing reports) need to be linked up.  As Marketing Channels is built off eVars and Pathing variables are built off s.props, this is not possible without Discover.  As a basic requirement for analysing traffic sources, all marketing channels variables need to be sub-related (I think that is the right term) with entry pages – and indeed all content metrics that are set up for pathing and lend themselves to landing page analysis e.g. Site Section.  This enables investigations such as what was the breakdown of visits between Home, Category, Product List and Product Detail pages for Paid Search and what was the Bounce Rate for each Page Type.

Unlimited breakdowns within classifications

Currently, you can select the channel report or the report for a particular classification.  Then you can drill down one level for a more detailed report.  Given the way Marketing Channels works, you might have five or more classifications for a particular channel, these being different ways of segmenting the data i.e. for Display you might have Campaign, Sub-Campaign, Creative Type, Creative Size, Website and Ad Content.  You need to be able to filter and drill through these classifications in any way you choose.  Classification Hierarchies allow for one option only so this is not a satisfactory solution.

Integration with External Search and Referrer reports

The Channel Detail for Organic Search should always going to relate to the Search Engine, Search Term or both.  This information is also captured elsewhere in the External Search reports.  It would make much more sense for Organic Search to be automatically linked to these reports, eliminating the need for Channel Detail to be captured for this channel.

This should also apply to Paid Search although in this case, the Channel Detail would still be used to capture the SiteCatalyst campaign ID.  Classifications built off this would relate to the search term purchased, match type and search engine network.  This can be contrasted against the information captured automatically on the actual search term and search engine used to access the website.

In a similar way, every entry to a website has a referrer (even if that referrer is None).  This information should be automatically linked to all channels, removing the need to capture referrer as Channel Detail for Internal and External Referrers.  The user can drill through from any channel to see Referrer or Referring Domain data, gaining access to information not necessarily captured in campaign IDs.  The Referrer Type report is effectively obsolete now with the release of Marketing Channels.

Reports at top level

The current default view for the Marketing Channels is quite basic with five menu items, although two allow you to select any of a multitude of reports.  This should be reworked, making it easy for the user to get to the information they need.

Marketing Channels Menu

For starters, I would split it into two menu items, one for each attribution model.  Most people in an organisation should have access to only one attribution model (the other hidden) otherwise you risk them picking and choosing the numbers which suit them best.  The web analytics team would retain access to both attribution models (all if more are introduced in the future).

Each menu would have available at the first level:

  • Channel Overview – is the same as the First/Last Touch Channel report displaying selected metrics across all channels
  • Channel Reports – allows you to select a specific channel with the report displayed being the one identified as key for that channel
  • Tagged Channel Reports  – choose from a selection of reports but only for selected classifications/reports that exist across multiple tagged channels e.g. Campaign, Campaign ID
  • Search Reports – allows you to select search term or search engine reports plus any more customised search related reports you might have set-up e.g. search ranking
  • Referrer Reports – allows you to select Referring Domain or Referrer reports across all channels

As previously described, you would be able to drill through from any of these reports through to other related reports.  The search term and referrer data would all need to be First Touch or Last Touch as well to ensure consistency.


That will do as a nice wishlist to start with.  I do think Marketing Channels was a big step forward for SiteCatalyst in terms of an intuitive set up and ease of use.  These requests are taking it to the next level, making sure that users can get the information they need easily and quickly.  I don’t think upgrades of this nature are included in SiteCatalyst v15 but I am hoping the new backend that has been developed makes it possible.

If someone at Adobe wanted to go through my vision of an improved version of Marketing Channels in detail with me, I would be happy to have a chat.  And if anyone else has any questions about setting up or using Marketing Channels, feel free to ask away.

Written By Peter O’Neill
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