As part of our 2019 Fall Product Release, Terminus has invested considerably in a new solution to ensure that our advertising traffic is both easy to identify, and accurately evaluated, in commonly-used tools like Google Analytics.
The primary objective of this new capability is to identify and separate media verification traffic from human traffic within your reporting interface.
Article quick links:
- What is media verification, and why is it necessary?
- Who initiates media verification, and when does it happen?
- What challenges can media verification present?
- How does Terminus address these challenges?
- How can I exclude “non-human” traffic from my Google Analytics reporting?
What is media verification, and why is it necessary?
Ad verification, or media verification, is a standard process used by advertisers (e.g. ad networks and vendors) to confirm that your ads comply with certain terms and digital advertising best practices, and allows them to bid on premium ad inventory.
Advertisers typically use this process to ensure:
- The content of the advertisement meets their editorial standards (i.e. doesn’t have images or language they deem “inappropriate”)
- If the advertisement contains a URL, that it goes to a legitimate website, and that the person clicking on the ad won’t be subjected to a poor user experience, including: offensive content, irritating pop-ups and other practices that trigger ad blockers, and malware
Who initiates media verification, and when does it happen?
Media verification can be initiated by:
- The publisher website displaying the ad
- A variety of ad exchanges that serve as middle-men, connecting ad inventory with brands who want to display ads
In many cases, the verification is done by a third-party company. Major players in this space include:
- The Media Trust
When Terminus customers launch a new advertising tactic, or update their current creative in a running tactic (e.g. upload new creative files, or update landing page URLs for existing creatives), it will result in media verification ad clicks and/or direct visits to your landing page.
What challenges can media verification present?
In order to weed out fraudulent or unsavory advertising practices, the media verification process is designed to mimic “human” traffic. Once it reaches the advertiser website, however, it quickly scans the content and then bounces off the site.
This can result in seemingly poor performance metrics inside a tool like Google Analytics, including:
- High bounce rates
- Low time on site
Additionally, many tools (like Google Analytics, marketing automation platforms, and landing page tools) that leverage IP-lookup technology are not able to accurately associate this traffic back to the media verification service companies in their reporting. As a result, it can look like traffic from your Terminus advertising campaigns is coming from companies outside of your target audience.
How does Terminus address these challenges?
To address the challenges presented by media verification, Terminus has partnered with a leading fraud detection company to separate “human” traffic from “non-human traffic” in real-time. Non-human traffic includes:
- Media verification
- Ad fraud
- Miscellaneous non-fraud bot traffic (e.g. web crawlers/spiders, site testers, etc.)
This makes it easier to report on the quality of your website engagement from Terminus-sourced traffic within tools like Google Analytics, and other third-party site traffic source reports.
This update is made in addition to the measures Terminus already has in place to ensure that our customers have access to the highest quality advertising inventory, including:
- Site blacklists
- IP blacklists
- Ad viewability optimization
- Brand safety protection
- Third-party audits of every bid, impression, and click
How can I exclude “non-human” traffic from my Google Analytics reporting?
As previously stated, media verification is a standard industry process that allows advertisers to bid on premium ad inventory. In order to allow the media verification process to go through, and to make it easy for customers to filter out this “non-human” traffic from their analytics reporting, the following update has been made:
If traffic coming from a Terminus ad click is identified as “non-human,” our system will add a custom UTM parameter, utm_TrafficCategory=Server, to your landing page URL, and will remove utm_source=terminus before sending the clicking visitors to your site.
Customers Already Using Terminus-Specific UTMs
For customers that already use “utm_source=terminus” (or any Terminus-specific UTM parameter) in their advertising landing page URLs, your source reports should already include this update, and no further action needs to be taken.
This is considered to be best practice for tracking your Terminus advertising efforts. More details on our recommendations around UTMs, campaign structure, and data hygiene can be found here.
Customers Not Using Terminus-Specific UTMs
Customers that do not use Terminus-specific UTM parameters in their advertising landing page URLs can take the following steps to separate out this traffic in Google Analytics.
Step 1: Create a Custom Dimension in Google Analytics
- In GA, Click Admin > Property > Custom Definitions > Custom Dimension > + New Custom Dimension.
- Name the custom dimension: utm_TrafficCategory
- Scope: Session
- Once the dimension is created, open Google Tag Manager
Step 2: Set Up Variables in Google Tag Manager
- In GTM, click Variables > User-Defined Variables > click New
- Name: utm_TrafficCategory
- Click Variable Configuration and select URL as the variable type.
- On the Variable Configuration page, set the Component Type to Query.
- Query Key: utm_TrafficCategory
- More Settings > URL Source: Page URL / Default
Step 3: Create a New Tag in Google Tag Manager
- In GTM, click Tags > New > Name the tag
- Tag Configuration: “Google Analytics: Universal Analytics”
- Track Type: Page View
- Google Analytics Settings: Enable overriding settings in this tag
- Tracking ID: This ties back to the Google Analytics account you are using.
- Fields to Set:
- Field Name: cookieDomain
- Value: auto
- Custom Dimensions:
- Index: The value displayed in the custom dimension JS.
- Dimension Value: utm_TrafficCategory
- Ecommerce > Enable Enhanced Ecommerce Features: False
- Cross Domain Tracking:
- Use Hash as Delimiter: False
- Decorate Forms: False
- Advanced Configuration:
- Use Debug Version: False
- Enable Enhanced Link Attribution: False
- Set Tracker Name: False
- Triggering > All Pages
Step 4: Create New Segment in Google Analytics
- In GA, click into Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals
- Add Segment > New Segment > Conditions
- Ad Content > Custom Dimensions, select utm_TrafficCategory
- Operator: does not exactly match
- Value: Server
- Please note that it will take 24 hours to see the data in Google Analytics once the setup is complete.
Note: The steps above to exclude “non-human” traffic do not apply to traffic driven to a website via HTML5 creatives. HTML5 ad files execute their own code which is not compatible with this solution to filter traffic at this time. If you heavily leverage HTML5 ads, we recommend relying on in-platform reporting in Terminus to review ad impressions, clicks, and website visits.
If you have any additional questions related to the steps mentioned above, or the topics discussed in this document, please reach out to the Terminus Support team at support.terminus.com.