FAQ: Tracking Conversions

I want to track conversions-- i.e. I want to know which of my ads are actually resulting in sales. Can Sawmill do that?

Short Answer

Yes -- encode source information in your URLs and use global filters to show the top entry pages for your "success" page.

Long Answer

If you advertise your web site, one of the most useful pieces of information you can get from Sawmill is information on "conversions"; i.e. how effective your ads are at actually generating sales, sign-ups, or whatever it is that makes your site a success. Sawmill can provide highly detailed conversion information with a little effort. Here's how you do it:

  1. Make sure that every URL leading to your site is tagged with information that tells you where it came from. E.g. for an Overture keyword "red umbrellas" use http://www.mysite.com/?source=overture&keyword=red+umbrellas. Do the same for all ads. This is a good idea anyway (and Overture recommends it), but it's essential if you want to track conversions in Sawmill. Do this for every link leading to your site. Obviously, you can't do this for URLs you have no control over (like Google searches), but you can do it for all your ads, which are the important ones from a conversion perspective.

  2. Wait for some traffic to arrive with the parameterized URLs.

  3. Remove the "page parameters" log filter, in the Log Filters section of the profile Config, so Sawmill will track page parameters (see http://sawmill.net/cgi-bin/sawmilldocs?ho+faq-pageparameters).

  4. View the statistics.
  5. Go to the "Entry pages" view in your statistics. You should see all your full URLs there, with percentages if you want, which will tell you how much traffic each ad brought to your site. For instance, if you see that you got 1000 entries to the http://www.mysite.com/?source=overture&keyword=red+umbrellas page, then you know that your Overture ad for "red umbrellas" brought 1000 hits. That's useful information, but not conversion information--that comes next.

  6. Edit the global filters in the reports, and set the filters to show only sessions that went through your "success" page. This is the page that people see after they've done whatever you wanted them to do. For instance, if success for you means a sale, then this would be the "thank you for your order" page. If success means that they sign up, this is the "you have signed up" page. If success means that they submitted a feedback form, this is the "thanks for your feedback page."

  7. Now you're looking at the "Entry pages" view, but it's been filtered to show only those sessions which eventually "converted". This is exactly what you want to know -- if you see 100 entrances at http://www.mysite.com/?source=overture&keyword=red+umbrellas , then you know that 100 visitors found your site from your "red umbrellas" ad on Overture, and eventually hit your success page later in the same session. This is pure marketing gold -- by comparing the total cost of the ad (e.g. if each click is 0.10, and there were 1000 total clicks, then you spent 100.00 on that keyword), with the total payout of the ad (e.g. if each "success" is worth 5.00 in currency, then you know you made 500.00 from the 100 successful "red umbrellas" clicks), you can tell whether the ad is worth it. In this example, you paid $100 for the ad and got 500.00 in sales from it -- keep that one running!