Tracking approaches at a glance: We show you what you need to pay attention to
Reporting tools are essential for performance analysis and online marketing measurements. Many programs are available but hoteliers are often uncertain about them because tools often deliver different figures with sometimes large discrepancies.
For example, In the e-commerce section in Google Analytics, less bookings are often measured than in the booking engine. Or, in the myhotelshop portal you may see more bookings measured for Google Ads campaigns than are assigned to the combination of source and medium "google / cpc" in Google Analytics.
There are many examples of this, but which numbers should we actually trust? Unfortunately the answer is that everyone is right! This is because each tool has a different purpose, which means that the numbers differ in the evaluations.
In this article we will try to shed some light on the topic and explain the purpose of the different tools, how they measure performance and why there are sometimes differences in measurements.
The statistics area of the booking engine (IBE = Internet Booking Engine)
The extent to which IBE suppliers provide reporting varies greatly. Some services only show the number of bookings in a given period and the associated booking revenue. Some provide additional information, such as roomnights, booked rate and room types, user country of origin, or the percentage of searches without results within the IBE. However, only a few providers offer information on the traffic sources that lead to the booking (such as metasearch) for a detailed analysis to be possible.
The purpose of this reporting area on a booking engine is solely to show how much revenue was generated by the hotel’s own booking channel. Some IBEs operate a performance-based business model and take for their performance a percentage of the booked revenue. In these cases, the reporting is also used as a basis for invoicing.
Google Analytics is a very popular and widely used tool for analyzing website performance. In Google Analytics you can see how users navigate on a website, which pages are visited, for how long, from which sources they entered the website and whether any target initiatives (=conversions) were completed. If the website and the IBE are correctly linked (cross-domain tracking) and eCommerce tracking is activated, you are able to evaluate the performance of the hotel’s website in monetary terms as well.
The purpose of this tool is to analyse and understand the behavior of the user and user flow of a website and to use the insights to optimise the website and derive marketing measures.
Hoteliers who use our expertise in managing their campaigns also have access to myhotelshop's own reporting, which consolidates the results of all active marketing campaigns and enhances them with industry-specific key figures. There is a so-called tracking pixel for each marketing placement. These pixels are installed on the confirmation page of the booking engine and measure those bookings that are related to a marketing campaign. This data is then fed back into our reporting tool and processed. Thanks to this performance measurement, we campaign managers, but also marketing and e-commerce employees in the hotel, are able to track the success of individual placements, campaigns and markets and make the appropriate strategic decisions.
Purpose: To show and assess the performance and profitability of individual marketing campaigns and to derive measures.
Every tool has its right to exist. The different goals they pursue result in a different preparation of the (essentially) same data.
Below is an example of revenue generated through traffic from trivago displayed on the booking engine, google analytics and the myhotelshop portal for the same hotel and same time frame.
The booking engine reports EUR 41 923 revenue via the channel trivago:
Google Analytics reports EUR 44 481 revenue from sources that include trivago as a reference source:
The myhotelshop portal reports EUR 60 262 in revenue via the placement trivago:
This is an example of how much different tools can measure different results.
The reason lies in the differences in tracking methods
Let's have a look at the different ways the three tools capture results.
The booking engine: In this case, the booking engine measures visits and sales using parameters in the link that leads from trivago to the booking engine. The link looks something like this:
In this case, the part of the link "ichbineinverweisparameter" tells the booking engine which platform the user is coming from. If the user stays on the page (or comes back later via exactly this link) a booking can be assigned to this platform.
However, if a user books at a later date, but comes back via another source, without the parameter in the URL, this booking can no longer be assigned to the original source and appears as a booking not originating from trivago.
Google Analytics: In the overview of sources, a transaction is always assigned to the last identifiable source.
Tracking limitations: If a user clicks on the trivago direct link but does not book immediately but the next day and returns to the website via an organic search result to make the reservation, the transaction is then assigned to the combination of source & medium "google / organic". This means that just like with the booking engine reporting, if the user books at a later date, but comes back via another source the booking can no longer be assigned to trivago and will be attributed to another source.
myhotelshop portal: For trivago campaigns, myhotelshop uses a cookie-based tracking pixel. This can assign the conversions to the respective campaign, regardless of the point of the customer journey where the interaction with the platform took place. It is therefore possible to assign a booking to a click on trivago, even if the customer takes a few days to complete the booking or returns to the site several times via other sources. This explains why in the example above, myhotelshop attributes more booking revenue to the trivago source than the booking engine or Google Analytics.
Tracking limitations: What is increasingly challenging for marketers and cannot be captured by our tracking are cross-device and cross-channel interactions (mobile search - desktop booking or online search - telephone booking) and the growing popularity of cookie blockers which prevent this type of tracking. So although the myhotelshop tracking captured more than the IBE or Google Analytics, it still was not able to capture 100% of the bookings that originated from an initial click on trivago.
For so-called single interaction transactions, meaning bookings made in a single online session, in theory all three tracking approaches are the same, as long as the user gives consent to the necessary cookies.
However, the fact that the results in the example discussed above diverge so much shows that this type of booking process does not represent close to the total amount of booking journeys. Even with one's own browsing behaviour, one can often notice that people rarely buy directly. It Usually takes several interactions, time as well as further research and comparisons until one decides to buy.
What we see from the results presented above, the booking engine reporting as well as Google Analytics can be consulted as an addition but should not be considered the full truth in risk of getting a misrepresentation of performance.
Nonetheless: Every tool should be used primarily for the purpose for which it was developed. Google Analytics,is not a tool for campaign tracking, but was created for web analysis. When using this tool, we look at the bounce rates of different pages of a website or the performance of the individual device categories in order to derive suggestions for improvement and thus increase the conversion rate of the website.
When analyzing results from the booking engine, we are primarily looking at sales as a whole over time and compare the figures of the current month with those of the previous year in order to assess the development and potential of the website as a sales channel. The myhotelshop reporting was made specifically to analyse marketing campaign performance. Therefore it can be considered the tool of choice when it comes to assessing campaign efficiency in different markets and making strategic decisions to control campaigns. Using each platform correctly in a joint manner will also allow to view marketing efforts from a wider perspective. Creating further opportunities to better analyse and improve campaign strategies.