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A Dynatrace champions guide to get ahead of digital marketing campaigns

I bet you’re asking yourself – “Why should I as a technology person care about marketing?”, here are a few reasons why; if you’re running a public website that your marketing is promoting, you have marketing campaigns running against your systems and you probably ran already into situations when you asked yourself, “Why is Dynatrace alerting me with high traffic on this specific page?!”, “Is there a bot attack running but why doesn’t our CDN provider block the traffic?!”, “Why are our systems automatically scaling up on this regular workday?”. The answer that, I’ve heard throughout the years working with Dynatrace customers was pretty consistent: “marketing campaign”.

In my last blog, I’ve provided an example of this happening, whereby the traffic spiked and quadrupled the usual incoming traffic. Now, I want to give you some tips on how to get ahead of the game and avoid finger-pointing in meetings. And, even better, how to make friends on the digital marketing side of the house. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to do so, but if you’d prefer to watch the steps check out my Performance Clinic here.

Step #1 Get to know UTM parameters

UTM parameters are nothing to be afraid of – they are just web request parameters that marketing use to learn more about where traffic is coming from, which campaign is driving the traffic, is it paid ads that are working best, and so on. These are all interesting metrics from marketing point of view, and also highly interesting to you as they allow you to engage with the teams that are driving the traffic against your IT-system.

The nice thing is that they are pretty well established and only five of them namely, utm_source, utm_medium, utm_campaign, utm_term, utm_content. The most important once for you are utm_source, allowing you to know where the traffic is coming from, and utm_campaign, enabling you to figure out who in your company is responsible for the particular campaign. If your intent is to make friends on the marketing side of the house, I suggest you set up Dynatrace to also capture the other 3 parameters, which brings me to the next step.

Step #2 Capture UTM parameters in Dynatrace

As Dynatrace is an all-in-one solution, you have multiple options to capture the needed data; you can use Real User Monitoring (RUM) properties, Server-side request attribute, and Log metrics. In this blog, I want to dive into the most powerful of the three options in more detail, RUM. I’ll detail more on the other two in the latter part of this blog.

The release of property packs earlier this year a pack – named “Web properties” – was added and it contains the UTM parameter capture definition allowing you to add these data points with 3 clicks. For details on how to define properties, have a look at this doc page.

UTM parameter config in Dynatrace

After this step, Dynatrace adds the information to each user session that gets captured. In the next step change, the UTM campaign parameter to also be a user action property by editing the definition as shown on the screenshot below.

turn UTM campaign parameter into a user action parameter

Step #3 Get an overview of the campaign traffic

For a first overview, you can look at the campaign traffic by continent. All you need to do is create five custom metrics – one per continent. The multi-dimensional analytics in the screenshot below is an example. The reason why I would use the metrics in this case and not the USQL query is that I have a long term trend available and can set specific alerts.

top campaign traffic

Add the five metrics on a dashboard like the example below.

Marketing campaign high-level overview

Doing this, you will have gained a lot for your benefit; you know which campaigns are currently driving most of the traffic, you can use Davis® to alert you specifically on anomalies seen in context of campaigns, and you’re now ready to take the next step and become friends.

Step #4: The marketing campaign detail view for your marketing colleague

In my previous post, I suggest using the dashboard example below, that you should have available for individual campaigns. Looks fancy and is super easy to get as your new friend will bring along the key information and the Dynatrace BizOpsConfigurator will guide you through the setup.

Special campaign tracking dashboard in Dynatrace

In the below 4 minute video, Lucas Hocker shows you how it is done. Thanks, Lucas!

How to get campaign tracking started using Dynatrace Server side request attributes

As mentioned above, the UTM parameters are regular web request parameters that you can also capture using the mechanism of server side request attributes. Just add the UTM parameter capturing on your frontend services and all traces will have the additional data on if available. You can use the information in a similar way and create calculated service metrics that focus on those traces and get the insight into which campaign is driving the traffic.

Due to the nature of the server-side capturing, there are some limitations you should be aware of. Traffic being handled within the CDN in front of your data center is missing. The other downside is that you’re missing the context of a user session and therefore you can’t determine if someone who was driven to the website by the campaign actually reached the value event for the company.

How to get campaign tracking started using Dynatrace Log Analytics?

The key to gain insights leveraging Dynatrace Log Analytics are the access log files of your frontend web servers. Usually, they contain the entire URLs including the web request parameters and therefore you can crap the datapoint and also create a calculated log metric. Just like for campaign tracking, using server-side request attributes, there are the limitations that come with the nature of server-side capturing and the missing user session context.

Make your move in digital marketing with Dynatrace

With Digital Marketing campaigns in mind and Dynatrace at your fingertips, you can easily cross-collaborate your company’s department silos, turn lose-lose situations to win-win, and become friends with your marketing colleagues. Last but not least, you will make your app owner much happier because there will be fewer finger pointing meetings!

If you want to watch these strategies in action, check out the Performance Clinic on Digital Marketing here.