How your website is leaking precious data to agencies & affiliates and how to prevent it

Your business has a website and it helps you collect leads or sell products. You work with one or multiple agencies to drive traffic and conversions to your website. The little pieces of tags on your website inform your agencies which campaigns or ads are working best or worst. Sounds familiar? Well, most likely your website is leaking data already.

Let’s first understand what is meant by data leakage?

In our definition, a data leakage is:

If the data from your website or mobile app is going to places which (i) are not under your direct control, or (ii) under you direct ownership, or (iii) to a data repositery such as a technology not behind your legal obligation or (iv) where you lose your sight on this data under some circumstances

How does it happen?

Let’s take an example from a leading Automobile dealer website in the UAE. On their website, there are 3 different Facebook pixels, most likely from one or multiple agencies they work with:

Facebook Pixel

By system design, a Facebook pixel is associated with a Business Manager or an Ad account. If these pixels are generated from a Business Manager or an Ad accounts owned by their agency which is most likely the situation in most cases then all the data (conversions & audience data) is going to the agency business manager and you as an advertiser can’t own this data.

Facebook doesn’t allow sharing of Pixel with other “Partners” incase you share your own pixel with your agencies. By no means I am saying that you can’t trust your agency but it is all about just protecting your own interest and owning your own data. You still give your cheque book to your accountant but most probably “unsigned”.

When the situation comes to part ways from agency you lose all this data to your incumbent agency and only they can decide if they want to “share” the pixel with new agency. The pixel ownership can’t be transfered as of writing this article.  Apart from you already gave the ability to your incumbent agency to do whatever they want with your data.

Another example - when working with multiple affiliates

This is another example from a leading Real Estate developer website. The user journey on their website looks something like below:

In this example, all three affiliates are able to capture data (“cookies”) of everyone who is visiting their website, everyone who is going to “Lead Form Page” and everyone who is going to “Thank You” page. These guys could use this data in whatever way they want because it is given to them as a gift by this real estate company without even knowing about it.

 

It is alright for affiliate to know what happens to the traffic they send to the website but not for every single visitor who comes to your website from any traffic source. This is pure gold mine for them.

 

I don’t know about you but I always wondered how affiliates are able to generate leads at a lower cost even by taking the risk of committing the CPA before hand against the performance agency managing Google and Facebook media buys?

How can you prevent this to happen on your website?

Every website requires a different approach based on the tracking situation on the website but below points will give you some directions.

Passing data to 3rd parties & affiliates

This is most common issue that we see around. The solution is easy to implement if you are using a tag management technology such as Google Tag Manager.

In theory the solution is to trigger only those tags of that particular source that brought the click to you. This requires some custom scripting from your Google Tag Management team or your agency if they are managing the GTM for you to capture the utm_source information and then accordingly trigger the tags when a conversion is recorded on thank you page. This is not a out-of-box feature in GTM but someone who knows a bit of scripting could achieve this. It is possible to custom code some attribution logic into it too.

This will ensure that the affiliates receive this conversion signal back for the traffic they sent and not everyone on your website. By implementing this solution alone maximum data leakage can be stopped immediately.

If you are not using a tag management technology then your website developers would have to custom code this for you. Although we strongly recommend you to use Google Tag Manager for managing tags on your website.

Passing data to Google FloodLight Tags (DCM tags)

If you are a GA360 customer then you should not allow implementation of FloodLights pixels on your website as your agency could simply integrate GA360 with their Google Campaign Manager (previously DoubleClick Campaign Manager). This integration means single cookie-space and better accuracy.

If you are not a GA360 customer then you can’t avoid FloodLight tags as your agency would need these tags to track audiences and conversions. However, getting access to a DCM account would at least help you keep a check how the FloodLights tags are getting utilized. Campaign Manager FloodLights tags are quite advanced as it also allow Piggy backing other pixels with it so you might only configure 1 FloodLight pixel but it could trigger 5 other pixels in the backend. Keep a watch on such piggy backing as this is another area where most the data leakge happens.

Passing data to Google Analytics & Google Ads

Contractually both Google Analytics & Google Ads account belong to clients or advertisers so frankly there is nothing much to lose when it comes to both of these technologies. In a scenario, you are migrating to a different agency or moving your teams in-house, always ensure to migrate the ad accounts to new agency or alternatively you could always reach to your Google Account manager who could  help you ensure you don’t lose any data to your agency.

Hopefully you already an Admin on your own Google Analytics account, if not then you’ll need to request that access from your agency. Google will only support you for Google Analytics ownwership issue if you are a GA360 customer.

Always use Google Analytics to collect the Audience data and conversion data which would be then passed to any Google Ads account. Do not configure Google Ads re-marketing or conversion pixel if you don’t own that pixel.

Passing Data to a Facebook Pixel

There are a number of things you need to do to protect the data that you could lose by implementing a Facebook pixel on your website.

  • Ensure that you manage all Facebook assets such as Pages, Instagram handles, Pixels, etc under incredibly powerful “Facebook Business Manager”. This Facebook Business Manager should be under your direct control and not your agency.
  • Create a Pixel from this Business Manager and configure this Pixel on your website, hopefully through your tag manager.
  • Add your agency as a “Partner” under your Business Manager and give them access to this Pixel. If you have multiple agencies then repeat this step for each agency.
  • Ensure that only 1 Pixel is implemented across your website and if you have multiple websites then you could share this pixel on multiple sites or you could create a pixel for each of your website. Business Manager allows you to create up to 10 Pixels per Business Manager (and 1 under every single Ad account created by the agency). All of this is possible through Facebook Business Manager.
  • If you are an eCommerce company, you might want to ensure that you own the Product Feed too under your own Business Manager and then that feed is shared with your agency or agencies.

Do you still need some help? Get in touch.

Speak with a Digitalks consultant and we could help you ensure that all the data owernship is with you as a client and not with your agency. We have extensive experience in this area and have helped many clients own their own data and prevent this data leakage to happen on their website or a mobile app.

We offer best practice setups for Facebook Business Manager, Google Marketing Platform, Google Ads Account MCC Structing, and ensuring everything which could be connected together is connected the right way to prevent any possible data loss.

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Mohit J September 25, 2019 0 Comments