These are the two seemingly conflicting sentences that describe the state of the ad tracking industry:

  • Ad campaign tracking is essential for digital marketing profitability, which is the main way content on the Internet is funded.
  • Ad campaign tracking in its current form cannot be upheld due to privacy concerns and outdated technology.

From these two ideas comes a conflict that, in the end, doesn’t really change much. On one hand, we have Google forcing new and supposedly more privacy-oriented technologies that should reinvent campaign tracking for 2023, or new legislation like the Digital Services Act that tries to regulate online advertising. On the other hand, the Internet operates on a business model that works by providing users with free content in exchange for showing them ads.

Overall, a quote that best summarizes the state of the ad tracking industry is: “The more things change, the more they stay the same”.

We at Voluum are on the forefront of the changes to the ad tracking industry. We don’t get to wait to see if things are broken after changes are implemented., We have to prepare our ad tracker in advance, so it is always ready and operational for our customers. We are proactive rather than reactive. We research, observe and talk to people to have the fullest picture of what is going on in the ad tracking industry.

And now, we want to share our knowledge with you.

Why Track Ad Campaigns At All?

This may seem trivial, but it’s best to start from the basics.

The Internet in its current form has adopted a certain business model, in which the true currency is people’s attention. Most publishers have content (text, graphics, videos) available for free. In exchange (and this is what people expect), publishers show ads to fund their businesses.

In the old days, a website owner had to talk with a product owner directly to strike an advertising deal. That method didn’t reflect the true nature of the digital space though, which can be measured and analyzed, while also providing low cost ad space for testing various approaches.

The platforms that could tap into the potential behind digital advertising were ad trackers. They can provide statistically significant data on who saw or clicked a given ad, who visited a landing page and finally, who purchased a product.

They made the business model of the Internet profitable and scalable, thus fuelling its rapid growth.

For advertisers, tracking enables squeezing the most profit out of their ad dollars. In 2022 and beyond, ad trackers go way beyond that, with various automation or ad fraud features. In short, ad trackers serve as a personal robotic ad agency, available for every advertiser, 24/7 for a fraction of the cost.

How Does Ad Tracking Work

Throughout the years, three major tracking technologies were developed. The newer ones didn’t replace the older ones but rather supplemented them with support for more cases.

Here are the tracking methods:

Redirect tracking

This tracking method is the easiest to implement and is used widely whenever there’s a need to track visitors jumping between separate pages. This is commonplace in affiliate marketing and similar types of ventures, where advertisers are not the offer owners and cannot edit the offer page in any way. All they get is the offer link. To track engagement with this link, they set up a redirect through a tracking platform that counts a visit with some additional visit characteristics.

Redirect tracking is easy to set up and allows advertisers to use a variety of features such as rule-based paths or offer rotations – but this method may add some small delay to the whole user journey. Usually that is not a problem, unless a visitor uses really poor Internet connection.

Direct tracking

Direct tracking’s best fit is tracking an advertiser’s own offers – especially when they advertise with Google or Facebook. These two platforms want to have a full knowledge of where advertisers send users, so these platforms do not allow redirects, they see it as a way of hiding an actual destination page.

Direct tracking doesn’t use or need redirects. It utilizes a special script that, after being implemented on a destination page, can make requests to a tracker with visit info upon page load.

This method is fast and compliant, but due to how it works, advertisers cannot alter the destination page they link from an ad in any way. This means no rule-based paths or offer rotations.

API integration

This is the most advanced method of exchanging data between two platforms. API is the way applications talk to each other in the backend. Voluum developed a special module for that, called Automizer. It allows you to integrate via API with the most popular traffic sources, including Taboola, and not only receive cost data or campaign status but also control your campaigns from within Voluum or set up advanced auto-rules.

Integration with Taboola

Once you integrate your Voluum account with Taboola, you will be able to:

  • Synchronize costs
  • Check the status of your campaigns and creatives (campaign_item_id in Voluum reports)
  • Bid on: campaign
  • Change bid factor: site
  • Pause or resume: campaign, site, creative
  • Create rules

The Challenges of Ad Tracking

In the last couple of years, ad tracking in its current form has started to be viewed as intrusive and in need of regulation. Surprisingly, the biggest push to this industry is coming from a company that makes billions off of analyzing user data.

It is worth pointing out that ad tracking in most cases doesn’t track individual users. Voluum, for example, collects only statistical data. Ad tracking is a big number’s game, advertisers are less interested in the fact that a John Doe from Boston purchased a given product – but they surely would be interested in information that this product is more popular among iPhone users from big cities during weekends.

Only the biggest platforms, such as the aforementioned Google or Facebook, have information on individual users. Nevertheless, the changes are coming.

3rd Party Cookie Block

Cookies are an old technology that was designed to improve the web browsing experience. These small text files saved locally on your computer contain information about a current session, site language, contents of a shopping cart and other things.

First party cookies point to the domain that you are currently visiting, while third party cookies point to external domains. The latter type of cookies is often used by various analytical and tracking solutions. Many web browsers block third party cookies by default already (Safari for example), while Google Chrome, world’s most popular web browser, is planning to do that and propose an alternative solution that should offer more privacy.

Let’s focus on what’s important for marketers: the death of third party cookies.

Contrary to popular belief, the truth is that the Internet will not break, explode or disappear after the final block in 2024. Neither will ad tracking. As we have said it before, there’s simply too much at stake.

Some trackers will have to adapt though. Voluum already did.

With the recent iteration of its tracking scripts, all cookies set by Voluum are both first and third party. This means that with Voluum, you are already protected not only from Google’s push to cancel these cookies but also from other privacy-oriented browsers, ad blockers and similar restricting mechanisms.

UA string reduction and Client Hints

Another initiative, also led by Google, concerns User Agent (UA). User Agent is a part of a HTTP request header and it’s filled with information that helps to tailor a web viewing experience.

Whenever you want to see a given web page, your browser sends some information to the server. This information includes things such as:

  • Browser type
  • Browser version
  • OS name
  • OS version
  • Screen size
  • Device type

When a server gets this information, it can send the best version of this page for a given user: mobile or desktop, fit to your screen size, etc.

Voluum records User Agent and, with the help of some external platforms, uses it to enrich its reports. Thanks to User Agent you get over 30 data points connected with each visit.

Google sees two problems with User Agent:

  • The detailed information that it provides can be used for fingerprinting, so passive identification of a user without their specific consent
  • The length of the UA string makes it prone to parsing errors

This reasoning caused Google to plan to reduce the length of the UA string in the near future (May 2023). User Agent will contain less information, which should solve both of these problems.

As an alternative, Google proposes Client Hints, a method to obtain the missing information. The important distinction between UA and CH is that some CH (so called ‘high entropy’ Client Hints) will not be sent by default and will be available only when a server specifically requests them.

Limiting the UA string won’t break tracking like it may happen with blocked third-party cookies and a poor tracking solution. It may, however, reduce the amount of information that can be used by advertisers for analytics.

Voluum has again risen to the challenge and prepared its tracking mechanisms for the change. Redirect tracking will work like it did and no action is required – all necessary changes were already made on the backend. In short, when UA string is reduced, Voluum will make an additional redirect and receive information from Client Hints in a 307 response.

The direct tracking script however needed to be modified. The updated version includes a Meta tag and a separate script that will ping servers for Client Hints. Once Voluum users update the script and put them in the <head> Section of their pages, they will be protected from any negative effects months in advance.

What You Get After Integrating Taboola and Voluum

You won’t find a better place for your Taboola campaign than Voluum. Both platforms are leaders in their respective fields, both aim to provide the best experience for their users. One user is Nadim Kuttab, a native ads veteran and a co-founder of the 6H Agency, one of the biggest advertisers on Taboola. Overall, the agency as a whole tested over 2,000 landing pages in 2021 and over 8,000 in total through Voluum. You can check out what Nadim loves about using both platforms in this case study.

What do Taboola users love the most about Voluum? Well, let’s start with the integration. It’s so easy to connect both platforms, you just need to get Client ID and Client secret from Taboola’s support and provide them in Voluum.

Once you do so, a whole new world opens up to you.

Controlling your campaigns in Voluum

Voluum now becomes your own advertising dashboard. With the ability to control your Taboola campaigns from one interface, you can analyze and make strategic decisions without jumping between browser tabs. See how simple it is:

  • Pause a campaign: Just click one button!

  • Change bid for a campaign: provide a bid value and that’s it!

Synchronize costs

As we have prompted it before, API connection is the most reliable way for platforms to exchange information. No setup errors or complex tokens. Voluum will periodically ask Taboola for the recent cost information all the time.

Automate with auto-rules

The essence of integrations are auto-rules: a complex yet easy to use system of various actions and launch conditions that can bring your advertising to the next level.

The beauty of this system is that we don’t even know all the possible use cases and scenarios where they can be used to save money or speed up some processes as there are so many potential combinations. But we don’t leave our advertisers on their own.

  • For starters, we have prepared a Rule library: a collection of the most used rules that any advertiser can adapt and use. These rules are the result of our experience and deep insights from our customers.

Just pick a topic or use other search options to see how Voluum can make your work easier.

You can always edit a rule template. Or create one from scratch.

  • Create your own auto-rule. Start by deciding what this action should affect: a whole campaign, all Taboola campaigns or maybe just one of Taboola’s dimensions (such as ‘site’).

Then select an action to be launched when conditions that you will set on the next step are met. You can choose to automatically mark profitable placements or campaigns with meaningful icons, pause or resume given elements, create blacklists or whitelists, or send alerts to your mobile (did we mention that we have a mobile app to oversee your campaigns on the go?).

Now it’s the time to define conditions. They tell Voluum when a given action should be launched. You can create some really complex logical sentences here.

At the minimum, create an alert for a dying offer or unusual spikes in traffic. And a whitelist with the most performing sites.

Welcome to the Future of Tracking

We all came a long way since the early days of online advertising. There were successes, obstacles and challenges.

We at Voluum are here for the long haul. Our job is to be ahead of the game – we make Voluum immune to problems on daily basis that you haven’t even heard of. Our server uptime is 100% since 2013.

Voluum will allow you to bring out what’s best in Taboola.

Check out more what Voluum and Taboola have to offer.

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