What Happened to Good Sam Advertising Analytics?

Good Sam’s Websites Are Gone from Google Analytics

The RV Camping industry’s media giant, the Good Sam Club, offers a great package of promotional channels which target an active group of RV travel consumers. It’s a huge loyalty group of dedicated RVers who go camping and are sometimes loyal to the Good Sam brand. Every experienced RVer who knows Good Sam probably pulls out their Good Sam 10% Discount card at every check-in.

…we know Good Sam advertising…

Since we specialize in advertising strategies for RV parks and campgrounds (Since 1995*) we know Good Sam; their membership club, their printed campground directories, an online campground directory, their mobile phone app, and a bunch of social media stuff. Many RV parks (and most campgrounds) spend more ad budget on Good Sam advertising than on anything else (except maybe franchise fees, of course). It’s a good ad program, a big expense, and something we’d like to measure independently of the publisher.Good Sam Club Logo

Declining Analytics Hits

For some time now (since October 2016) we’ve noticed in client’s Google Analytics accounts a drop in website visits credited to Good Sam. Understanding where your website traffic comes from is necessary in the current advertising era. It helps you understand the return-on-investment for your ad dollars in a whole new technological way. If you’re a user of Google Analytics, and you compare this year to last year, you’ll notice a shocking decline in the numbers. (Contact us to learn how to do a comparison report).

We sampled the analytics files of 14 different rv park/campground properties across the USA and found that the parks lost between 1.5% and 35% of Good Sam web visits in 2017 compared to the prior year. If that were a real drop it would be a real problem, and it would cast doubt on the Good Sam ad programs. If it were a real drop. But statistics can be deceiving so we did some checking.

Web Tracking v.s. Privacy Settings

Turns out that there are several ‘tectonic forces’ shifting in the internet universe, related to personal privacy issues. Several different forces have conspired to reduce tracking of web visits. GoodSam.com is now a secure website, using the new secure platform HTTPS. This security measure drops some tracking info for park websites/analytics that have not updated to the HTTPS from HTTP. More specifically, tracking the consumer’s clicks from one website to another is made private). (See bottom References for detailed links on these issues).

  • Google is forced by the EU government to stop following users
  • Apple computer changed their Safari browser to hide web tracking by default
  • Adoption of secure web protocol (HTTPS vs HTTP) drops some visitor info
  • GoodSamClub.com (and goodsamcamping.com) adopted the HTTPS secure protocol

As Google, Apple, and Good Sam have implemented the changes, for various reasons, Good Sam traffic to your park websites has become “anonymized” so in analytics it gets counted as Direct Traffic. The same thing happened to Trip Advisor traffic in analytics after they went from http://www.tripadvisor.com to https:. Analytics dumped their referral traffic into Direct Traffic counts. A true victory of security and privacy. But a loss for businesses who want to understand their web traffic.

Analytics Issue, NOT a Good Sam issue

As we’ve watched this steady decline in the Good Sam ‘referral’ traffic, Strait Answers has continued to do research and detailed testing from inside a number of our client’s analytics–testing clicks on various Good Sam page links, via mobile, desktop and tablet. Some of the Good Sam links still get counted in analytics, but that will probably go away too.

One type of Good Sam click-thru that IS tracked in analytics are clicks on their Book Now button. If the button goes to a secure reservations service that is also using HTTPS, and that vendor has put your analytics code on their transaction pages, you’ll be able to track Good Sam bookings. If the vendor has added certain ecommerce code and you implement Ecommerce in Analytics then you’ll even see the revenue from Good Sam bookings.

Good Sam’s Response

We’ve been in contact with Good Sam’s upper management to figure out what was happening. Their National Director of Sales, Bob Chamness, has expressed a genuine desire to provide accurate information about the effectiveness of the program:

“Customer analytics that are in sync with the information that Good Sam tracks and reports on is important to Good Sam. We continue to focus on sending qualified referrals to our customers to ensure they receive a healthy ROI on their marketing investment with Good Sam”

Good Sam Mobile App

Good Sam digital promotional programs include a mobile phone app. The customer uses their app to find campgrounds, look at campground details, and take action from within the app; making a phone call or clicking to the campground website. The app technology doesn’t allow specific tracking of these app visits–they get listed as Direct traffic. Good Sam uses 3rd party reporting platforms for reporting mobile app data back to parks.

Conclusion: Good Sam Still Working

Strait Answers has long believed in the value of Good Sam advertising for any property that has RV sites. And especially for RV parks that cater to a mature audience of frequent RV travelers. When Google Analytics came along it revealed the value of website visitors from Good Sam’s websites. The ‘user sessions’ from Good Sam have higher engagement (time-on-page, pages visited, bounce rate, conversion rates) than almost any other referring source. Now that the analytics are gone (hopefully to return) we’ll have to make the big decisions about how much to spend on Good Sam using other methods.

Actions to Take

Here are some things you can do to better track the referral sources of your reservations customers.

  • Reservations Software Reports: Learn to use the reports in your software
  • Good Sam’s stats: Ask your Good Sam Reps to provide statistics (including the app)
  • Add UTM tracking code to the links on Good Sam: Ask Strait Answers for the secret!

If you need to get Google Analytics installed on your website, need to get the UTM code for your park, or you want help understanding the complex analytics reporting, contact David Strait for help. Click here for our contact info to take action!

References:

European GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)
European Data Law Wiki
Apple Tracking
TripAdvisor HTTPS Issue

* Strait Answers® is an ad agency specializing in the outdoor hospitality industry, with a focus on web advertising of the pay-per-click approach on Google®. We use Google Analytics extensively to track our ads and understand clients websites.