Ziff Davis Analyzes Ad & Website Data

With a modern data stack, Ziff Davis centralizes Google Analytics 360 and ad data to gain insights into paid search performance.

Key Takeaway

A portfolio of multiple acquisitions resulted in fractured data efforts at Ziff Davis. With Fivetran, the business easily integrates its Google Analytics 360 and ad data into Snowflake. Internal teams have never-before-seen insight into paid search performance, conversion funnel and the customer journey by joining Google Analytics 360 data with ad data and affiliate data in Looker dashboards.

Data Stack

Ziff Davis, a subsidiary of publicly traded J2 Global, Inc., is a leading global digital-media company. The business operates in three core verticals: Technology, Gaming, and Shopping with a portfolio of numerous brands, including PCMag, Mashable and Offers.com.

Challenge: Fractured Data Efforts Across Acquisitions

The different brands within Ziff Davis had separate ongoing data efforts. Chris Kite, Director of Technology, recognized the need for a single source of truth and set out to build a reliable data platform, from ingestion to reporting, to democratize data access for all brands across the organization.

Prior to its modern data stack, Kite used Spark ETL to get data from a custom website tracking system, Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics 360 (GA 360), and stored the data in S3. “I was one person trying to manage a large number of custom systems, writing and running the code, and dealing with the source changes and permission problems,” explains Kite. “We experienced a lot of breakages or outages just because we were trying to do too much with very few resources.”

Reporting was inconsistent across teams. The Audience team was using Google Data Studio, some teams were building reports off of the data in S3, and certain brands had legacy reporting systems largely centered around paid search that were incompatible with other brands. “We had a legacy system that we used to analyze our Offers.com paid search data,” explains Kite. “It was a large spreadsheet with Google Ads and Bing Ads data, with no visualisations. Mashable and PC Mag didn’t work in that Legacy system. Consequently, they weren’t running paid search because they had no ability to track performance.”

Building the Modern Data Stack

Bringing on Fivetran was critical for accessing GA 360 data, Ziff Media’s most important data source:

Our most important data source is GA 360 for all of our websites. At the time we were comparing products, Fivetran was the only one with a GA 360 connector that actually worked.

Kite appreciates the way Fivetran unnests the data and loads it into a normalized schema. He estimates that it would have taken six months of his time to build a reliable pipeline with monitoring for GA 360 alone, with additional time dedicated thereafter for maintenance. The business also sees multiple benefits from Snowflake and Looker, including:


  • Largely scalable and affordable
  • The ability to store data and crunch it with different servers
  • Separation of storage and compute
  • Multiple, different sized compute clusters running on the same data
  • Easily integrates with partners like Fivetran


  • Web-native
  • Data modelling with SQL
  • Can create reusable data models once and use them many times
  • Source controls: can track and revert changes if necessary
  • Stable and reliable

Building Critical Dashboards

With the infrastructure in place, Ziff Davis is building out a team of engineers and analysts, and deploying to production reporting systems that people can use for their daily work. Employees are requesting Looker access regularly and are hungry for the data. Currently, Kite is building a dashboard for the paid search team, the biggest internal data customer, to analyze revenue data:

Our employees want to be in Looker now, which is a testament to the reliability of our centralized data. The paid search team has a holistic view of all of the data that they didn’t have before. Previously, if they ran paid search on the website they would have the ad data, but they’d be flying blind without the conversion and website data.

The paid search dashboard is becoming a critical asset to the team, and currently includes:

  • Paid search metrics: Joining the cost data from Google Ads reports and commission data from affiliates to understand how much is spent on ads versus how much is made
  • Conversion funnel: Joining GA 360 data with internal tracking systems for affiliate commerce to understand how many people make a transaction
  • GA data: cost per click and cost per internal click on a website
  • Campaign performance: By joining Salesforce with Google Ads data, managers can drill down into their individual campaigns to understand performance trends
  • Customer journey: how did the user find the website, where did they click around, what did they buy

Is our current architecture meeting the needs of your data-hungry organization? Sign up for a Fivetran free trial to see the benefits of automated data integration.

About Fivetran: Shaped by the real-world needs of data analysts, Fivetran technology is the smartest, fastest way to replicate your applications, databases, events and files into a high-performance cloud warehouse. Fivetran connectors deploy in minutes, require zero maintenance, and automatically adjust to source changes — so your data team can stop worrying about engineering and focus on driving insights.

About Snowflake: Snowflake delivers the Data Cloud — a global network where thousands of organizations mobilize data with near-unlimited scale, concurrency, and performance. Inside the Data Cloud, organizations unite their siloed data, easily discover and securely share governed data, and execute diverse analytic workloads. Join the Data Cloud. https://www.snowflake.com/

About Looker: Looker is a modern platform for data that offers data analytics and business insights to every department at scale, and easily integrates into applications to deliver data directly into the decision-making process.

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