PPC: Essential Conversion Tracking

Posted in Paid Marketing, Tracking

Sometimes clients or prospective clients send us pay per click (PPC) conversion data for our comments. Usually these metrics include spreadsheets with keywords, ad copy, headlines, click-through ratio, and cost. We look at the standard data provided in these reports: but more often then not the most important statistics are missing:

How much was sold? Which specific keywords tend to result in sales? (Traffic in itself is not sexy.)

How many information requests were harvested-qualified by a prospective customer volunteering valid contact information?

How many information requests led to sales? What was the ROI [profit margin] against [media buy expense]?

Where is the missing data, which associates each [paid click-through or CPM ad] with [sales receipts or information requests]?

Tracking is Essential
Every one of your pay per click ads can be tagged with a unique URL making it possible to associate specific keywords and ads with specific sales. An application should be built on the website to track this data and associate the information with sales. Read more about URL tagging here. This makes it possible to calculate the margin for each sale to precisely determine return on investment for keyword purchases. Paid placement strategies should always include the association of individual keyword/ad click-through expenditures to individual sales or information requests. Regardless of the CTR or ad relevance (to your desired end result) ads can drive substantial traffic which you pay for whether the traffic results in sales or not. If products are not sold or other key performance indicators (KPI) not met there could be reasons for the disconnect:

Key performance indicator(s) are not defined or naïve for the landing page concept Traffic is not qualified at the ad level by the content of the ad

The ad makes promises not kept by the landing page content

Indulging in pure branding without sales-intent can drive aimless traffic enamored with the quality of the brand but having no intent to purchase anything or perform an action.

Mechanisms are not in place on landing pages to maximize the conversation of traffic to customer

Just Fix It
Each of these common problems can be addressed. Key performance indicators can be defined or redefined. Ads can be created which qualify potential (expensive) traffic by truly spelling out “what ya get” if you click on the ad-limiting worthless traffic. PPC ads should make promises which are kept by the available content and tools on the landing page. Mechanisms like information request forms, shopping carts, and other conversion tools must be relevant and obviously available.

The Two Headed Branding Monster
Indulging in pure branding can result in purely branded traffic. Too often though the branding objective is well-met without a KPI transaction taking place once the paid traffic hits the landing page. Branding is a good…no branding is GREAT. However ads and landing pages need to instill a pathway of intent to guide the traffic to the KPI.

Buyer Beware
It is also possible to accidentally cannibalize existing organic prominence with PPC. Therefore an understanding of your site’s organic prominence (where the search engines index you for free). We’ve seen clients (even working with SEO agencies) who drive substantial traffic at significant expense but do not raise the overall level of traffic to the site! The paid click replaced an organic click which would have taken place if not for the PPC ad! Ouch…Now that Google has ushered in the era of personalized search, exact organic prominence tracking is not fully possible. Still SEO’s can currently get a pretty good idea of how a site’s pages are indexed-or are likely to be indexed.

An Optimistic Thought
At the end of the day the reason Google and Yahoo make bezillions selling PPC is because it can work extremely well, driving highly focused and motivated traffic. Be sure to maximize the investment with strategic planning and focused conversion tactics.

  • Brendan Monahan

    Thanks for the great article Marty. Too often agencies will manage your PPC programs, but they won’t tell you which key words are performing and which ones aren’t. The ones that don’t perform should be removed from the list, yet too often the client never knows how to manage the agency to ensure this happens. Hopefully your article will help.