If you don’t feel like your paid search budget is as high as it should be, perhaps it’s because you and senior management aren’t using the right sets of conversion and micro-conversion metrics to justify the bids you need to grab high positions in Google, Bing, second-tier PPC engines, or other international platforms such as Baidu and Yandex.
Many marketers continue to rely on last-click attribution, rightfully putting an extremely high value on the last click. This way of setting up measurement – and the bidding strategy that follows – is appropriate when the removal of that last click (as a result of lower position due to value allocation, necessitating a lowered bid) results in a lost sale.
Because PPC search is predictable and is the foundation for most online marketing campaigns, newer platforms and technologies sometimes get bigger budgets than they may deserve. One reason they get larger budgets is that they are judged by a completely different set of metrics than PPC search. Let’s explore the metrics that might increase paid search budgets to where they should be.
Conversion Rates and Buying Signals
On non-brand keywords, it’s not unusual to see primary conversion rates, even on the best sites, ranging from 3 to 15 percent, along with the typical 15 percent conversion stats for non-transaction registrations that don’t require the visitor to pay. E-commerce conversions are typically at the lower end of this range.
It clearly isn’t logical for us to assume that because 85, 95, or even greater percentages of visitors are not converting within a given session (or within a given cookie window) that the cash spent on those clicks was wasted. Instead, we may want to take a closer look at all the positive buying signals existing on our websites. Some of these positive buying signals may result in eventual sales, even if the data measurement challenges in proving it may be beyond our means.
This isn’t purely an attribution exercise where we allocate value to clicks and keywords that assist the sale measured at a later point in time. (You can use the Google Search funnel to establish this.) This is a call for the re-evaluation of the metrics and touch points that happen during your sales and marketing process and the relative value of both those touch points and the related behaviors.
Ten Crucial Touch Points
The following are 10 behaviors or touch points that might have significant value to your business and yet are often not counted at all when it comes to paid search campaigns.
- Email newsletter registrations. Just ask any online retailer and you’ll be reminded that email is far from dead. The email inbox is a key way to maintain contact with prospects. Even next-generation platforms such as HubSpot have email as a core pillar. So come up with a value for an email registration and give paid search credit when it drives those registrations.
- Visits to the contact us page. Unless you rely exclusively on online sales through a shopping cart, you should be able to make a strong argument that a significant percentage of visits to your contact us page have a high level of purchase intent. So track your contact us page and assign it an appropriate value.
- Phone calls. Like visits to the contact us page, phone calls are a great touch point and behavior that signals intent to buy. You can use one of many call tracking platforms on an ongoing basis to determine the level of calls being delivered by each campaign, or even at the ad group/keyword level. Alternatively, you could use a simple experimental structure to determine the ratio of phone to online sales, and use that as a bid modifier.
- Internal site search (particularly for important keywords). If your site is large, you probably have an internal search engine. In the same way that Google/Bing searches are a great way to understand buying intent, so are internal searches. Consider whether or not to value internal search behavior.
- Deep navigation. If someone spends a long time on your site and drills around looking at a lot of product or service information, that’s important to factor in. There may be certain keywords, times of day, days of week, or geographies that are more likely to exhibit this high engagement behavior. For many businesses high engagement is correlated with and causal to sales increases.
- Twitter follows. Similar to Facebook, some marketers see Twitter as a social form of CRM. So, if a Twitter “follow” has a value, then track it within paid search and assign that value to your bidding strategy.
- Tweets. Tweets are a bit more difficult to assign value to. For example, a clothing retailer will value a tweet from Justin Bieber very differently from a tweet from someone with 423 followers. However, if your content is engaging and funny and results in lots of tweets, perhaps a blended value per tweet is worth counting.
- LinkedIn share (particularly for B2B). Business-to-business marketers love LinkedIn and they should. The audience there is well suited and often in a business mindset when engaging.
- Google G+ engagement. Last but far from least is Google+ (G+1) behavior. Not only is this a CRM touch point, but it actually helps your paid search campaign when you turn on social extensions. So, why not promote G+ and value the behavior appropriately?
When you bake in all these great behaviors – and their values – you may find that you can justify to management a significant budget increase for PPC search, because you’ll be able to demonstrate that the budget increase was warranted.