PPC Lead Gen: Focusing on Quality

If you’re like many online marketers, you’re failing to optimize search around lead quality, according to several experts who spoke recently at LeadsCon NYC. According to several people I spoke with at this conference, a common mistake among lead-gen marketers is to just use a simple cost per lead metric for internal efforts as well as when dealing with vendors.

This is a very common mistake, even among some seasoned online marketers (although it’s more common for those new to marketing in general or to online marketing). In the same way that all clicks are not equally valuable, all leads have different value profiles and predicted profitability.

Lots of things beyond the keyword can predict high or lower quality leads. We search marketers have control over some of these factors, whereas those we have no control over can still be measured and used to refine our scoring mechanisms. For example, here are some variables we can control and select around, narrowing them when we want to be high up, low down, or not present at all in a SERP (define):

  • Time of day: At the point of the user, it can be quite predictive in some lead generation situations, particularly B2B (define).
  • Day of week: Like time of day, this can be predictive, particularly weekday vs. weekend.
  • Originating geography: Where people live can tell you a lot about them, particularly at the zip code level (although it may not be practical to set up accounts by zip code).
  • Source search engine: Even among Google, Yahoo, and Bing, the differences in lead quality can be dramatic, not to mention the immediate conversion rate differences.
  • Content vs. search: Contextual advertising is great, because it often gets you clicks that are one click away from a SERP. But the lead quality could be different (better or worse).
  • Demographics: In Bing and Google content, you can bid separately based on demographic factors. If your campaigns are large enough, it makes sense to consider doing so.
  • Mobile vs. desktop: This one is obvious but I see lots of campaigns not optimized this way because mobile is still small.
  • Sitelink click vs. non-sitelink click: Sitelinks are great, but are all the clicks from a basket of sitelinks the same? I think not.

Some variables are predictive of lead quality but we don’t have control over them at the SERP level, so we can’t choose not to receive them as paid clicks. For example:

  • Syndication partner: AOL vs. Ask vs. Infospace, for example. You get none of them or all of them within an AdWords campaign.
  • ISPs and connection speed: Different ISPs appeal to different people.
  • Browser type and vintage: Are you a Firefox or an Internet Explorer person?
  • Operating system: Win vs. Mac and OS newness.
  • Work vs. home locations (as determined by IP blocks).

I mention the additional variables because while they may not be controllable for inbound PPC or organic search traffic, they are indeed variables you may want to consider optimizing with a search retargeting campaign. Why retarget everyone when you can cherry pick (assuming the differences are material and the confidence level of your data is high)?

For example, here’s what Sean Cheyney, VP marketing and business development at AccuQuote, had to say on evaluating the quality of online leads.

Then Sean shared with us how to meet the challenges of lead source diversity.

Later that day, Steve Isaac, the chief executive officer of EducationDynamics, had a specific point of view on lead quality within the education market.

Steve also shared with me how to deal with the diversity of quality of leads.

If you’re not sure which of the above variables will dramatically or subtly influence lead quality, then start embedding the above data right into your CRM (define) or business intelligence systems and wait the six to 12 months to regress the data. If you already have some of this data saved in your CRM systems, then get started and move towards a scored-lead environment and away from a lead-is-a-lead environment. So if you haven’t thought long and hard about the differing quality of your leads, perhaps now is the time to do so, both for paid search and for all the marketing you do to capture those most interested and most valuable to you (or your client) – even if it means connecting to back end CRM or business intelligence systems controlled by an IT department.

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