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Measuring ROI: How to Collect Meaningful PPC Conversion Data

lynch-john
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For service businesses such as law, consulting, or medicine, paid search advertising is often one of the most effective ways of increasing lead flow. Ripe opportunities consistently occur in these regionally based service industries (mostly because it becomes less likely that smaller organizations are able to connect bat to ball on great ad copy, web design, keyword targeting, campaign structure, and — most importantly — analytics).

Optimization of these types of ad campaigns can prove quite difficult, as conversion tracking is often much more complex than, say, an ecommerce site in which the entirety of the transaction takes place within the confines of the website. Specifically, this is due to the fact that the most compelling and beneficial action a user can take is to pick up the phone and call. This sort of personal interaction (especially in a localized business) helps to create a relationship and lubricate the sales process.

However, a “call now” primary action makes conversion and return on investment (ROI) tracking significantly more difficult because Google Analytics is unable to determine if the call actually lead to real revenue. The inability to track revenue can become crippling to those tasked with managing a campaign.

How can you expect to optimize a campaign without collecting any significant conversion data related to your PPC account?

Let’s look at an outline of three levels of conversion data tracking that vary in terms of pros/cons, costs, effectiveness, and sophistication. However, it’s distinctly possible for any organization to vastly improve their advertising performance by employing all three of these methods.

Tracking Level 1: Conversion Data

Conversion tracking can be accomplished by keeping contact information in a prominently placed “Contact Us for XYZ” call-to-action. By creating a conversion on page view, the marketer now has access to the keywords/ad groups/campaigns that are creating the most interest in a sales touch point.

While this can be helpful, it’s far from perfect. There’s an enormous difference between being curious enough to ask a question and actually being willing to sign up as a new customer.

Operating only on this information helps point us in the right direction, but leaves us with two crucial questions:

  • Did these clicks lead to meaningful calls?
  • Did these calls lead to revenue. If so, how much?

Tracking Level 2: Phone Tracking

Phone tracking is an exceptionally powerful method of collecting phone call data. Essentially, phone tracking service providers issue businesses additional phone numbers that forward directly to a main line.

Each number is designated to it’s own marketing channel. For example:

  • Phone Number 1: Facebook Paid Campaigns 
  • Phone Number 2: Google AdWords Campaign A 
  • Phone Number 3: Google AdWords Campaign B 
  • Phone Number 4: Google Organic Search

The service provider then tabulates data points such as total number of calls, recordings of actual calls, the referral source of the call, caller ID, and average call lengths. To implement, simply integrate this phone number using Google ad extensions and populate key areas of landing pages.

This method is highly effective in tracking actual calls to campaigns, but leaves one burning question: did the call create revenue?

Level 3: Self-Reported Data

Self-reported data isn’t perfect for a wide number of reasons, but still can still provide powerful information to significantly improve the performance of a campaign.

Collecting self-reported data can be simply achieved by having the people responsible for handling new phone calls ask, “How did you hear about us?” If the answer is “online”, your administrator can ask something along the lines of “Oh, through Google?” It’s a quick exchange, and one that will have no negative impact on the sales process.

It does, however, provide invaluable data to a marketer who can now trace call leads to the day and campaign, so measurable KPIs such as cost/lead can be derived. Even better, the admin should follow up several weeks after and mark the lead as “converted to sale” or “not converted.”

A notes section can also be provided for non-converted leads to spot business level trends for failed leads (too far away, too expensive, etc.). This data will improve the advertisement spend, as well as the business proposition as a whole.

The admin should also enter the total revenue achieved from the sale, which provides the most holy and valuable of all performance indicators: ROI.

Bring it All Together in One Dashboard

If you’ve followed all three steps, you should have the following pieces of data:

  • Contact Us Conversions 
  • Phone Calls Created By Campaign/Ad Group 
  • Sales and Revenue Created From Phone Calls.

It’s now time to integrate this data into one sleek reporting dashboard. In any Excel dashboard, look to have a daily/weekly accounting of all calls, costs, and sales as it relates to the campaign level.

Here are just a few metrics any business should consider monitoring on a campaign/ad group level:

  • Total Costs 
  • Cost/Call 
  • Click to Call Rate (%) 
  • Lead to Sale Rate (%) 
  • Cost/Lead ($) 
  • Cost/Sale 
  • Overall ROI

It’s a long and painful road, but one that is ultimately necessary. Access to these metrics will help identify both strong and weakly performing campaigns, and provide a rich data history should problems arise in the future. For example, a sudden spike in the lead to sale rate might signal a sales problem, whereas steady increases in cost/call data might indicate a campaign that is in strong need of optimization.

Demand that your organization commit to collecting this data. Flying blind will always be a recipe for disaster.


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