Everyone makes mistakes on the job, but some mistakes are more costly than others. In my 12 years of experience in PPC, the biggest mistake I consistently see is one that’s not easy to fix, but it’s absolutely necessary for success in PPC: neglecting to focus on conversions.
Yes, even in 2014 when conversion tracking should be not only present, but robust, many advertisers are not focused on conversions at all. Here are some of the conversion errors I see frequently.
No Conversion Tracking at All.
The lack of any type of analytics or conversion tracking is shockingly common. I see this most frequently among traditional advertisers who are accustomed to offline methods of advertising. Even if they have a Web presence, most of their traffic comes from offline channels that can’t be easily tracked to their source. As a result, these advertisers do not have a good tracking system in place. Yet, many of these advertisers realize they are behind the times, so they are anxious to try PPC.
I always tell advertisers who lack tracking that we won’t spend a dime of their money until we can track the impact of their PPC investment. The first order of business is to get the tracking in place, before any campaigns launch.
Tracking Code Installation Errors.
While the analytics vendors make it sound easy to install conversion tracking, it’s actually a technical and often challenging process. I’ve had more than one experience with an unwitting advertiser who placed the Google or Bing conversion tracking pixel on every page of their website. While it’s fun to see a 300 percent conversion rate, it’s not very meaningful.
Make sure to follow code installation instructions very carefully. And if you’re the agency providing the code, give clear instructions on where it should be placed.
URL Tagging Errors.
This one is usually the fault of the PPC manager. We’ve all done it – and hopefully, we’ve all caught the mistakes before they became too costly. Tagging errors can be a minor nuisance or an expensive error. The best-case scenario is that visitors will reach the correct landing page, but their visit won’t track properly. The worst case is that the tagging error causes the whole URL to break, sending the visitor (whose click you paid for) to a 404 error page.
Always check and validate your tagged URLs before launching a new campaign. It only takes a few minutes, and it’s worth the effort.
If you’re using Google Analytics, and your AdWords account and Analytics accounts are linked, you won’t have to worry about tagging your AdWords URLs. Also, Bing recently launched a long-awaited auto-tagging feature. Bing Ads auto-tagging will automatically append tracking tags to your PPC campaigns. It’s a much-anticipated feature – be sure to take advantage of it.
Not Going Deep Enough.
If you’re using auto-tagging, you should be able to get all the detailed data you need to properly optimize your campaigns. But some third-party analytics programs require manual URL tagging.
Resist the temptation to simplify the tagging process by only tracking at the engine or campaign level. You must tag down to the keyword level at a minimum to successfully optimize your PPC campaigns.
If you find that you’re running into challenges with getting the data you need, don’t despair. Both Google and Bing offer free conversion tracking scripts that will not only track campaign data, but display it right in the interfaces. Most social PPC engines also offer a conversion tracking script. It’s a good idea to install these scripts anyway, if possible, as they offer a redundancy to your other tracking package, enabling you to spot issues with code or other discrepancies quickly.
Not Setting Goals.
Believe it or not, many advertisers embark on a PPC campaign without setting goals first. If you haven’t decided on metrics that define success, it will be impossible to focus on conversions. Take the time to define the actions on your website that indicate a conversion has taken place. For e-commerce, it’s usually sales. For lead generation, you’ll want to track lead form fills. For any type of website, there might be other actions that indicate a hand-raiser: spec sheet downloads, "contact us" form fills, video views, etc.
Even if you are using PPC for awareness, you should be tracking actions that indicate visitor interest. Whitepaper downloads, views of a key page, or even time on site are metrics that can be used to indicate "conversions" in an awareness campaign.
The point is, you must determine the point of your PPC campaign, and then set up tracking accordingly.
Are you making the biggest PPC mistake by not focusing on conversions? I hope this article helps you fix your mistake quickly.