For quite a few years now, online marketing has been touted as one of the only advertising mediums that can truly track the consumer path, due to the digital trail that consumers leave when they finally find what they want. However, as far as big talk goes, online marketing is only as good as the analytics an advertiser employs to trace the digital trail.
In "Real World Trumps Online in Local Search," I discussed the metrics behind offline conversions, ROI, and call tracking. Today, I'll discuss the value behind tracking conversions online and offline.
Conversions come in all shapes and sizes: clicks, calls, sales, online, offline, and many, many more. The only problem with these conversions is that most advertisers still lack the ability to find out what their conversions are or where they're coming from.
This problem plagues a lot of businesses. According to MarketingSherpa's 2008 Search Marketing Benchmark Guide, conversion/KPI by segment (23 percent) and click path analysis (16 percent) were two of the top three metrics ranked "Most Under-Used" by search marketers.
In September, comScore and TMP Directional Marketing came out with the second wave of The Local Search Usage study, which found that one out of three Internet yellow pages (IYP) searchers visit with the goal of obtaining phone numbers (only 17 percent of local site users and general site users are looking for a phone number).
For IYP advertisers, this means the majority of their consumers are looking for a phone number, and only those advertisers with call tracking lines will be able to quantify the real value of their ad on an IYP site.
It was also shown in the comScore Local Search Usage Study that across all of the different search sites studied, the majority of consumers chose to contact the business via phone call post their online search. Local business searchers were equally likely to contact the business via telephone or in person in 2007, while local business searchers (and IYP searchers in particular) were more likely to call in 2008.
These lessons can also be applied to post-click tracking. Several businesses seem content with just knowing how many clicks they get to one of their ads. However, without employing any post-click tracking, there's no way to know if it's Joe Schmoe that accidentally clicked on your ad, or whether it's Betsy Johnson who's really looking for a phone number or an online form to fill out.
Unlike call tracking, though, post-click tracking has the advantage of classifying the good leads from the not-so-relevant leads and showing businesses what is and isn't working so that informed decisions can be made to enhance results.
Tracking Conversions in a Recession
Ad spend is the first to go when the economy takes a turn for the worse. This has never been truer than this year. We've seen stock markets crash, business after business going belly up, and consumers who won't commit to the spending they used to. It seems that marketers need to prove the importance of online campaigns now more than ever.
There is, however, a little bit of a bright side. With post click or call tracking, it's even easier to prove the value of online campaigns.
According to the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, nearly one-third of U.S. marketers used ROI/conversions to prove the effectiveness of online campaigns to their bosses. Also, because online campaigns are easier to prove effective, online spending has actually grown, albeit at a slower rate, while ad spend on other traditional mediums has decreased.
Conversion tracking, whether it be through call tracking or post-click tracking, is an invaluable means to find the consumer's digital trail (sometimes after the digital trail stops), find out what does or doesn't work with a campaign, and take steps to prove the effectiveness of an online campaign. Big talk is on its way out. It's time for businesses to put their conversions where their mouth is.