Feature Article (Pub: August 08) The importance of conversion tracking with paid search by Joe Ogden

Paid search can be an asset to any online marketing campaign, especially for a new business waiting for the organic search engine optimisation to establish itself. There are many different aspects of a paid search campaign that need to be considered in order to get the right balance between cost and the effectiveness of the PPC campaign.

You need to know your product and services, know your market and know how you potential customers use search engines to find products and services in your market place. The products and services you offer need to be split down into the right Adgroups to maximise the potential for the campaign and monitor and 'tweak' the campaign to ensure you are getting value for money. However, this article is about highlighting the importance of conversion tracking and how it can be the making of a PPC campaign.

Conversion tracking - alongside a good analytics program - enables the avid PPC campaigner to see just how effective their keywords, ads and Adgroups are and what the visitors to the site are doing when they arrive; are they 'bouncing' straight away, looking around and then leaving, or are they buying products or services or contacting the site owners for more details?

It is important to know what your visitors are doing as if we merely gauge a campaign on clicks alone we can never be sure that those clicks are effective. A campaign might get 1000's of clicks a month but if sales aren't increasing then the campaign is not set up correctly, or in other words it is far better to have 200 clicks a month, of which 50 convert to sales, than 2000 clicks a month where only 25 convert.

Measuring the success of a campaign on the amount of clicks a site receives in never a good idea, measuring the conversion rate and CTR (click through rate) is by far the better way to gauge success in a PPC campaign.

To measure conversions you need to understand completely what you want your web site visitors to do (in an ideal scenario) do you want them to contact you? Buy products; buy services or sign up to a regular email? The first step is to know what you want to measure, if you track email newsletter conversion but you are an ecommerce site then it would be far better track sales than email sign ups. Consider this point carefully as to understand this is to understand your customers and your business.

The conversion tracking with most PPC providers is a simple case of adding code to the conversion page and then highlighting which page you want to track in your chosen PPC provider's console. Again, give some thought to how you might track a page from your site; it's no good, for example, to track a page that needs an action to access it (such as logging in) as this will place a barrier in the way of the tracking software and it will not be able to collect the conversion data.

It is a good idea to always have a separate 'thank you' page for conversion tracking, even if it means redirecting the visitors to a page that just states a 'thank you' that way the conversion data is clean and you can see that every time that page is being accessed by a user they have completed the desired action you are tracking.

If you are tracking purchases then most PPC consoles have the ability to attach a value to the conversion allowing you to work out a relationship between the cost per click and the sale, or the return on investment (ROI) value.

Conversion tracking allows you to see just how effective your campaign is, allows you to move away from gauging a PPC campaign on clicks alone and can show you what needs to change (if anything) to create a successful paid search campaign.

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