Paid Search for Lead Generation: Tracking, Understanding and Evaluating
Paid Search is a source of lead generation for many companies. Having the ability to bid on keywords that will trigger ads to appear to people who are in a research or buying phase opens up great opportunities for generating leads. Driving traffic to a website is something that experienced paid search professionals do each day. The quality of the traffic sent to the site is usually dictated by the strategy and experience of a paid search professional. This article is not going to dig into that process but instead get into what I think should be addressed before kicking off any lead generation campaign by suggesting that you ask yourself a few questions.
Where on my website will the visitor go?
What did the visitor do on my site?
Did they generate a lead by filling out a form?
Did they generate a lead by making a call?
How much did those leads cost?
Many companies spend tens of thousands of dollars monthly in paid search for lead generation but have problems answering these important questions. To answer these questions there are critical pieces of a puzzle that need to be connected.
Setting up On-Site Tracking and Analytics
Placing a small snippet of code on-site will allow for valuable information about your website traffic to be passed into your analytics platform. Analytics platforms will provide reports on many different metrics associated with your website traffic allowing data to be sliced and diced in ways that provide excellent insight into visitor interaction and website performance.
Paid search traffic can be segmented so that traffic from this source can be analyzed apart from other traffic. The process of linking your paid search platform and your analytics platform as well as the analytics tracking setup may differ depending on the platforms you are using. The very popular paid search platform Google AdWords can easily be linked to Google Analytics, a very robust, free and widely used analytics platform. AdWords offers an auto tagging feature so that AdWords paid search traffic will be automatically identified as such and segmented under the Advertising bucket in the Google Analytics platform. Other paid search platforms such as Bing, Facebook or LinkedIn can also be tracked via Google Analytics but because it is not a Google product some tagging is necessary on the Destination URL’s. It is in fact a very simple process that requires some extra parameters to be appended to your destination URL to allow identifiable info to be passed into the analytics platform e.g. www.yoursite.com?source=bing&medium=cpc. Once implemented, your data can be segmented by filtering these tracking parameters.
Many other analytics platforms do exist, such as Omniture’s Site Catalyst. Some of these platforms are free, and others are delivered as a paid service, with different processes and degrees of difficulty when setting up.
Ultimately we want something to happen, to achieve a goal of some kind, a phone call, or form submission or download.
What are your goals? Your goals need to be clearly defined and tracked because they shape your paid search campaigns and reporting.
Do you track a form that is submitted? Do you track phone calls? Do you track downloads of a whitepaper? If you answered no to any of those questions and they are source of leads, it is time to reconsider your tracking setup.
Website Form tracking is a snap. Either install conversion tracking code (supplied by major PPC platforms) on your thank you/confirmation pages and/or setup page goals for those confirmation pages in your analytics platform.
Tracking calls is so simple these days. There are many companies that offer services to implement phone tracking. Some of these platforms are quite robust and can offer dynamic phone tracking that will pull a phone number onto the website based a tracking parameter that is added to a destination landing page URL. If you have multiple products or locations that you want to track separately it is easily accomplished dynamically on the website. Interface reporting allows us to identify calls generated by a given advertising initiative and report data such as duration of call, the caller id, unique vs. repeat, and more. Set realistic goals on what criteria need to be met for a call to be considered a lead. Many phone tracking programs offer add-ons such as call recording if that is desirable to you in validating your leads.
Event Tracking easily allows for goal tracking when there is no confirmation page to implement your code or for virtual events like a video play. You can track the clicks of a button that lead to the final event. This is a perfect solution for tracking goals like a PDF download.
Landing Pages and Site Performance
Selecting the right pages to land paid search visitors on is important and reviewing the performance and testing of these landing pages is vital. Analytics platforms will provide valuable insight into the time people spend on pages, the path the visitor took through your website, where they convert into goals, where they exit the site, and so much more. This valuable information helps us understand how the site performs. We can gain insight into strong and weak areas of the site and devise strategies to implement on-site for better performance. Landing page tests, A/B or multivariate, are an important process in understanding landing page performance and fine tuning. At times paid search campaigns will use paid search only dedicated landing pages. This allows for freedom for landing page modifications and testing without disrupting the organic version of the page.
Call to Action
Do you have one? Landing pages need a strong call to action, even if the call to action is just pushing them down the funnel toward the goal. Ask yourself, what do I want people to do when they are on this given page, what is the goal? The answer to that question can be crafted into your Call to Action e.g. Call Now, Get Your Free Quote, Download Free Trial, etc.
Measuring Cost Per Lead
Hopefully at the end of the month, when it is time for reporting, your analytics platform is installed, the goals are identified and the tracking of your goals is setup and working.
Being able to track on a complete and granular level will allow companies dealing in lead generation to make the next logical step, and that is to analyze the cost per lead. How granular their tracking strategy will dictate how deep a dive they can take in analyzing cost per lead.