Any business involved with marketing their products and services needs to understand where to put their time and money. Without this knowledge, you could be spending your time on strategies and tactics that are either less than effective or not at all.
We’ve seen significant advances in the tools we (as digital marketers) use in order to properly attribute conversions, whether that is for generating ecommerce sales, advertising revenue from online traffic or lead generation. Because most of our current business relationships at The Receivables Exchange deal with Business-to-Business transactions, I’m going to focus on relatively simple ways we make sure we are measuring the correct performance indicators from our search marketing efforts.
Getting Ready: Get Organized
Search Marketing is simple to many and complex to others. In order to keep it simple, let’s briefly talk about the steps to get a proper campaign set up. Before you even go to Adwords or adCenter, take some time to generate a list of keywords your existing and potential customers use to find you. If you don’t know, ask the experts in your company…don’t guess. A good start is to speak with the people who talk to the customers most: Sales, Customer Service, Product Marketing/Managers. Once you have a core list, there are tools to help you expand and/or contract the list.
Fast forward to an established list (because it can be a lot of work to get here). At this point, you should have a core list of keywords you believe produce the most effective conversions. This is both your primary target list for paid search and your focus for optimizing organic search (non-paid). In either case, you need to know which keywords are performing and why. Without this information, your search efforts are a waste of time. In addition to the keywords, you also need to observe creative performance (ads, landing pages, website, etc) and technical details (mobile devices, browsers, etc) for optimization.
Capturing Attribution from Forms
For both paid and natural search, we seek to capture some basic information: source (which search engine), keyword and creative (which ad and landing page) when a lead is submitted and push that down through your tracking systems. In our case, these layers follow a couple of primary tracks:
Search -> Landing pages/website/blog -> Lead Form -> Marketing automation system -> Sync with Salesforce (Customer Relationship Management System or CRM)
- Search -> Landing Pages/website/blog -> inbound phone call -> Salesforce -> Sync with marketing automation
In either case, if you correctly track the important details from keyword to creative, you will be able to see your results in your CRM. In some situations, your lead forms can be automated to submit the data via your marketing automation tool and/or CRM. In others, you may need to have someone do a little programming and pass this along.
Inbound Phone Call Tracking
Phone calls are more difficult to track. If you have a single branded phone number you use for marketing, it’s even more difficult. If everyone calls the same number, you will need to obtain the information from the lead (which is not the best use of a Salesperson’s time and could annoy the person calling). However, if you don’t mind which number people use to reach you, a little technical work (not as easy as it sounds, per my Developer) can provide you with a solution. We use a phone number swapping method where we identify the source and provide a different number for those sources. When the call comes in, our sales team knows (without asking) where the lead was generated, giving us source attribution. You can take this further and break it down by keyword and creative if it was a search (if you have access to enough numbers). We also track non-search with phone swapping. For example, if you click on this link to go to our Factoring comparison page, the phone number on the website that you see will be the number that we assign to visitors who were referred from our blog.
What Metrics are important?
The most important performance indicators in search marketing for lead generation are Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) and scalability – How much did it cost to acquire X metric. Your CPA should be layered through your sales funnel. For example, the CPA for a lead form will be less than a CPA for a sale (unless every lead becomes a sale). Once you know your CPAs for each step, determine if that’s where you want it to be. If the answer is yes, the next question is how many can I get at this cost (scalability)?
We generally group performance measurement into prequalification, post qualification and sales categories. The names we use are more specific, but you will have your own. The reason we group this way is to determine the relative performance of each stage and how it compares to our forecast. These details are important in identifying opportunities to improve or leverage:
- Stage 1 includes cost per click (CPC), rank, clickthrough rate (CTR) and cost per lead. These metrics help us understand the relative performance of the query to lead activity. It also helps us understand how differences in these lower KPI’s influence the bottom of the funnel.
- Stage 2 includes how each lead performs in the middle of the sales funnel. We have about 5 major stages in our pre-sale sales funnel that we watch. This helps us understand the qualification rates and how well they perform presale for each search funnel.
- Stage 3 includes how each qualified lead performs through to sale. This is a better quality indicator and ultimately determines the success of your efforts. The more refined you are through this entire funnel, the clearer your path to success will be.
The Bottom Line
In the end, search marketers care about each stage because every improvement can have a ripple effect on performance. While you might not have control of the middle of the funnel, it sure helps if you can produce great results right down to the sale. Here’s a broad visual view of how lead data flows through our tracking funnel:
Finally, Take Action!
We use the performance details to decide on our next action, whether that is to expand/contract keywords, adjust advertising creative, modify our website/landing pages, shift budgeting to better performing grounps or hold course (and repeat). These details are analyzed at least daily and we regularly make changes. Your change frequency will be determined by your specific needs and available resources.
If you have questions, let me know. Ways of contacting me are listed on my profile page.