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Clicks, Customers, Cashflow, Part Two: Converting Customers

Published: December 11, 2013

Author: David Rothwell

In part one of my three-part blog series, “Clicks, Customers, and Cashflow,” I talked about the almighty click (where it all begins). In this post – Part 2 – we’ll talk about ad-to-landing-page flow, meeting expectations, and – perhaps most importantly – making sure you have a system in place to track and measure the conversions all of those clicks produce. In other words…

Clicks are for Show, Conversions are for Dough

Many AdWords advertisers obsess over click-through rates and Quality Scores – and you are right to pay attention to them.
However, if you cannot convert and track your carefully qualified and paid-for website visitors to sales conversions and customers, your website is not doing its job.
I have often seen AdWords advertisers buying 100% accurately matched keywords to their product, only to find that nobody buys when they arrive – which clearly shows that they are making the wrong offer. (I’ve also found them to be less willing to change their offer than to change their source of traffic.)
There is an ongoing preoccupation with search engine optimisation (or SEO), but it has never been more important to test your website with PPC campaigns to find out whether you can sell anything from it in a controlled way before investing in quality SEO programs. For e-commerce merchants in particular, Google Shopping ads via Product Listing Campaigns are increasingly marginalising SEO efforts. Google Plus, Seller ratings, and Ad Extensions are playing more of a part in making ads more noticeable and attracting clicks (note the crowding effect below).
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As you can see, there are plenty of ways to pay for a click. But what happens next?

Remember: Ads are Ambassadors

People are looking for your stuff, have noticed your ad, and have clicked on it. Now, it’s time for your landing page to deliver on that promise.
If you have disqualified the wrong visitor and qualified the right visitor, now it is all about your offer – make the wrong offer, and your visitor will bounce without becoming your Customer.
If you have your Google Analytics account linked to your AdWords account (a no-brainer), you will be able to see your bounce rate within the AdWords statistics.
Were you able to see any at 100%, these would probably be good negatives.
Customize Columns

Manage Expectations

In an earlier article, I described how Google encourages you to write your ads first.
To minimise bounce rate, I ensure my ads always deliver on their “click expectation” by reverse-engineering my client’s landing pages so that the ad copy accurately reflects the offer at the ad destination.
To do this, I grab chunks of text from the landing page and chop it up into blocks of 35-character sentences with the help of an Excel spreadsheet. Then, I make multiple combinations of them.
You’ll often find there are several features and benefits on a good landing page, so never restrict yourself to just 2, or 3, or even more ads – you’ll never know which are going to get you the most Customers for the best price.

“Don’t make me think”

Don't Make Me ThinkYour visitors should never be confused about where they are and what they should do next. The confused mind will not buy.
As they move around your website, they should never be wondering, “Am I in the right place?”
If your ad has done its job of identifying the right buyers, they should always be thinking:

-This is me
-This is for me
-I want this
-What do I do now?

While I won’t go into the important area of Conversion Rate Optimisation, there are certain best practices that most webpages need to follow:

-Compliance with Google advertising Policies (e.g. no pop-ups)
-A strong headline
-Possible scarcity, or some reason to act immediately
-Social proof, or testimonials / ratings from real buyers
-A strong and clear Call to Action
-Easy navigation

For examples of the best conversion pages, simply visit Amazon.

Before You Anything Else, Set Up Tracking

You can track conversions in your Google Analytics account, link that to your AdWords account, and import them.
Whilst an Analytics account is mandatory to generate crucial intelligence about your visitor activity, it does not allow for real-time bid management or flexible bidding strategies such as Cost per Acquisition (CPA) or Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). You need native AdWords conversion tracking for this.
By placing a small snippet of code on the final “thank-you” page your buyer sees following their purchase (unlike Analytics code, which runs across every webpage) you can match the conversion to the keyword search and ad click which preceded it (Search Funnels and attribution are outside the scope of this article).

What are Conversions?

A Conversion is an event that has a defined value, for which you are willing to pay Google.
It’s best to avoid mixing conversion types where possible because they could have very different values (more about this in Part 3 – “Cash flow”).
Google gives you five options for a conversion:

-View of a key page

The ideal conversion event is an immediate purchase of your product or service for which your visitor gives you money online.
But there are a variety of other types of conversions that could have value in the future:

-Phone calls to ask questions
-Phone calls to place orders
-Form submissions
-and others…

Think of your sales funnel leading to your conversion as a supply chain – and keep it as short as possible.

Why do we need conversions?

Say we bought 100 website visitors – what did they do? Did even one of them buy? How do we know? And what did it cost?
We want to get at least a 1% Conversion Rate, so we can “calibrate” the performance of our website in terms of Conversion Rate, and Conversion Cost (or cost per acquisition/CPA).
Without these metrics, we cannot make decisions about the economics of our online advertising and whether it is a cost centre or a profit centre.
For e-commerce, we generally consider a 1% conversion rate as worst-case (except Branded terms), with anything above 2% being good; lead generation could be as high as 20% to 60% (I have seen strong lead generation websites converting keywords and ads all the way up to 100%).

How Conversion Tracking actually works

-The user types a search query into Google
-The search query matches or approximates a keyword in an ad group in your campaign, depending on Match Types and Campaign settings
-An ad impression for an associated ad within the same ad group is generated
-If your ad is visible (above the fold, or Position 6 on the right-hand side of results page) and interesting enough, it may get clicked

-People are curious, and you will never stop them from clicking ads, so even if yours is somehow completely unrelated to the search that triggered it, you’ll still pay for inappropriate clicks (tip: use your Search Query Reports to generate appropriate Negative keywords)

-The ad click places a cookie on the user’s device

-this can never be 100% guaranteed, because users block or clean cookies, or change devices after the ad click

-If the visitor goes all the way through your sales funnel to the “thank-you page”, the cookie will match the tracking code, and a conversion event is generated

In an increasingly Mobile world, Google is introducing new ways to follow conversions across devices from smart phones, to tablets, to PCs. The Chrome web browser already supports synchronisation across devices.

Losing Conversions – and getting them back again

As mentioned, you can lose conversions because of cookies failing.
You can also lose conversions to phone calls. When people call you to ask questions, they may well want to go ahead with an order right after and have their credit card ready. I doubt you’ll refuse to take it!
(These calls are very valuable – build a knowledge base out of them and put it up on your site, including Live Chat and Site Search queries; then work to stop the phone ringing as much as you can. I spoke to an “Entrepreneur” recently who was getting 50% of his calls from people simply asking where their order was!).
But orders like this can’t be tracked in your AdWords account, and this messes up all your numbers. It’s vital to recapture these as soon as possible, to ensure accurate numbers for bidding and budgeting purposes.
There’s a number of ways to do this, from free workflows and Google Call Extensions, to paid 3rd-party Call Tracking Systems.
If you can make your customer come back to a page on your site following a phone call order, you can get their conversion data back into your campaigns again.
Ad Extensions
One client I had in the service industry had to make sure he got some certification documents to his customers as a legal requirement after the work was done.
By changing his workflow from emailing them as attachments, to emailing them instead a download link from his website, he could be sure to get people back to his site and track those lost conversions again.
In Call Extensions, you can also designate specific call durations as signifying an online conversion – so if you know you always get a sale from a call which lasts more than, say, 5 minutes, you can set that up in your campaigns.
3rd-Party Call Tracking Solutions often use Google Analytics and can tell you many useful things, like whether you got a lead, or sale, and how much it was worth to you.
Although I’ll cover this in more detail in Part 3 – “Cashflow”, I will mention three kinds of Business Model for your Conversion Tracking:

-Breaking even

-You need to get to this point as fast as possible, so you can get ready to optimise and scale up

-Making a Profit

-If you only ever sell one product to a Customer

-Making a Loss

-If you make money on your back-end sales, upsells, cross-sells and promotions; email marketing is important here

Do not succumb to death by non-tracking

In 2013 I still see many AdWords advertisers not tracking Conversions, and they are likely to be going broke without even realising it.
Death by not tracking
If you can’t or won’t track Conversions, you cannot “follow the money” to ensure that you earn more than you spend.

Setting up and Testing

Simply follow the instructions when adding a new Conversion event, place the code snippet on your thank-you page, and you’re ready to test.
Rather than just wait and see if conversions start to happen, I prefer to test that it works.
To do this, I run a single keyword and ad to start with, and make the ad or keyword destination url that of your thank-you page.
Then, do a search for your chosen keyword and click your ad when it shows up, and you’ll go directly to the thank-you page – look for the Google Site Stats badge.
Google stats
This won’t work if you’re dynamically building a page that doesn’t exist yet and requires an actual order. You’d need to create a test transaction instead.

Next Time

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