In this post I’ll be discussing the importance of conversion tracking and the options you have when your most desired response is a phone call from the prospect.
Direct-response marketing has been around for over 100 years, since the early days of catalog sales. Pre-internet, direct-response marketers were at the mercy of the postal system and the placement of “inquiry cards” appearing in catalogs or magazines. The cycle time for feedback on things such as ad copy, graphics or an item’s popularity was measured in months.
Conversion tracking is arguably the single most important feature of search engine marketing, simply because of how much it reduces the time it takes to receive feedback on many important aspects of the search engine marketing selling process; keywords, search terms, ad copy, landing pages, website features and functions, etc.
Most novice AdWords advertisers view conversion tracking as a nifty feature or simply a scorecard that provides interesting data and not as a valuable tool for optimizing campaign performance. If you aren’t willing to make conversion tracking a top priority, then you aren’t serious about optimizing your AdWords account! If you hire a professional to manage your AdWords account and you don’t have accurate, reliable conversion tracking in place, you have significantly hampered their ability to make significant improvements in your AdWords campaign.
But what if the most desired response from your website and the action most prospects take to your AdWords campaign is a phone call? Well then we have some real challenges.
Small business advertisers with limited budgets often judge the success of their AdWords campaign and the value of my work, by the number of qualified prospects that call them on the phone. In most cases, their evaluation time horizon is about one month, but sometimes it’s as short as a few days. This is a real challenge for me as well as the advertiser, to maximize their ROI.
Here is the typical scenario. A visitor clicks on your ad, visits your landing page, maybe a few other pages on your website and then decides to call you using the phone number posted on your website. The challenge we have is that the phone call cannot be traced back to the most important variables that make up your AdWords campaign; search queries, keywords, ad copy and landing pages. Simply asking the prospect how they found you and them saying Google or the internet, is not helpful from an AdWords account management perspective.
It reminds me of something my old employer Bill Hewlett said, “You can’t improve what you can’t measure”. He was of course the co-founder of the Hewlett-Packard Company, the world renowned electronic test & measurement company and by most considered to be the birthplace of what is now known as Silicon Valley.
When you are unable to associate the key elements of AdWords to the most desired action on your website, your ROI will suffer. Then it becomes a question of what your options are and how much are you willing to do?
I often encounter situations where a client or prospect has noticed an increase in calls due to their AdWords campaign, which is what they want of course, but they are concerned about costs. When I look at their campaign, what I see are mostly broad-matched keywords. When I analyze the search terms, I see a lot of what appears to be poor quality visitors, based on the search query that was used. The challenge is, we have no way of tying a search query or keyword to a phone call. Therefore, if I modify the existing campaign or build a new campaign based on what I believe are poor quality visitors, I’m sure to be filtering some prospects who would have called. The question is, how many good prospects called and how much did the advertiser have to pay to get that call.
In order to know what search queries or negative keywords to use, we need the ability to tie a search query to a phone call so we know what is working and what isn’t. You can’t rely on users to be all that precise when they use search engines. Sometimes they search for one thing, when they are really looking for something quite different or much more specific.
For example, suppose you only sold “tankless water heaters”. Do you want your ad to display to users searching for just “water heaters” or “tankless water heater repairs”? I actually had a client in that situation. When I told him he had paid for a lot of visitors (clicks) for that search query and asked him if he wanted to pay for clicks from these users in the future, his response was, “did they call me?”. Obviously I couldn’t tell him because we were not tracking phone calls, which is where 95% of his conversions (orders) came from.
So if you find yourself in a similar situation and you are not prepared to make an additional investment in third party tools, what are your options? Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Filter what you believe to be poor quality visitors and know that some valid prospects will be missed.
- If your budget will permit, use broad keywords to maximize exposure, but know that there will be a lot of poor quality visitors and your ROI will suffer.
- If you can’t track the call to a keyword, at least be able to track the visitor through your website using Google Analytics. Identify a multi-step (clicks or pages) that are a natural path through the website that a qualified prospect would follow. Then use Google Analytics to record metrics such as bounce rate, number of pages visited, time on the website, etc.
Here is an example of how I do that. I have a vacation home I advertise exclusively on the internet. You can’t book my home from my website, although you can fill out an inquiry form. However, most interested prospects call me. I simply can’t get enough data based on successful completion of inquiry forms to optimize my AdWords campaign. So here is what I do.
I believe when a prospect comes to my website, first they look at pictures on the landing page. If they like what they see, they may go to the photo gallery. If they are still interested, they will check out my rate schedule and specials. If they’re still interested, they will check the availability calendar. That’s where I have my AdWords conversion tracking code! If they have made it to the availability calendar, I believe they are a qualified prospect and I can track that action all the way back to the search query, keyword, ad copy and landing page. I can check the bounce rate, pages visited and time on the website.
Let’s return to the scenario where most (>50%) of your leads or sales come from telephone calls and you can’t get enough relevant information from AdWords or Google Analytics. In that case, here are some options:
- Implement meticulous phone answering practices to determine exactly how the caller found your phone number; not simply “the internet”, but a “Google search” and what specifically they were searching for.
- Have a dedicated phone number that is only used on your website. The degree to which this can help depends on what percentage of visitors to your website come from your AdWords account verses other referrers such as organic search, email marketing, etc.
- Use Google AdWords Call Extensions. There are a few different ways to implement this.
1.) Use Click-to-Call on ads appearing on mobile devices.
2.) Use Forwarding numbers to generate a unique number that appears below your ad. But please note, this number only appears in your ad, it won’t be displayed on your website, which is where I believe it really matters. I personally believe few people actually call a phone number that appears in an ad without first visiting the website, unless they are using a mobile device.
- Implement a third-party tool that can actually track a phone call back to your AdWords campaign search query, keyword and ad copy. In fact, some even record the phone call so you can confirm the real quality of the call! These tools do exist and they are usually priced as a monthly service based on the total number of unique visitors to your website per day. One product I suggest you look at is Call Tracking Metrics.
In summary, if the most desired response from your website is a phone call from a prospect and you can’t rely on AdWords or Analytics data, you either have to invest somewhere (website functionality, procedures, technology) or be prepare to go flying blind and hope for the best.