Measuring your success and return on investment (ROI) should be a key part of your search marketing strategy. Measurement helps you to understand if you are meeting your goals, forms a benchmark for future budgeting and justifies your marketing spend. Furthermore, effective measurement helps you to optimize the elements of your campaigns on the fly.

Use these insights and tips for tracking and optimizing your search marketing investments.

From Impressions to Conversions: A Primer

Before diving in, it’s worth taking the time to review the various opportunities for tracking search marketing success. Paid search networks offer plentiful opportunities to measure the success of your campaigns. The most basic measurements include:

  • Impressions: The number of times your ad appears during a campaign.
  • Click-throughs: The number of times your ad is clicked on.
  • Click-through-rate (CTR): The number of click-throughs divided by the number of impressions.
  • Cost-per-click (CPC): The cost of each ad click-through.

These metrics are great at giving you a partial picture of success. But for a more comprehensive view, you also need to understand how to track conversions.

Conversion tracking helps you measure campaign ROI by counting the type and number of specified activities consumers complete on your website. How conversion rates are defined can vary between campaigns.

For example, for an online retailer with the goal of increasing sales, their conversion rate may simply be the number of clicks that led to a sale. For a B2B that is trying to generate leads, the conversion rate may be the number of people who downloaded a white paper or subscribed to a newsletter.

In general, tracking the following metrics can help you assess conversion rates:

  • Destination URL: The number of visits to a specific web page.
  • Events: The completion of a specified action such as subscribing to a blog.
  • Duration: The amount of time user spends engaging on a web page.
  • Pages viewed per visit: The number of web pages a consumer visits.

It’s important to note that once you have an idea of how you want to track conversions, you will need to use your search network tools to define and track those conversions.

Dealing with a Longer Conversion Cycle

One of the strengths of paid search is the ability to connect a click to a sale, and for e-commerce businesses selling products to consumers, tracking is often one-to-one. However, for B2B businesses, the conversion cycle can be much longer. The path a customer takes from initial research, to comparison shopping, to becoming a lead, and ultimately, to converting can be a long one.

Dealing with a longer conversion cycle can still be done. Target customers with appropriate messaging based on their current stage in the cycle. Understand that an early-stage click that doesn’t result in a lead may still have value. Setting expectations and having a long-term strategy can help you overcome this hurdle.

One-to-one conversion tracking is difficult for B2Bs when customers are interacting with your business through many channels and on different devices. To deal with this challenge, make sure that you have systems in place through your customer relationship management (CRM) system and call-tracking software to help tie everything together and give you the clearest view of how paid search is performing. When you know which campaigns are doing best (or worst), you can optimize and invest accordingly.

Determining Your Key Performance Indicators 

To track success, you must set relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) as part of your campaign planning process. KPIs align to your specific business goals and will help you select the right ways to measure success and to quickly see what’s working and what’s not in your campaigns.

For example, if your goal is to build your customer base, your KPIs may define the percentage of new customers and conversion rates. If you want to increase call volume, you can set KPIs that measure increases in the number of calls and call conversions.

Dealing with Attribution

Even with advanced analytics and lead tracking in place, many businesses deal with the challenge of attributing everything correctly. An attribution model is a way to give credit for leads to different touchpoints in the conversion path. Choosing the right one for your business is important.

The most common attribution model is last click, but that doesn’t make it the best for your business. The last click model assigns credit to whichever channel drove the user to convert (for instance, if a customer clicks an ad and then converts on the site). But what if a user clicks an ad, leaves the site, and comes back a week later via an organic search?

Put a model in place to help you determine what channels are driving your leads. For B2B businesses with long sales cycles, multi-touch models like time decay make the most sense because they account for many interactions with different channels over time.

Strategies for Targeting the Entire Conversion Funnel

Paid search can play a role throughout the conversion cycle. It’s easy to focus efforts on the bottom of the funnel because that’s where most sales and leads come from. Such ads are valuable, but you can attract so many more potential customers by also targeting people in higher stages of the funnel. This is especially important for B2B businesses.

Target customers at each stage of the conversion funnel with different types of ads.

  • High: Customers high in the funnel are far from converting. They are often unfamiliar with your brand and what you offer. To target these customers, use non-branded search and display.
  • Mid: Customers in the middle of the funnel are aware of your brand but are still researching all the options. These customers may respond best to more specific non-branded search keywords and some branded search.
  • Low: Customers low in the funnel are interested in your brand and are ready to convert. Target them with remarketing and branded search.

To learn more about building your KPIs, measuring ROI, and more, download The growth marketer’s guide to search.

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