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Before you start spending money on PPC campaigns, you should have specific goals in mind for what you want your marketing to accomplish. If you do not have a goal set for your marketing efforts, then you can never tell if you will be successful or not.

What is a Good Goal?

A goal should be specific and measureable. Unfortunately, the most common goals are:

  • To make more money
  • To sell more stuff

These goals are not specific. Do you want to make $1 more each month, or $10,000 more? A better set of goals is:

  • Increase total revenue $1,000 each month for 12 months
  • Get 100 new email subscribers per month at a cost of $5 per subscription
  • Attain a $15 CPA for new leads with a minimum of 50 leads per month

Many companies will have multiple goals. You might have goals for social followers, email subscribers, lead generation, total revenue, etc. Having multiple goals is great. However,  often your marketing budget will not allow you to attain each goal. Therefore, put your goals in the order of importance.

This is a very brief look at goals, you should have a lot more thought about why you are marketing and what you would like to attain.

Having a goal is wonderful. However, if you cannot track your goals then you are blind to your marketing spend. You must find a way to track your goals. There are three common ways to track goals for PPC, which we will examine.

How to Track Your Goals

AdWords & AdCenter Conversion Tracking

Both Google AdWords and Microsoft adCenter have scripts that you can put on your site that will let you see exactly what ad copy, keyword, placement, search query, geography, day, time, etc received a conversion.

These are easy scripts to install if you follow a few simple steps:

  • Navigate to the conversion section in the PPC engine
  • Create a new script
  • In the script wizard, define what a conversion is worth. This step is optional; however, if you define it then you can see that a keyword costs you $100 and it make $150 or you can see that you spent $1000 sending people to a landing page that only made $500.
  • Install the script on your confirmation page. This is important. The script only gets installed on your ‘Thank you’ page. If you install it across your entire website, then you will be tracking page views.

Once the script is installed, then you will be able to see exactly how well your PPC account is performing and take actionable steps to removing data that does not convert, increasing spend in areas that do convert, and easily conduct tests to try and increase total conversions.

The advantage to using the PPC engine’s script is that you will see data inside your AdWords or adCenter account. It is very easy to tell where you are making and losing money as well as make bid decisions upon the data.

The disadvantage is that you will have to login to another system to see conversion data from your email, SEO, and other marketing efforts.

Call Tracking

Many conversions take place on the phone. If you get a call, take an order, and then hang up the phone – the person finished the conversion offline, and therefore your AdWords conversion script cannot work.

If you are creative, you can get the script to work. For instance, you can generate a travel itinerary or receipt online. Then when you are done with the call, direct the user to the online receipt page. Since this page is online, you can fire the PPC conversion tracking script.

However, that can be more technical that most companies can implement. The simplest way to track phone calls is to use phone call tracking.  With phone call tracking, you generally install a script from a call tracking provider where your phone number is generally displayed on your website. Then, when someone visits the website, the call tracking provider will see what phone number should be displayed based upon the referring data.

For instance, you could use one phone number for SEO, one for PPC, and another for email campaigns. Or you can display a different phone number for each ad group or keyword. The more numbers you want; generally the more expensive call tracking becomes.

The features of call tracking can vary widely by provider. Some will record calls, others have search with call data features, others have automatic routing based upon the referral data, etc. It’s best to first make a list of what data you need to make good marketing decisions, and then find a provider that offers your features.

The advantage of call tracking is that you can track conversions that occur over the phone and then use that information to improve your PPC accounts.

The disadvantage is that it can be costly and will add to your monthly bill. If your company does a lot of business on the phone, the cost is usually offset by the better marketing decisions you will make with this additional data.

Analytics Tracking

Every company should be using analytics. It doesn’t matter if it’s a free service like Google Analytics or an enterprise service such as Omniture. You need analytics. Analytics gives you much more than conversion data – it can give you insight into user behavior, referral data, and technology used across your entire site.

With analytics, the tracking can vary; however, this is the general order of setup for most analytics systems:

  • Install the analytics system across the entire site – every page should have the script
  • Inside the analytics interface, define your tracking goals. Usually this will be the URL of your ‘Thank you’ page
  • When you define your goal, also define the value of a goal. Just as with the PPC engine tracking scripts, this will let you see how valuable visitors are based upon a plethora of characteristics

One of the main advantages of using analytic tracking is that once analytics is installed on the site, the rest of the goal configuration occurs within the analytics interface. Therefore, you do not have to wait for your developers or designers to add more code. You can define conversions at will.

You can also define different types of conversions with analytics. With the PPC engine scripts, they do no record time on site or pages per visit. With analytics, you can set an interaction goal in addition to a URL goal.

Another big feature of analytics is that you can have all your conversion tracking data in a single place. You can see organic, referral, email, and PPC campaigns from one interface.  In fact, there are call tracking providers who will import data into analytics systems so you can even see your call tracking data there.

The disadvantage of analytics is that it often disagrees with your PPC data depending on how it is configured.

For instance, Google analytics looks at the last entrance to website in attributing a goal. PPC scripts look at the last ad copy, keyword, landing page, etc clicked on before the conversion.

To put this in an example, let’s say this is how a visitor converted:

  • Monday, clicked on a PPC ad
  • Wednesday – came back to your website directly and converted

The PPC engines will tell you that the ad copy clicked on Monday received a conversion. Google analytics will tell you that a direct traffic individual converted. if you add up your conversions across all of the tracking systems, it appears you have two conversions, when in fact you only have one.

My Personal Preference

Personally, I always use the PPC engine scripts and analytics. If more than 20% of the business comes via phone calls, then I will use phone call tracking. If less than 20% comes from phone calls, then I will occasionally use call tracking just to attribute the additional conversions to a source (PPC, SEO, etc).

The reasons to use both the PPC engine script and analytics is that you will use them in different ways.

The PPC engine scripts make testing very easy. Even with AdWords tight integration into Google analytics, it is difficult to see ad copy testing results inside of Google analytics. The PPC engine scripts make setting bids and testing very easy.

Analytics can give you additional data points to work with that the PPC engine scripts do not provide. The PPC engine scripts only report conversions. If you want to see how engage someone is with your content (time on site, pages per visit) analytics can give you this data. This is especially useful in managing placements and display campaigns for Google AdWords.

There are other way to tracking conversions. What you must do is to first set your goals, and then find ways of tracking and measuring those goals.

If you run a PPC campaign without conversion tracking – you will make bad decisions. By installing conversion tracking, you can see exactly where your money is going so you can use the data to increase the profits from your PPC accounts.

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