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Some retailers have great success persuading customers to buy after a single click on a paid search ad. The reality for most companies, however, is that single click-to-purchase transactions are rare. It can take several visits and multiple touch points before any revenue is generated from initial clicks. In cases like this, companies often end up guessing at their cost-per-click (CPC), or just focus on making sure their keywords are on page one of search results for what they hope are their major terms.

It’s always better in a paid search world to rely on math instead of guessing to help you make good decisions about your CPC and conversion rates.

The first step is to determine how people buy from your company and the decisions they make along the way. This knowledge is essential for any business who wishes to optimize not just their paid search campaigns, but their entire business processes. If your sales process is to buy a click to your website and then hope the prospect calls you within three to six months, there’s definitely a better way: add touch points all along the sales process. You will also hear touch points referred to as mini, micro or intermediate conversion events.

These intermediate conversions steps do not generate revenue but help your prospect continue through the sales cycle to make a final purchase. In addition, these steps allow you to track behavioral data so that you can optimize these touch points.

Consider a scenario where the entire conversion process is:

  • Advertiser buys clicks to website
  • A whitepaper download is offered on the landing page. Customer must enter name and email address to receive the whitepaper.
  • An email is sent out inviting registered customers to attend a free webinar. To attend the webinar the customer must add a phone number as well as some additional data about their company.
  • After the webinar, a sales person calls every customer who attended and attempts to sell them a product.
  • If a sale occurs, then revenue is generated.

While tracking these intermediate steps might seem like more work, the additional data you receive will allow you to optimize not only your PPC account, but also your own business processes.

In this example, if you spent $1000 on PPC to generate 1000 clicks and manage to track the conversion rates from each touch point to the next, here’s how the data might look:

  Conversions Conversion Rate from Last Conversion Conversion Rate from Click Cost Per Conversion
Click 1000 (clicks) - - $1 (click cost)
White Paper Download 250 25% 25% $4
Webinar Signups 175 70% 17.5% $17.50
Webinar Attendees 100 57% 10% $10
Phone Call Contacts 10 10% 1% $100
Sales 2 20% 0.5% $500

Once you have tracked this entire process, you have a clear picture of how the sales cycle relates to the conversion process, you can identify touch-points to optimize and test. These include:

  • Test whitepaper download landing pages
  • Test different invitation messages to see if it increases webinar signups
  • Test webinar reminder system to increase webinar attendees
  • Test webinar benefit messages to increase webinar show rate
  • Test phone scripts to determine close rates

In fact, if this was my company I wouldn’t even look at click cost first. There is a much bigger issue to fix. The sales team is contacting individuals who have both downloaded a whitepaper and attended a webinar. These consumers have had multiple touch points with the company. The sales team’s 10% contact rate seems exceptionally low in this case. I would first look to examine the sales contact process and see where it can be optimized. If you could double that contact ratio, then you could double your sales.

You do not need sophisticated systems to build this type of tracking. Even if each system you used is not integrated, by combining the information into a single spreadsheet, you will have the necessary data to being optimizing not just your PPC process, but your entire marketing process.

Sometimes the best optimization occurs outside of your PPC account. Marketing optimization is just as fundamental as PPC optimization. Only be building a picture your entire marketing process can you see where you can improve conversion rates and continue moving searchers through the buying cycle to become customers.

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