As the third article of the 5-article series, “Top 5 Basics You Should Know About Adwords,” this particular post probably should have been the first- it’s certainly the most important.

Being in this industry for over 15 years, it’s amazing to me that I consistently see many of the same mistakes being made by clients when it comes to their online marketing efforts; chief among them, improperly tracking the success of these efforts. This is of particular importance when you’re dealing with Adwords, or any type of marketing you’re spending actual cash or spend on. It’s one thing to waste money on put up a billboard and neglect to include your website address (yes, it has happened) but it’s a whole other level of tomfoolery to spend money month-after-month on PPC campaigns and not know the ROI of those efforts.

I could simply say “You should be tracking everything,” but most people don’t know what that means. So, let’s break down some essential basics of what you should be tracking. Please be aware that this is just a starting point.

As a side note, every piece of marketing you do, including print campaigns, tradeshow booths and that dumb billboard should be tracked too. We can help you set up special tracking phone numbers, websites and a plethora of other options to track those efforts.  The ROI of your investment can (and should) be tracked, as well. Contact us if you’d like to discuss these options in more detail.

Set Up Google Analytics

You’re running Google Analytics on your site, aren’t you? Of course you are. If you’re not, it’s very easy to set up and only requires that your web developer insert a small snippet of code into your website. This will allow you to get a whole catalog of information from Google about how people are getting to your website, what they’re doing when they got there, if they filled out a form, bought some stuff, came back multiple times, etc.

There’s a metric ton of information in Analytics and probably more than you will ever use or look at. Even after years of using Analytics, I’m confident there’s still data I’ve never looked at or buttons I haven’t pushed in the correct order to make Analytics do some magical thing. Seriously. It’s awesome and expansive.

Set Up Analytics Goals & Event Tracking

If you’re spending money to get people to come to your site and buy widgets, read a special whitepaper or fill out a contact form to create a sales lead, you probably want to have a good read on that data, right? Google Analytics goals let you set up and track specific actions on your website. This is where the magic starts to happen.

You should set up a goal for every action on your website that you want to track. This could be sales, newsletter signups, contact form submissions, donations, career applications or other actions that are important to your organization. Make a list and set your goals.

I’ve rebuilt several new PPC campaigns recently, and several clients had been running Adwords campaigns for years without any Analytics goal tracking.

Think about it: You’re spending $2,000 per month on advertising and don’t know if anyone ever filled out your contact form? Cool story…

You can also set up event tracking, which is helpful in many cases too. Maybe you want to know if someone clicked on a banner, the phone number on your site, or started filling out a form but stopped. This is where event tracking comes in- it’s a handy tool to gather more data.

For additional information on setting up Analytics Goals, checkout this helpful article from Google.

Ecommerce Tracking

If you’re running an e-commerce website (meaning that you sell stuff online), then you also need to set up e-commerce tracking. This will pass a multitude of valuable information back to Analytics regarding revenue, e-commerce conversion rates, products purchased and more.

This is a very valuable tool to have and will help ensure that you’re focusing your efforts on your most profitable products.

For additional information on e-commerce tracking setup, check out this How-To.

Connect Analytics and Adwords

Now you’ve ensured that Analytics is set up correctly, you want to go ahead and share the Analytics data with Adwords. In my experience, the metrics and KPIs from Analytics are far more dependable than the Adwords data by itself. In fact, my peeps at Google confirmed that they would rather trust Analytics data too, so there’s a little inside secret for you.

Linking your Analytics and Adwords account is relatively simple and allows you to do some cool things like pull your Analytics Goals into Adwords in order to track campaign performance. This way, when goals are completed, the information will be reported back to Adwords as a campaign conversion. It’s a particularly helpful feature if you have to produce reports for anyone.

In addition, (and I find this extremely helpful when managing campaigns) you receive supplementary information in Adwords from Analytics – like bounce rate, pages per visit and visit duration. It’s particularly helpful when trying to determine ad and landing page effectiveness. For example, you have an ad with a great CTR, but a horrible bounce rate? This is an indication your landing page needs work, or you should test another one.

Linking the two literally takes less than 5 minutes. So, do yourself a favor and learn how to link your Analytics and Adwords accounts.

Adwords Conversions

Adwords allows you to set up conversions for tracking on your site, as well as offering several different types of conversions- some of which aren’t in Analytics.

The only time I tend to use Adwords conversion tracking is in one of these special cases, or if I want to double check the accuracy of Adwords vs. Analytics data. This type of conversion tracking is also effective for tracking phone calls if you’re using Google forwarding numbers for your campaigns or website.

You can set up conversions in Adwords under the Tools menu at the top of the screen. After clicking on the +conversion button, a friendly little wizard (cue Harry Potter joke) will walk you through the set up process.

What you’ll also notice about this screen, is that you can import conversion data. If you’re really great at tracking conversions somewhere else, or through a different analytics program, you can import the information into Adwords and have access to your data. It’s worth noting that you can also import conversion data from Analytics, if you didn’t have your Analytics and Adwords linking done before- and you’ll want to get historical data back into your system.

Offline Tracking

Last, but probably most important – what’s happening to your leads once you get them? This is where 95% of organizations fail in their tracking methodology and subsequently, why it’s consistently hard to see justification of continued expenditure on Adwords.

Whether you are running Adwords for your company, or for a client, it’s essential that you have offline tracking mechanisms in place to find out what happens after your money generated the lead. This could mean putting leads directly into a CRM so you’re able to track leads through the sales cycle, or training CSRs and sales people to ask several basic questions if the customer calls in.

“Hey, John, how did you hear about us?….” “Oh, Google? Great! Did you click on one of the ads?”

With those two basic questions, you’re able to get some sort of read on whether the lead was PPC generated.

Ultimately, your client (or supervisor) is going to inquire about the ROI of the Adwords campaigns. Before this point, is usually where your data stops. That conversation is going to go something like this:

Sue: “I don’t know if I want to keep spending money on Adwords. We don’t get any business from it. It’s just a waste of money.”

You: “Sue, we spent $5,432 on Adwords last month. It generated you 64 phone calls and 23 contact form submissions. Can you tell me how many of those leads were legit or if any of them turned into sales?”

Sue: “No.”

You: “Well, based on your average sale and profit margin on that sale, I know that if even two of those people converted, that this was a profitable campaign for you. Do you know if you got at least two sales out those leads?”

Sue: “No.”

This is where you walk away crying, or laughing, depending on your personality. You can plan on having that same conversation monthly, until Sue, or Sue’s people are able to track the leads through the sales cycle.

In short, tracking doesn’t stop with Analytics and Adwords. Make sure that you’re tracking what happens after the conversion is done, or else you will never have a read on ROI. If you can get into granular data about things like products and services sold, profit margins, or attrition rates (to name a few) you’ll have even more data to determine if this is a smart place to spend money.

In closing, I’ve tried to hit some tracking dynamics at a high-level. There are almost infinite possibilities and configuration options, most are going to vary by business. I hope that this article has at least got you thinking about those options and what your next steps are to effectively track ROI of your marketing and Adwords campaigns.

Make sure you contact us if we can be of any assistance, or help you understand any of this better.

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