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Conversion Tracking: What To Do When It Doesn’t Work

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What do you do when your conversion tracking isn’t working? That’s a question I’ve had to answer twice in recent months due to technology interference. In a perfect world our PPC campaigns would always run smoothly, be easy to measure, and would integrate seamlessly with outside technology. Hopefully that is the case for most of us but I can tell you from first hand experience, sometimes technology throws us a curveball and we have to find interesting ways to define our success and keep moving forward. I’ve been working with two accounts that have some unique challenges.

The two accounts in question are both e-commerce and are sales-based. Generally, when dealing with a sales organization, it’s all about the bottom dollar and conversions. Key metrics would usually look something like:

o   Number of Conversions

o   Conversion Rate

o   Cost Per Conversion

But when conversion data isn’t available you’ve got to get creative. What do you do when you have no idea if your efforts are turning into sales? How do you attribute success to the time you’re putting into your account? Most importantly, how do you make decisions on the account to optimize for sales without conversion data? I wish I had the definitive answer but the reality is, every situation will be different and you just have to make do with the information and tools you have access to. The process I took with both of my accounts was similar and involved a few steps to get going in the right direction.

Assess The Situation

Look, if you’re spending money on PPC, be it for your own company or for a client, you demand results and return on your investment. If you don’t have conversion data, you need to figure out why. In both of my situations, the problem lies with their E-Commerce software manager but there can be a number of other reasons you don’t have conversion data, most of which are probably human error. Figure out what the problem is. If it’s something you can fix, do so. If it’s more involved, find the solution and decide if it’s reasonable to pursue resolution now or if you need to build it into future plans. Either way, finding a solution should be your top priority because you can only go so far without conversion data. In both my accounts a resolution is in the plans for the future so I had to find a way to bridge the gap and to continue driving sales now.

Communication

Communication is the most important factor in working around a loss of conversion data. Each situation is different. Here are the two I ran into:

Client 1 (One): One was a new client with no historical conversion data. In this case, communication was paramount in understanding the product, what their goals have been, and where they want to go. The good news is they’ve never had conversion data and they understand the limitations. I spent a lot of time over the first several weeks trying to understand what conclusions they’ve made thus far. What are their theories and how have they tested them. The key to communication was trying to understand existing relationship between PPC and sales.

Client 2 (Two): Two had historical conversion data I could reference but over recent months conversions had broken and now does not report accurately at all. Because I had historical conversion data to fall back on, we spent a lot of time discussing strategies for pushing products and allocating budget where it was most likely to convert or where it was most likely to generate high margin sales. This is all information that needed to come from the client and communication was paramount to knowing what direction we would be heading.

Being able to talk through each situation allowed me to brainstorm an action and goal plan that was unique and still allowed us to move forward and spend their budgets in areas that was most likely to have a positive effect on sales. One interesting side effect of a situation like this is that you are forced to become more in tune with the product, client, and customer. You aren’t just chasing conversion rate. You take off the conversion blinders and get creative.

Solutions

Client 1: With One, the relationship between clicks and sales has been fairly apparent and stable thus far. The more clicks, the more sales. There were a couple swings that made this easy to define. We had one week with a good influx of clicks and in turn sales and another week where clicks tapered off and sales diminished as well. With this account, I keep a close eye on revenue while trying to drive clicks at a lower cost. CPC has been a Key Metric and a thorough review of ads, landing pages, keywords, and quality score is also paramount to ensure the traffic we are generating is as focused as we can possibly make it. In the end, driving clicks is what’s important to the client as the number of clicks is clearly related to the number of sales.

Client 2: With Two, the focus was allocating the majority of budget to places where it should provide the most return. Because we had historical data we were able to make decisions around certain things, like which existing ads had performed better. This allowed for the creation of new ad variations based on proven existing ad copy. CTR and CPC again are key metrics but some additional performance indicators have been introduced as well. We took a strong look at their top selling products and new campaigns were broke out surrounding these specific items. One metric for success is to show how many more clicks we are generating on these items as compared to the clicks they received in the past. Interestingly enough, when looking at their internal sales report, we are seeing more of these items being sold now than had been before. Additionally, revenue on this account is at a six month high. Although we don’t have conversion data, success for this client can be defined by the increase in sales on their core items. We shifted some budget to the areas we know already work and the results have been better than expected.

Regardless of your situation, if you find one day that conversions aren’t tracking properly and there is no easy fix, don’t give up on PPC. Sure, you can’t get as detailed in your optimizations as you could if you had conversion data but if you keep your solution simple and focus on the areas you do have control over, there’s no reason your PPC campaigns can’t continue to drive sales.

About the Author

Rob Boyd

Rob is a former Account Director at Hanapin Marketing, a search engine marketing firm focused on generating results through pay-per-click advertising.
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