Heroview – CRO & Analytics for PPC with James Svoboda

Today’s #Heroview featured James Svoboda (@Realicity) as he put the 140 character limit to the test and shared some of his insight towards Conversion Rate Optimization & Analytics for PPC. The interview was full of great information and interesting new ideas to add to your PPC arsenal. But you don’t need me to tell you, check out the streamcap below!

Thank you to everyone who participated in this month’s Heroview – real-time discussions with PPC industry experts via Twitter.  Stay tuned for next month’s Heroview!

July 21, 2011

PPC Hero: Welcome to #Heroview everyone! To get started, tell me a little about yourself. How long have you been working with PPC?

James: Thanks! I’m excited to participate in the #heroview today. Let’s see, my intro to PPC came during my 1st year at @WebRanking in 1999. GoTo.com was my first PPC platform- the “AdWords” of the time. They had a transparent & reliable keyword tool that I still miss most of GoTo’s CPC’s were sub $0.10 at the time. We bought cheap traffic in bulk, which helped make up for the lack of analytics.

PPC Hero: Excellent, well we’re excited to hear your advice today! Today we’re going to talk about conversion rate optimization, and using Analytics for PPC. Aside from landing pages, how can a company’s website be optimized for conversions?

James: I think of landing pages being the main road to get to the Town Square (aka the Conversion). There are side streets to consider. There are also other roads, like SEO and Social, which can lead to the Town Square and may branch off to the same side streets. For instance, some PPL would recommend removing a site’s navigation from Landing Pages to increase conversion rates. That’s great if you only have 1 product or service that you want to convert, but not practical for most business websites.

James: For example, a client’s site is *less than ideal* for lead generation. We built dedicated landing pages with no Top Navigation & de-emphasized footer links. 10% to 20% of their monthly PPC conversions from Driving Directions to their local showroom that is 2+ clicks from the landing page. Since we identified Driving Directions as a conversion, we can measure & optimize the path to the conversion and the converting page. Driving Directions & non-lead conversions, can & should be tracked & optimized. I consider these to be part of the Marketing Ecosystem.

PPC Hero: Does this optimization differ between eCommerce sites and lead generation sites?

James: Yes. eCommerce sites often have drawbacks for landing pages based on the eCommerce platform used. This affect things like A/B testing. For eCommerce, I split CRO into three main parts:

  1. Getting visitors to Add-to-Cart
  2. Cart to Completed Order
  3. 2nd Tier Conversions

Lead Generation sites I usually build dedicated landing pages and optimize secondary conversion paths for higher returns. Three main parts for lead generation:

  1. Form Leads (highly trackable)
  2. Phone Calls (higher sales conversions)
  3. 2nd tier Conversions

There are some common CRO differences between eCommerce and lead generation, but each site & campaign should se assessed uniquely.

PPC Hero: In your opinion, what are the essential parts of a complete “marketing ecosystem” between a company’s website and its PPC efforts?

James: Good question! Essentials for me are:

  • Providing clients a unique PPC dashboard that measures and reports on only PPC metrics
  • Having a dedicated Analytics profile tracking only PPC efforts for the website
  • Measuring any & all conversions. It’s tough to optimize and prove ROI on what’s not being measured. Also, some conversions are more valuable than others and reporting and CRO should reflect this.
  • Analyzing (not just reporting) site usage, conversion rates and all conversion paths incl. Main Roads & Side Streets via PPC.
  • How do the PPC campaigns compare with non-PPC marketing and what can be learned from and applied to other channels?

PPC Hero: Do you suggest putting links on landing pages to other pages in your website?

James: Yes, selectively. I think it’s important to link to pages that will be important to visitors AND also increase Conversion Rates. This would be a win-win scenario.

For instance: eCommerce sites should link to Return & Shipping Policies, Lead Gen to Testimonials, Restaurants to menus and so on.

PPC Hero: Interesting! So which aspects of landing pages do you test most often for conversion optimization?

James: In essence everyone tests the same “easy to change” things: Headlines, pictures, buttons, copy, blah, blah… It’s not that I’m against them, or that I don’t test them, but if you ask your client’s what makes them special, so why don’t we ask ourselves, what makes my landing page testing special?

I concentrate on elements that affect visual focus and eyeflow, as well as heatmap information, such as color balance & on-page CTA placement.

There are big rewards in testing unique and creative elements.

PPC Hero: What harms conversion rates and user engagement more– having too much content on a landing page, or not having enough?

James: I believe that having too much does. Not because more information is bad, but because it affects page balance and eyeflow. I think of landing pages as a page in a 3-ring binder, where, when you turn the page you don’t see the previous page. When you look at the current page in from of you, you see all of it. Not just the above the fold, all of it. Now, visitors’ eyeflow will be balanced if all of your landing page content is balanced with a reasonable amount of call-to-action space. I may be a bit out there on this one, but I’m thinking of psychological weight. There is a reason most CRO professionals talk about increasing the size of CTA buttons beyond the attention they grab.

If all your CTA’s are the same size, you are telling your visitors they all matter the same.

PPC Hero: Great answer, we’ll finish off with one more question. What would you suggest to search marketers that want to optimize a client’s webpage but don’t have access to IT?

James: Ouch! Been there…

  • Learn HTML and how CMS platforms work. You will be more valuable to your company and your clients.
  • Assess any resources available & identify small items that can be easily changed. Little things can have a huge impact.

PPC Hero: Thanks for the great insights! To wrap things up, does anyone have any questions/comments for James?

@Michellemsem: Great stuff! Just as clarification: for landing page navigation, you’re saying to only have items that compliment the conversion?

James: I almost always try and de-emphasize the navigation, which is interpreted differently for each site. Then, selectively choose what else to link to in regards to visitor usability & CRO. Sometimes removing the top and/or side navs, but always leave the “Escape Door” footers.

@JARooney8423: By “psychological weight,” do you mean that people can become overwhelmed?

James: Absolutely. Over & under. Look for balance.

PPC Hero: That’s all the time we have for today folks. Thanks for tuning in and keep an eye out for next month’s #Heroview announcement.

James: Thanks for having me today. I hope I didn’t ramble too much:) Looking forward to future #heroview’s and Tuesday #ppcchat’s!