How I Manage An E-commerce PPC Account Without Conversion Tracking

By Kayla Kurtz | @one800kayla | Senior Digital Advisor at Hanapin Marketing

For our final installment in the How I Manage A PPC Account With/Without __________ series, I’m going to explain how you can make the best of what seems like an impossible situation and effectively manage an E-commerce PPC account without any form of conversion tracking available. Mission impossible, no more!

Mission Impossible Mouse

First, I’ll explain how I ended up in this beautiful disaster to begin with and then I’ll explain how I managed to make it work!

Back Story

Once upon a time, the particular Content Management System (CMS) this client was using had permitted the placement of a conversion code and all was well with the world. However, there was an update made to that CMS which disabled outside codes from reporting correctly. Bye-bye, conversion tracking. Never the “bow out gracefully” type, I forged ahead and determined I could still track other metrics and improve performance overall. Based on the data I had compiled previously from conversion tracking, I knew my average position sweet spot for revenue production and I could still see orders and revenue so that’s where I decided to rest my strategy. Ready for the plan? Here goes!

Adjust Bids for Average Position

Without knowing how long I would be without conversion data, I knew that I needed to make as firm a decision as possible about how the account was converting before that data went away. I could tell, based on average position compared to revenue over time that my client’s ads performed best around position 2 and that is where we saw highest conversion rates and revenue production. Previously, bids were being adjusted on the keyword level based on their production of revenue and conversion rate. With my new strategy, I would be adjusting bids according to average position. When budget allowed, keywords that had average positions lower than position 2 had their maximum bids increased to bring their average position up.  Based on historical trends, I was banking on the fact that increasing the number of keywords appearing in the highest revenue-producing position would in turn increase revenue. On the other hand, when spend was projecting higher than goal budget, I would decrease bids for those keywords appearing in much lower positions (generally 7+) based on a longer-term report. Admittedly, this was not a foolproof strategy as the market for this client is not and was not static, so our average position sweet spot could have been changing slightly during that time. Which leads me to the next portion of the strategy…

Track Revenue More Closely

When conversion tracking was in place, revenue was still the key performance indicator, but it was less important to track revenue daily as long as the account was producing. After losing the conversion tracking data and adjusting strategy to targeting a previously determined average position that produced the highest revenue, it became of the utmost importance that revenue be tracked daily, especially in days following bid adjustments and changes. This helped me to be sure the adjustments I was making on the keyword level were having the intended effect on revenue numbers. For the most part, combining this portion of the strategy with adjusting bids based on average position proved to be fairly successful. For this year alone in the first two quarters, we outpaced last year’s revenue by 3% using this strategy and while that’s not a huge increase, without conversion data it was great progress and proved we could still make things happen without the tracking! I knew I still needed to be hip to changes in top sellers to continue targeting keywords accurately, so the final step of my strategy required some client assistance.

Stay On Top Of Your Top Sellers

When I had conversion data for this account, I could easily see which brands were bringing in the most traffic and interest from our customer base and could make campaign or ad group breakouts for increased targeting of those brands when necessary. The loss of tracking obviously made that task more difficult, but it was still a necessity. As my client had been completely aware of our loss of tracking (and, might I add, was diligently working to switch our entire system to a new CMS that supported conversion tracking), when I approached him to get some in-store sales data he understood the importance of sharing information with me regarding which brands were becoming top sellers and which brands that we had previously been targeting were no longer producing for him. Combining that information with the above-mentioned portions of the strategy, I was able to continue breaking out campaigns for newly popular brands or products and pausing those that were no longer contributing. These adjustments helped to maintain our goals for spend and revenue each month.

Persevere, My Friends!

I briefly mentioned it before, but once our conversion tracking broke in the original CMS and we determined it was a change that would not be correcting itself, the client immediately began researching new CMS’s that could support our PPC advertising and codes and allow us to get back the level of data we had previously been managing from. Of course, this was not a move or change that was expected so it took some time for the client to collect the resources necessary to make the move. Eventually, just 2 months ago, our website was moved to a new CMS that allowed for code to be placed on specific pages. It still took some work to get the AdWords code to pull data accurately (the Analytics code is built in to the system for us!), but I’m happy to report that as of this week…we are back to full conversion tracking status! I won’t sugar coat the situation and tell you we didn’t have some lower revenue months, but we stayed afloat and managed to keep the client profitable through the storm.

Hopefully, if you’re experiencing some of the same issues with your PPC account, you’ve found some information here that can help you ease the pain from a lack of conversion tracking and start thinking more outside-the-box to manage your account effectively!

Have more questions or something to add? Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below!

Thanks for reading and make sure you check out the other posts for this series by Sarah, Felicia and Dave on how to manage unique PPC accounts with different issues!