Frustrated Baby
Poor guy must've lost his conversion tracking...

The crew here at PPC Hero was fielding quite a few questions in the last few months regarding how to manage in crisis situations. Specifically, our readers wanted to know how to manage a PPC account when conversion tracking fails. We tackled that issue and several others in a series on tricky account problems in October.

Earlier this month, I wrote about how to test your broken conversion tracking and/or fix it, if possible, and I promised a follow-up post to cover how to manage for lead gen in the event this unsavory issue is plaguing your accounts. Well, here it is!

The Account Executives at Hanapin Marketing are no stranger to handling the most difficult of PPC issues and lead gen clients with broken conversion tracking have not been left out of that list. As a matter of fact, one of the largest accounts we manage here at Hanapin falls in that exact description, so how do we do it? No plan is foolproof or applicable across all accounts, but the following list of optimization strategies can certainly keep you headed in the right direction until you can solidify what works for you!

  1. Stay on your negatives & SQRs. Generally speaking, when managing an account that has been using conversion tracking, the first instinct is to freak out when you lose your direct line to that data. However, this is precisely the time to get back to your basics. As a matter of fact, that’s a lot of the point of this post. If negative keyword addition and regular search query reports (SQRs) have fallen off your monthly maintenance schedule for some reason, this is the best time to get those back on a regular schedule. Not only can you find negatives to add to your account structure to weed out unwanted traffic, you can also find new query strings that you may want to begin targeting based on changes in searcher intent. You can’t find any of that information without mining a few SQRs every now and again!
  2. Revisit ad testing schedule and delivery settings. You should always be ad testing in some form or another in your account, but now this optimization will become a larger cog in the machine. An increase in click-through rate is usually a sign of good things (as long as you’re remembering step number 1!) so continually enhancing ad performance when you’re without conversion tracking is a great way to increase conversion rate, even if you can’t see it. Assuming (dangerous, I know) your users are reading your ad text and choosing to click your ad, as long as your landing page offers them what they clicked on, you should be one step away from a lead submission. Write the most effective ad copy you can, determine the best copy via testing, and set your ads to rotate so you’re truly testing and you’re at least making positive changes in your account more often than not.
  3. Analyze historic best placements. This can apply to nearly any metric or account element. Generally speaking, taking a hard look at highest-performing ad position, cost per click, specific managed or automatic placements on the Display Network, etc. Essentially you want to look at a long enough snapshot of historic account data and determine, based on your chosen metric, where your account had performed best for leads, conversion rate and/or cost per lead. You can then optimize to any increase or decrease you see in the chosen metric. For example: let’s say my account historically performs best at ad position 4 and I’ve lost conversion tracking this week. I pull a current keyword report and find out that 50% of my keywords have fallen to below position 4. Odds are with me that if I can optimize my keywords back to their average best performing position, leads will continue to come in at about the same rate that they were before conversion tracking was lost.
  4. Get as much back end data as you can. I mentioned previously that one of our larger clients at Hanapin is a lead gen client that does not currently have conversion tracking and this is probably our first line of defense in managing through the problem. We get a weekly report of all leads received on the clients end, down to the keyword level, that we can dissect to determine individual keyword CPL and costs. I won’t get in to the details, but essentially we pull an interface keyword level report to one sheet of an Excel document, format the back end data in to another sheet of that doc and use a vlookup formula to compare the two and calculate costs per lead. This process could also be taken up a level to the ad group or campaign level if a less granular amount of information is necessary to appropriately manage the account.

There you have it! Again, this is by no means an exhaustive list of methods you can use to manage PPC for a lead gen account with no conversion tracking. It also is not a list that necessarily applies to all accounts or business verticals, so tell us what you think! Have you experienced this issue with your own or a client’s account? How did you manage differently or was your method similar? How well did you method work? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below!