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Google Conversion Tracking – Short Term Success – Long Term Problems

Google Conversion Tracking – Short Term Success – Long Term Problems

One of the most useful tools in years past for Google advertisers is conversion tracking. It gives insight into keywords that drive visitors to your site from a PPC ad, who then convert into a sale or lead. This has allowed advertisers to refine and tailor their keyword lists, putting more emphasis on keywords likely to convert and reducing the CPA (cost per acquisition). Google saw the success of this tool throughout the years, which lead them to develop the conversion optimiser tool within AdWords accounts. Conversion Optimiser automatically up-weights bids and budgets towards keywords that offer the most conversions, and will give non-converting keywords less visibility, taking into account the time-of-day and day-of-week conversion trends from previous searches.

This sounds like a strong strategy for setting up and managing an AdWords account, right? Not exactly! There are many flaws in this approach that could end up costing advertisers revenue and can also cause CPA to increase, rather than reduce.

We need to consider that conversions are difficult to measure. Many searchers will visit a site more than once before making the decision to purchase or sign-up, often using the first search as research with hopes of returning at a later date, if satisfied by what they have seen. The path that a searcher uses to reach you website is called the ‘customer journey’ or ‘conversion path’.

Let’s look at this purely from a PPC point of view:

The first visit to the website will often be driven by a ‘generic’ or ‘broad’ keyword, and if you have experience with Google AdWords, you will know that these terms will deliver low CTRs (Click through Rate) and minimal conversions. When returning to the site, visitors will often refine their search, by using ‘brand terms’ to find the site again.

Let’s broaden our analysis of the conversion path:

Many visitors to the site will use a combination of platforms during their journey. For example, using a ‘generic’ keyword to find the website via a PPC ad and then returning to the site directly, by entering the website address into the browser.

Consider the two scenarios above. If a Google advertiser uses conversion tracking, then the ‘research’ keywords that drive the first visit to the website will not be highlighted in the conversion report. If less visibility is given to research keywords, then the ‘conversion path’ is damaged. Customers will be less likely to use a ‘brand’ term without initially seeing your website during the research phase. This means that potential revenue will be reduced.

This also brings the conversion optimiser tool to our attention. Not only would conversion optimiser focus budgets and higher bids on the last keyword used in the conversion path, but it bases all optimisation on historical performance. As any good advertiser knows, seasonality is key to the success of ads. There is no point advertising ‘Christmas Gifts’ during ‘Easter’, and just because trainers sold well during the Olympics, doesn’t mean that they will continue to sell at the same rate throughout the year. The conversion optimiser tool does not take seasonality into account. It will continue to weight budgets towards historically converting keywords, even if they do not convert any more, causing advertisers to see fewer returns on their investment. So not only is your potential revenue affected, but also your CPA.

There are a few ways to combat this problem. Google have created a new report within analytics called multi-channel-funnels, allowing you to analyse the conversion paths that customers have taken, outlining keywords and platforms used throughout the journey. Advertisers can use this tool to aid with keyword refinement and optimisation, but unfortunately, this report has not yet been integrated with conversion tracking. This means that all optimisation must be done manually, which can eat up a lot of time. Another solution is to use third party keyword tracking tools that outline every keyword and platform used in the conversion path, if keyword tracking combined with a 3rd party bid management tool then you can automate your keyword optimisation, taking the full customer journey into account.

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