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PPC, Search Campaigns, Analytics & Expectations – What Does Success Look Like?

So, we had a newer client come to us recently and ask why their PPC campaign wasn’t having a bigger impact on their site traffic. We’ve been reporting great numbers on a weekly basis – high click through rates, high conversion rates, etc. – so we were kind of surprised by the question.

I should back up a little bit and preface the discussion here. This particular client isn’t particularly Web savvy. Their analytics is limited to a freebie version StatCounter – which shows you some visitor numbers, but that’s about it. We normally require clients to have a more sophisticated analytics package in place, but since this was a PPC-only campaign and our engagement was limited to just a few months, I figured that our own reporting would be enough…

Anyway – the basic concern from the client was “we haven’t seen any gains in unique visitors”. I find this particularly vexing. We know we’re sending them several thousand visitors a month from PPC alone. Regardless, when we started the campaign we explained to this client that our goal is to drive targeted visitors to their site – as measured by ‘conversions’, or, traffic that results in desired activity.

This brings me to the real subject of my post. Managing client expectations and getting buy-in throughout the organization. Sometimes, in our enthusiasm for new campaigns I don’t push this point as hard as I can with the client. I’ve been working in this field for a long time, and dealing with clients the entire time. It never ceases to amaze me how short memories can be, and how easy it is for people to lose sight of the big picture. I’ve come to realize over the years that I can tell clients how they should judge SEM campaign success until I’m blue in the face. But if their boss is breathing down their neck about the fact that the one number they pay attention to isn’t going up – then we’ve failed. Why? Because we didn’t get total organizational buy-in as to the goals of the campaign, and the correct KPI’s (key performance indicators) that they should be paying attention to. It doesn’t matter what we send in our reports if the client isn’t able to effectively shift the way that the organization measures success. This disconnect doesn’t only happen with less-than-savvy organizations either.

Truth be told – we could easily push the unique visitor number up by shifting the way we manage the campaign and started sending less targeted traffic – but that’s not the mark of a truly successful campaign.

Despite this fact – I was still intrigued by the unique visitor claim. So, we took a look at their limited reporting. (Note to self – StatCounter SUCKS) Guess what? Unique visitors were at a lower level than the same time period last year. We aren’t able to get meaningful page specific data for this site (another note to self – even though it isn’t in the scope of your project – get this client set up with a Google Analytics account ASAP), so we took a look at other data that represents quality visits. In this case – they do get return visitor data (those visitors who, presumably, were targeted enough that they came back to the site again to take another look). Guess what? The percentage of return visitors has DOUBLED last year’s number. Actually, it doubled at the same time that we launched the campaign. So now, we’ve got a campaign with a very high conversion rate that also generates a higher percentage of return visits to the site.

When we set expectations & goals for the campaign – we primarily wanted to drive targeted visitors who performed the desired action when they came to the site. Something we’ve been doing an excellent job of. Now it’s not only time to remind the client about the goals of the campaign and the correct way to measure success, but to make sure we get buy-in all the way to the top.

Ben Lloyd

About Ben Lloyd

Ben Lloyd serves as Principal at Add3 and manages the agency’s Portland office.  Ben got his start in SEM way back in 1999 – when there was like, 15 search engines and Google was barely a thing. Prior to Add3, Ben had founded Amplify Interactive in 2003 (which was acquired by Add3 in 2013), and hasn’t looked back since. Ben likes lots of stuff like golf, pinball, food(ie), booze/beer/wine – in that order, etc. Mostly – he likes doing that stuff with his friends. Ben is also co-founder of SEMpdx. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn