Setting Campaign Goals and Metrics for Success

Recently, we’ve been inundated with new business. For an agency owner, there is no better feeling than to have your reputation spread to others who will confide their trust in your business to better their interactive marketing. Luckily, we have the staff to manage all of these new inquiries and more.

As new clients come in, many have never run an interactive campaign, much less a paid search campaign. Over time, I’ve noticed the need for education on exactly how to start a campaign and what to expect from it. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the vast majority of small business owners who decide to put their toe in the search engine marketing pool without a lifeguard like an agency or a consultant with expertise.

The term “sink or swim” comes to mind. And judging from what I’ve seen in the small business landscape, far too many small businesses immediately sink and then get out of the pool forever. This is a shame, as the rewards of a successful search marketing campaign are great.

Establishing Goals and Expectations

The first step with a new client is to establish their goals and expectations for the campaign. This comes before keyword research, optimization, setting up accounts, or any of the mundane tactical and strategic details that most search engine marketers deal with on a daily basis. Without set goals and metrics, a campaign is sure to fail. And sometimes it’s harder than it should be to set these goals. Why? Because many businesses are not familiar enough with their own sales metrics to set realistic expectations on what they will receive.

For example, let’s say you sell a blue widget subscription service. Do you know the lifetime value of your customers? If one month of your service costs $25, you might be tempted to say that you want your acquisition costs to be well south of $10 so you can maintain a healthy margin. This is achievable, but remember, in the world of PPC every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In this case, in order to get your acquisition costs down, you will most likely be sacrificing the volume of customers – which in the long run will cost you a ton of money.

Measuring Campaign Success

Most of my e-commerce clients measure success on a return on advertising spend (ROAS) model. This model works well because we don’t have to take into account varying margins for different products. In the case of lead generation campaigns, we tend to take the cost per acquisition model (CPA). This can be for either leads or actual sign-ups, depending on the service or product. In lead generation campaigns, we usually take a hybrid approach of cost per lead (CPL) and CPA. We work toward a specific cost per lead but receive feedback from the sales team on each lead so we can optimize the keywords or contextual placements that are providing the highest quality leads. This tends to bring in the best of both worlds.

Most clients, when they first come in, aren’t thinking in terms of concrete metrics for their products or services. They want the most leads or sales they can get for the least amount of money. I want that too, and if I were a genie I would provide it along with two other wishes – but in order to get to the point of highest efficiency, we first must start with a goal, achieve it and then tweak accordingly.

Remember when I said that every action has an equal and opposite reaction? Well, that’s not always true. There are certain times when we can achieve efficiencies in a contextual placement, or the aggregate power of tail term keywords can maintain volume and bring down costs. This doesn’t happen for everyone, but it does happen sometimes. That’s the closest I ever came to being a genie, because those of you who know me can attest I would never fit into a bottle.

One of the worst things you can do in a PPC campaign is start without setting your goals first. You may think – lets just see what I get. That can lead to two things – over spending and under performing. If you just say – I have a budget of $10,000 and I want to get as much as I can for that, you will most likely get nothing. You must set a metric and focus on it or you’ll end up just wasting money. It’s surprising to me that so many people think this way.

So before you start your PPC campaign, set out your initial metrics for success. These metrics can always be changed down the road, but you only get to make a good first impression once. I’d also recommend talking to a lifeguard before setting foot into the SEM pool, but if you don’t, remember it’s swim at your own risk.

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