Secrets to Paid Search Success Revealed, Part 4

Measure everything. Measure the clicks, sales, and calls — by keyword. That’s the only way you can tell if your keyword is productive and profitable.

Google and Bing are set up for any small business and newbie to run their own paid search campaign. However, setting up tracking is a science and requires technical skill.

Whether you’re reporting directly from Google AdWords, using Google Analytics, or using a more robust analytics package like Coremetrics or Omniture, one area where you should get expert help is with the set up and testing of your analytics.

(Just joining us? Catch up with Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

PPC Measure


The way in which you credit sales to your paid search program will make a tremendous impact on its overall ROI. Let’s look at some of the more critical attribution factors.

Factor in the Phone

Attributing phone conversions to your paid search program can make a huge difference in how you report ROI and judge the overall success of your program. This is especially true for lead generation programs and e-commerce campaigns that involve a more considered purchase (purchasing furniture, as opposed to ink cartridges.)

We were recently engaged in a campaign within the health care vertical where the client was averaging a $300 cost per lead (CPL) and measuring online form leads only. There was a general understanding that the paid search campaign was also driving conversion through phone calls to the call center, but it wasn’t being tracked accurately.

Through proper keyword-level call tracking (we used ClickPath in this instance), we determined the true CPL for the program was actually $140 and that 53 percent of the conversions were taking place through phone calls. This empirical evidence gave the client the confidence they needed to make the decision to increase funding to paid search as it proved to be far more efficient than other marketing channels.

First-click or Last-click

The debate between whether to assign a conversion to first-click or last-click has been going on as long as paid search reporting itself. A quick example before we dive in.

A consumer is interested in taking a European tour and conducts the following:

  1. Searches [European tours”, clicks the paid search ad, visits the website, but doesn’t convert.
  2. They come back four days later, search [tours to Italy”, click the organic listing, and convert to a lead.

What marketing channel should get credit for the conversion? First-click attribution will assign the conversion to paid search, and specifically to the keyword “European tours.” Last-click will assign the credit to organic.

Google Analytics measures last-click by default. Analytics packages like Coremetrics will allow you to set a default, and view both instances, which is a great option for conducting deep data dives.

The first-click, last-click, and actions that occur during the conversion cycle are important to track and understand. Assigning fractional credit to the various touch points in the conversion funnel will give you a more holistic sense of what is driving the conversion, and where future budgets should best be allocated.


Over the course of this PPC tactics series we’ve stressed the idea of keyword level tracking. It’s absolutely critical that you know what keywords (and associated match types) are converting in your program.

But looks can be deceiving from the outset. Related to the idea of first or last-click, the concept of keyword assists can make an impact on how you are making decisions within your campaigns.

Let’s go back to our earlier example, but with a slightly different twist: A consumer is interested in taking a European tour and conducts the following:

  1. Searches [European tours”, clicks the paid search ad, visits the website, but doesn’t convert.
  2. They come back four days later, search [The Tours Shop” (brand term), click the paid search ad, and converts to a lead.

If you’re reporting on last-click, as many programs do by default, your brand campaign will get 100 percent of the conversion credit in this example. To help get more insight into what’s really driving conversion, take the time to view assist data.

In Google AdWords you can go to the Reporting and Tools tab and select the Conversions dropdown. Clicking on the Assisted Conversions link will show you your top last-click converting keywords as well as number of assists that keyword received.

In this example, while on the outset it may appear as though “European tours” falls below our CPL threshold and not converting, the reality is that it assisted in the conversion by exposing the consumer to the brand. With this understanding, we’ll assign added value to that keyword so that it can continue to assist brand and drive down our overall CPL.

Go Beyond ROI: Acquire New Customers

We previously touched on the importance of measuring beyond ROI and looking to profit. The paid search channel is remarkably powerful and unique in its ability to directly respond to the needs of a ready-to-buy consumer. Factoring in category and product-level margin will allow you to make decisions that can drive not just top-line sales, but bottom-line profits.

Paid search campaigns that are driving the most long-term value to businesses are measuring and making decisions based on the number of new customers they are acquiring. Matching back unique identifiers from your paid search reporting to customer information in your CRM will help uncover keywords, products and categories that have the highest likelihood to acquire a new customer.

Do more than transact — acquire. And attribute more value to areas of your program that are acquiring those new customers.

Where would you rather focus your time and money: on a keyword that will drive a single transaction of $85, or one that captures a new customer with an initial $30 order but a lifetime value of $475? I know where I’m putting my money.

Related reading

Five ways to target ads on Google that don’t involve keywords
small budget guide to testing ad copy, landing pages, and more
keyword research tools you can use for free
Five ways PPC customer support can help SMBs