You got questions, we've got answers! – Radio Shack's great marketing slogan.
Is it enough to move from totally faith based banner ads buys to using conversion rate for identifying the best performing ones?
A reader asked that wonderful question the other day and I thought I'll share the answer with you all. Here's more context to the question….
This company was purchasing banner ads, and some other media, to create "brand awareness" (quotes from them! :)). On his own fruition our Hero was trying to optimize the campaigns.
His question was:
I have started measuring Conversion Rate for all the ad formats and traffic sources to identify which send the most qualified traffic. My formula is clicks on ads divided by leads. (AK: This was a non-ecommerce website so a lead would be download of pdf or requesting test drive or submitting a form or …)
My conversion analysis proves that sites in our vertical (AK: let's say it was a Travel site or Automotive or Expensive Mushrooms). My boss is ignoring me and wants me to run campaigns on all kinds of "general" sites (portals, financial sites, news websites, and other unrelated sites) because these are "branding" campaigns!
What do you think? Am I wrong? Is my boss wrong?
You can see why I wanted to share the answer.
My first act was to congratulate our Hero. If you all have learned one thing it is that I am not a big fan of unmeasurable things like "brand awareness"! Fuzzy, undefined, not tied to outcomes things give me ulcers. For more context and rationale here's a post you might like:
Brand awareness is a great quest, but even it has outcomes you desire (positive impression of the brand, unaided recall when asked, likelihood to buy in the future, likelihood to recommend etc etc). Solve for brand awareness but please do the hard work of identifying what quantitative or qualitative outcomes you desire.
In the case of our reader (Hero from this point onwards! :)), I was absolutely thrilled that he was trying to measure based on outcomes, in his case Conversion Rate as defined by actions taken on the site.
This guaranteed that the source websites that sent most bottom-line impacting traffic would win, and our Hero's company would make money.
Much better than faith based analytics.
But since our Hero's website did not directly sell anything, and was for a expensive product, my thought went to this picture that is in my book (Web Analytics: An Hour A Day) . . . .
It is always great to know what is happening in the conversion bucket (and remember every site has conversion events, even those that are non-ecommerce). You get control of your destiny. You can prove to your company that your website is an asset. You can impact the bottomline.
But no matter who you are and how hard you try your overall website conversion rate will be around 2% (and a bit higher for your Direct Marketing campaigns).
This means for approximately 98% of the traffic to your site something happened and you don't have an account of that. Perhaps they hated the site. Perhaps they all (unlikely) wanted to buy but your site was broken. Perhaps they are going to rush to the retail store and buy. Perhaps they were all there looking for jobs. Perhaps they were so impressed with your site they are going to tell everyone else. Perhaps….. perhaps…… perhaps…..
The biggest Hero amongst you will be the one who understands
1) why the 98% were there and 2) what was the outcome of their experience on your site.
With that in mind my advice to our Hero was:
You don't sell your expensive products and services on your site. Just measuring conversion rate for secondary actions is good but you might be missing a big piece of success. People could buy from your store / factory / dealership purely influenced by your site, but your conversion rate will not measure it.
So . . .
Consider doing a on-exit survey on your website survey that asks people for their impression of the site or if they found what they were looking for or if their likelihood to buy a boat / submarine / plane is increased because of visiting the site etc. Consider these:
Now qualitatively you can measure two more success metrics: Likelihood that a Visitor will visit your submarine / plane showroom (without requesting anything online) and likelihood that someone will recommend your site / products to others because of a visit to your site.
Combine those two metrics with your direct online conversion and you are set to more from Hero to Superhero!
Taking this recommendation a full circle . . . . .
With a small bit of sophistication you can tie the respondents to the survey (anonymously) with their source website, in this case your affiliates.
Now you are all set to analyze if some websites are sending you traffic that is more satisfied or has a higher likelihood to buy / visit the dealership. In this simple way you can add more sophistication to measurement of conversion and get a complete picture of success.
In the end where our Hero, or you, advertise should not depend on a gut feel or a vague "metric" or simply a deep desire. Figure out how to measure success as completely as possible and let that tell you. Maybe it is vertical sites or maybe it is generic sites or maybe it is portals.
Maybe, just maybe, your boss is right. [Though given you are reading the blog there is a higher chance that you are right! Sorry, could not resist!! :)]
Go for more than conversion. Good luck!!
Ok now its your turn.
Please share your perspectives, critique, bouquets and brickbats via comments. Please share your success stories.
Couple other related posts: