Pay-Per-Click & Conversion Rate Optimization

This week Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) came up with yet another great question set titled “PPC & CRO.” The following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat:

Q1: How do you define CRO (conversion rate optimization) in relation PPC? Why?

  • Treating customers like people not numbers. Treating prospects the way we want to be treated. Accountability beyond the click. – Chris Haleua (@chrishaleua)
  • PPC provides a controlled testing environment for CRO & LPO that can be applied to other channels over time with data. CRO for PPC is not just limited to LPs, especially w/ e-comm. You need to test/optimize the cart, etc for max ROAS. – Andy Groller (@AndyGroller)
  • Treat CRO as back-end optimization (LPs, usability, site structure, etc.), but melds with PPC. – Jeremy Brown (@JBGuru)
  • CRO is CRO. Why would it be different just because the traffic is from PPC, except, of course, for QS factors. I don’t see why that changes CRO. You always consider the nature of the traffic when CROing. . – Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
    • Agreed, I’m just saying that some CRO tests can be source specific. – Matt Umbro
    • Some people think this would only be for landing pages. CRO can be done pre-click to improve PPC results. – James Svoboda
  • Entirely depends on the business goals of the SEM program(s). “CRO” should mean “optimize for BUSINESS goals”. – Matt Vaillancourt (@SEM_PPC_MattV)
  • Not confusing the user and helping them find the solution to what they actually searched for. – Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
  • Making strategic decisions for both pre click account management and post click landing experience to improve ppc results. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
  • CRO – Making decisions in an account to increase the quality (presupposing measured goals) of existing traffic. – Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
  • I believe CRO is mostly backend, but you need to direct relevant traffic to landing pages using. So PPC acts as a net to catch users, whereas as CRO is the vehicle to get them to convert. – Erika Schmidt (@erikapdx)
  • Also, the purchase funnel is directly tied to CRO. How does the CTA and UX change for top vs bottom of funnel? – Andy Groller
  • Digital CRO isn’t a story about getting users to do what you want them to do. It’s about allowing them to get what they want. – Mark Irvine (@MarkIrvine89)
  • Getting the click is only half the equation- to legitimize yourself as a PPC professional you have to care about the conversion. – Matt Umbro
    • Very true, and sometimes this means overruling the best click-through rates. – Tyler Purcell (@tylerpurcell)
      • Exactly, classic example is including price in copy – make mean less clicks, but more accurate ad. – Matt Umbro
      • Totally agree about sacrificing CTR. Lately I’ve been focusing on CRO and CPA has done great! – Erika Schmidt
  • CRO & PPC work together to reach the right audience and guide them to a user friendly page focused on keyword&copy congruence. – Ally Sabrowsky (@absabrow)
  • All ad components that can be leveraged/tested to increase conversion rate. It’s not always just about the landing page. – Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
    • Yes! sometimes CRO even means skipping the LP altogether and pursuing a call directly from the serp! Or, dare i say, training one’s sales team to convert phone call visitors. – Erin Sagin (@erinsagin)
  • To clarify, many people see CRO as back-end. Whereas front-end PPC conv. opt. is just part of PPC. They work together. – Jeremy Brown
  • CRO happens from the search term through the landing page to full conversion funnel. All parts of PPC are CRO driven. – Michael Knight (@MichaelAKnight)
  • What is your opinion on “sacrificing” ads with high CTR/low CVR for ads with low CTR/high CVR? – Matt Vaillancourt
    • I’m all for it, I want to ensure that the ad copy best matches the landing page/user experience. – Matt Umbro
  • Qualifying ad copy to eliminate the tire-kickers. Some non-Quals will still click however. People click on anything. – Jeremy Brown
    • They do, but less crappy clicks is always good. – Matt Umbro
  • Run small scale LPO/CRO w PPC’s silo’d traffic to get internal buy-in for larger, proper CRO resources. – Katherine Romero (@KatherineRomero)
  • CRO in the context of PPC is all about optimising your landing pages for the prospects you want, give them what they want. – Jason James (@Jason_A_James)

Q2: Should “CRO Specialist” be a separate position or does it fall under the PPC Manger purview? Why?

  • Depends on the testing strategy & channels involved. In a larger org, it’s prolly a separate position. – Andy Groller
  • Everyone should own this – design, development, content, PPC. – Jason Stinnett (@JasonStinnett)
  • Many parts of CRO should be covered by all, but can be supplemented by specialist role. – Jeremy Brown
  • CRO for PPC falls under the purview of PPC. CRO should be an integral part of all activities & should also be specialized. – Heather Cooan
  • Agree with Andy, it depends on the size, but leaning towards own position that works closely with the PPC manager. – Margot da Cunha (@ChappyMargot)
  • Whatever works best. If you have stellar CRO who hates doing PPC, then separate. – Steve Gibson
  • Keep it together. They go hand in hand. Don’t need a separate specialist when we can all dominate by ourselves. – Joe Martinez
  • Here everyone from PPC to SEO has an eye on CRO and LPO opps for our clients. In-house would likely be different. – Andy Groller
  • Same Position. Quality Score is a measurement between KW, Ad & LP not just KW & Ad. – James Kravic (@JKravic)
  • If you can’t CRO you can’t PPC. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • PPC Specialist needs to be able to speak to CRO – he/she doesn’t need to be great, but needs to know terminology and ideas. – Matt Umbro
  • I’m leaning toward: do what’s best for your business/situation. Not practical for small in-house or agency to have both. – Kirk Williams
  • CRO isn’t a position, it’s a team effort. Whether it’s your ads, LP, CTA, or your sales team, you need to allign everyone. – Mark Irvine
  • Depends. If you have enough to do, then yes. If not they will likely get non-CRO stuff dumped on them like company tweeting. – James Svoboda
  • I think ‘CRO Specialist’ would only be required in a large organisation with the need for a dedicated member of staff. – Jason James
    • Yes, and even then there is a natural need for the “common class” PPCer to have an understanding of CRO. – Kirk Williams
  • I’ve seen only CRO Specialists, but if I was a company, I wouldn’t want to hire to separate entities. – David Prochaska (@DavidProHQ)
  • Even if it was a separate position, a PPC Manager should keep up with CRO as an investment in their client’s business. – Ally Sabrowsky
  • I think PPCers should know CRO and CROers know PPC. Don’t have to specialize in both, but know where to find info and ?s to ask. – David Prochaska
  • If teams are too small to afford a dedicated CRO expert, a focused day must be scheduled consistently to maintain testing rhythm. – Chris Haleua
  • Big Question: If CRO & PPC are different positions, how do you make sure they don’t work in silos? – Andy Groller
    • Run trainings, share decks, make sure PPC AM works with CRO specialist on preparation, etc. – Jeremy Brown
      • IMO, the CRO specialist must be accessing PPC accts on an ongoing basis to see what’s working, what’s not beyond just comms. – Andy Groller
  • PPC depts are so under invested. They can’t possibly run proper site-wide CRO. But should champion it w what they can manage. – Katherine Romero
  • PPC people should have a knowledge of CRO, so you don’t necessarily need a specialist, unless it’s an LPO specialist. – Erika Schmidt

Q3: Do you or your organization include CRO language in your contracts, specifically how CRO impacts performance? Why or why not?

  • I expect my vendors to address the issue, not necessarily include it in contracts. – Heather Cooan
  • Not sure if it’s in our contracts, but definitely a big topic during our sales discussions. – Erin Sagin
  • We talk about CRO and resources in onboarding survey and call. Also have separate CRO services. – Jeremy Brown
  • No. My job is to increase PPC performance. Any means necessary. There are times when I barely touch AdWords to increase goals. – Joe Martinez
  • Yes. We bake it in all of our campaigns. – James Svoboda
  • CRO and LPO are included as components of our larger strategy. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t be truly serving our clients’ needs. – Andy Groller
  • We advise on the process. You can’t own CRO entirely unless you want to run their entire company. – Mark Irvine
  • Definitely want it as part of the initial / sales discussions – at the very least to make sure you’ve got ongoing permission. – Jason Stinnett
  • No. I wish I did. Seems like the two big levers have been quantitative bidding or qualitative CRO. Wish I had done more of both. – Chris Haleua
  • We dont based on the fact that some clients aren’t ready for CRO. Other things come first like helping clients field new leads. – Bryce Liggins (@BryceLiggins)
  • When I was in-house, no agency ever did. Would have given them mad props for doing so. Wonder why they didn’t? – Katherine Romero
  • I like it to, so that it’s fully understood what they’re getting and not to take it for granted. – Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
  • I will say this – if a client has a crappy website and no intention to change, all the ad spend isn’t worth the CRO headaches. – Matt Umbro
    • I have turned down clients before until website/LPs were fixed knowing it would be negative reflection on me/PPC. – Kirk Williams

Q4: What CRO metrics (aside from conversion rate) do you believe are most important to PPC managers? Why?

  • Abandonment rates is one that I think gets easily glossed over. Talking about multi-step forms / conversions here of course. – Andy Groller
  • Results matter. ROAS, qualified leads, etc. Not just conv. rate, but volume and quality too. – Jeremy Brown
  • Engagement is a huge metric when it comes to CRO. Especially when increased engagement leads to lower bounce rates. – Neil Sorenson (@iNeils)
    • Yes, I think engagement can definitely be overlooked, especially if conversion rate isn’t increasing as well. – Matt Umbro
  • Bounce rate, time-on-site, etc. to show site engagement and where the user travels before converting or not converting. – Michael Knight (@MichaelAKnight)
  • Cost per conversion. If you have a great CR but the conversions aren’t profitable you’re doing it wrong. – Bryce Liggins
  • CPA, ROI, conversions paths, bound rates, engagement metrics, all that good stuff. – Margot da Cunha
  • Bounce rate, or where someone leaves the funnel, as this might pinpoint the exact headache for users. – Ally Sabrowsky
  • Value Per Conversion. Not all conversions are created equal and some indicate a different part of the funnel. – James Svoboda
  • Start w/ Rev per impression then dont let the avg lie. Find where the bottleneck is in CVR > TIme on SIte > Bounce Rate > CTR. – Chris Haleua
  • For one client, I added a sentence that increased avg order val by >30%. We measured conv rate & avg order value. – Steve Gibson
  • I don’t focus on CVR, I live & die by CPA. You can control costs and quality, but CVR can be swayed by influxes of new users. – Mark Irvine
  • Average Order Quanitity/Value, time to purchase, cart abandonment, plus conversion rate across New Vs. Returning, Device etc. – Jason James
  • Easy: ROI Tells whether or not PPC is sustainable, contributing to growth, or is a drain on resources. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • Value per converted click. It multiple conversions by same ip doesn’t always equal more sales. – Tyler Purcell

Q5: What are some CRO tests that you like to run in conjunction with your PPC campaigns? Why?

  • HEADLINE. Generally the most important part on landing pages. – Jeremy Brown
  • I actually get excited when a client tries a whole new offer/product. You learn so much more about what people are looking for. – Mark Irvine
  • In ecomm campaigns, I like to try checkout page tests, ie: removing navigation, shifting sections, etc. – Matt Umbro
  • If changing ads is easier than changing site, test different tone of voice in ads then make landing pages match most successful. – Jason Stinnett
  • # of required form fields, color of CTA buttons, color of the design as a whole, CTA messaging, value message testing, more. – Joe Martinez
  • I love testing PPC where we can isolate the audience intent and measure influencing factors. ex: auto loans- rates vs images. – James Svoboda
  • I like to measure calls generated by SKU compared to CR. – Sam Gordon (@SamGordonPPC)
  • Same image on LP as in banner or social ad is a fun one. – Andy Groller
  • Can be interesting to test more aggressive vs. more educational top-of-the funnel offers to see what converts better. – Margot da Cunha
  • Lead campaigns: Number of form fields. Balancing client desired info with conversion goals. – Bryce Liggins
  • Most common conversion problems I see: Weak offer, weak proof, failing to tell the story, short copy. – Steve Gibson
  • Intent behind type of user interested in product/service – providing depth of information vs. quick synopsis. – Ally Sabrowsky
  • For ecommerce, test category vs product pages. Category can win more than you think. – Jeremy Brown
  • Landing page length: short form vs. long form? Some industries do better providing more information and vice versa. – Margot da Cunha
  • Thank You page tests “Thank you, have a free bonus catalog” “Ready to talk to someone now? Call xxx-xxx-xxxx” Helps close sales. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • When testing value messages make sure that message is visible on the LP and the ad. – Joe Martinez
  • CTA & offer tests seem to prove the most valuable. Product images are good too. – James Kravic
  • I think it greatly depends on industry as well, but I agree testing and evaluating the lead quality is critical. – Margot da Cunha

Q6: Do you believe the engines will eventually offer CRO/LP tools to use in conjunction with paid search efforts? Why or why not? And keep in mind that Google did at one point with Google Website Optimizer.

  • Yes! Google Analytics still has content experiments. It works well-er enough. They’re updating it also. – James Svoboda
  • I think they already do really with tools like Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Webmaster Tools etc. – Jason James
  • Yes, but I expect functionality to be lacking. That’s based on previous iterations. Unless they buy someone decent. – Jeremy Brown
  • They will but results will vary & 3rd parties will remain dominant. Google got smarter with GDN but still struggles w SMBs. – Mark Irvine
  • Absolutely. As usefulness increases, the number of advertisers increases = more revenue for Google. – Bryce Liggins
  • VWO was an excellent tool. Pity they scrapped it. Also, amazed just how bad analytics experiments was initially. – Steve Gibson
  • Google Analytics was their 1st CRO’ish tool. Helped increase AdWords adoption & reduce Click-Fraud Fear. I expect more to come. – James Svoboda
  • Probably not. Whatever Google can do to keep advertisers guessing/spending more money will probably be the direction they go. – Sam Gordon
  • Yes, If they can offer an optimized LP option for “profitable with unlimited budget.” Sorry, just renewed my cert. – Tyler Purcell
  • No. CRO doesn’t necessarily improve click vol or CPCs; no engine incentive. Goog would’ve kept Optimizer if it made them money. – Matt Vaillancourt

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More PPCChats

Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat time, same Chat channel.


Check out the PPCChat Twitter list to see and connect with all current and prior participants.

• Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro)
• James Svoboda (@Realicity)
• Paul Kragthorpe (@PaulKragthorpe)
• Ally Sabrowsky (@absabrow)
• Andy Groller (@AndyGroller)
• Bryce Liggins (@BryceLiggins)
• Chris Haleua (@chrishaleua)
• David Prochaska (@DavidProHQ)
• Elizabeth Marsten (@ebkendo)
• Erika Schmidt (@erikapdx)
• Erin Sagin (@erinsagin)
• Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooan)
• James Kravic (@JKravic)
• Jason James (@Jason_A_James)
• Jason Stinnett (@JasonStinnett)
• Jeremy Brown (@JBGuru)
• Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
• Katherine Romero (@KatherineRomero)
• Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
• Margot da Cunha (@ChappyMargot)
• Mark Irvine (@MarkIrvine89)
• Matt Vaillancourt (@SEM_PPC_MattV)
• Michael Knight (@MichaelAKnight)
• Michael Knight (@MichaelAKnight)
• Neil Sorenson (@iNeils)
• Sam Gordon (@SamGordonPPC)
• Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
• Tyler Purcell (@tylerpurcell)

Streamcaps & More Steamcaps

This is a guest post by Paul Kragthorpe; works at WebRanking in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Connect with Paul @PaulKragthorpe, and Google Plus.

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