Defining, Reporting & Attributing Conversions

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

Q1: How granular is your PPC conversion tracking, ie: do you just track high level conversions or go more granular? Why?

  • I want each action that increases revenue or decreases cost to the business, along with the specific values. – Michael Fleming (@SEMFlem)
  • Depends on the size of the client and the industry. Ecomm, much deeper. A plumber, more top level. – Mark Kennedy (@markkennedysem)
  • I generally track all purchases or form submissions, even if just a newsletter signup. – Matt Umbro
  • We go as granular as we can to help make more informed performance related decisions. Yet to tackle phone orders though! – David Bailey (@dbaileyppc)
  • Try to be as granular as possible for my B2B clients. Show which conversions led to which exact leads to better prove ROI. – Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
  • Depends on the Org goals, but I try to track an indicator at each funnel stage (e.g. NonBounce, Signup, Cart, Order, etc). – Andrew McCarthy (@AmccartPPC)
  • Track every conversion. Micro and Macro. Set values for those micro conversions and make bidding/spend decisions based on them. – Andrew Bethel (@AndrewPPC)
  • Micro conversions can help optimisation because there are likely to be more of them. – Steve Cameron (@adventcom)
  • Track micro and macro conversions. Micro can be good to aggregate lower volume keywords to get enough data to act on. – Ross Kaplan-Winn (@RossKWSEM)
  • Track all conversions, including micro conversions & engagement events. This is key in understanding your customer behavior. – Maria Corcoran (@mariacorcoran)
  • Micro conversions can be misleading. From my testing experience, Version /w more clicks to order page doesn’t=more sales. – Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
  • Lead Gen. For most clients, if they contact the business, it’s a conversion. Phone calls, form submissions, etc. – John Budzynski (@Budzynski)
  • All conversions are not equal in leadgen. You need to measure cost per quality. – Max Fink (@maxfink_SEM)
  • Also what’s available. Most Ecomm offer more trackable data than plumbers I’d think. – Tyler Purcell (@tylerpurcell)

Q2: When it comes to reporting, are all conversions created equally or do you decipher in the analysis? Why or why not?

  • Track micro and macro conversions. Micro can be good to aggregate lower volume keywords to get enough data to act on. – Ross Kaplan-Winn (@RossKWSEM)
  • Never created equally. A lead is much more powerful than a signup. So we have to filter out the difference. – Mark Kennedy (@markkennedysem)
  • No some are more equal than others. Fake conversion values can help if not actual sales numbers. – Steve Cameron (@adventcom)
    • Especially with lead gen, can identify average value/lead. – Timothy Jensen
      • Yes… this helps even if not 100% accurate. – Steve Cameron
    • What are you considering fake conversions? A conversion higher in the funnel can still be important on a sales funnel. – Maria Corcoran
      • Probably Duplicates or Fake Form Signups. – Andrew Bethel
      • Sorry – faking the value… estimating what a micro conversions is “worth” to the business… and using that. – Steve Cameron
  • No, I usually aggregate all “conversion actions” and then also report more specifically on each goal for the client. – Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
  • Each event should have a different weighted value. They are not all created equal, but all are important. – Maria Corcoran
  • Not all are created equal. Report conversions by type and value and source. – James Svoboda
  • In DRTV leadgen some folks track every step in conversion funnel in realtime. – Max Fink
  • Conversion value depends on stage of the funnel, brand/non-brand, etc. – Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
  • For all digital channels you would want to track as granular as possible then you can make strategic decisions from the data. – Dipesh Shah (@D1PZ)
  • Always break out the goals by type. Getting someone to submit a quote is more valuable than a newsletter signup in my cases. – Joe Martinez
  • I guess what I’m getting at is how do you ensure cost per conversion and conversion rate aren’t artificially inflated to clients. – Matt Umbro
  • $ amount is equalizer for conversion values. Even for lead gen still try to estimate bottom line impact. Push for profit truth. – Chris Haleua (@chrishaleua)
  • None are created equally. Brand vs NonBrand. New Customer vs Returning Customer. Micro Vs Macro. Lead Vs Transaction etc. – Andrew Bethel
  • It depends on the channel, but yes. Search tends to be stronger at CPA for carts vs. CSEs where I put more value towards ROAS. – Andrew McCarthy
  • You have to separate/explain in reports if using multiple conversions. Each has it’s own CPA and ROI. – Mark Kennedy
  • Tend to look at conversions by type and value and measure up against key company KPIs. – David Bailey
  • In edu, an Application is worth more than an Info Request. Thus aggregate CPA, while meaningful, is not the whole story. – Matt Vaillancourt (@SEM_PPC_MattV)
  • Would love be able to decipher, but I would need more input from the client’s side at this point. – John Budzynski
  • Checks and balances. Make sure that there is more than one way to track conversions. – Stephanie Cockerl (@StephCockerl)
  • Trace customer experience to determine conversion values. Start at bottom line then if zero fall back to the next best thing. Then use CVR between the micro-conversion & the final revenue event to estimate monetary value of engagement metrics. – Chris Haleua
  • All conversions should be tracked, but differing value of conversion types is absolutely important to consider in analysis. – Andy Powell (@apowellgt)
  • We also use custom reports (using a combo of AdWords/analytics data and company data) to provide truer conversion data. – David Bailey
  • Conversions shouldnt be treated equally its depends on ROI driven per that particular product or service. – Juan Restrepo (@juanrrestrepo)
  • One tactic I take is to show how many PPC clicks turned into email signup conversions and then try to attribute a percentage of those email conversions to PPC…generally very small but still worthwile. – Matt Umbro
  • I report conversions by type to comb out each by meaning & importance. I want data to be accurate for optimization as well as to send to client. I comb & sort & evaluate carefully. – Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)

Q3: What are some examples of how you’ve successfully been able to use search funnels/multi-channel funnels to prove PPC worth?

  • For long sales cycles, we use search funnels to show how brand/non-brand KWs play together. – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
  • For MnSearch I know how many PPC visits registered for our Summit after 1st interaction. Longer conversion cycle. – James Svoboda
  • Conversion tracking is optimal for online purchases (eCommerce). Call quality & call recording for services. – Juan Restrepo
  • Assisted conversions are my BFF. (Also, Reverse Goal Paths.) – Theresa Zook
  • Had an e-com client with high-cost, low-ROI head terms….based on last click. Their Assisted Convs made them worthwhile. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • The big one is to show how non-brand keywords and shopping clicks assist when brand is the last click. – Matt Umbro
  • I see the lightbulb appear when clients see assisted conversion data. Helps show that PPC does improve results for all channels. – Joe Martinez
  • It’s been great in the travel industry for showing up to a 1:2 ratio of assist-to-direct conversions. – Michael Fleming
  • I set up custom segments in GA that include paid search (with or without conversions) so I can see the whole picture. I use custom segments in GA to show increased engagement when people use paid search (with or w/o conversions). – Ross Kaplan-Winn
  • Sort x-channel campaign or kw report by last click CPA to identify least efficient. Check if losers redeem themselves in first. – Chris Haleua
  • Also, as they see the value of the assisted conversions, it helps exlain the vlaue of remarketing. – Mark Kennedy
    • Great point, but have to be careful that initial traffic is still quality. – Matt Umbro
      • True. Which is why I think the ads are important. Getting the right message to the right people. – Mark Kennedy
  • If not, confidently pull budget from campaigns or reduce bids for KWs that have little value from last and first perspective. – Chris Haleua
  • Over a long enough period, you can stack low & high funnel KPI together and showing the client the growth in high-funnel and then a short lag later the growth in low funnel takes off. That visual works wonders for me. – Andrew McCarthy
  • B2B head terms often have high-cost, high CPA based on last click. Their funnel data may eveal influence on converting kwds. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • If client / team is still hesitant, calculate LTV for inefficient campaigns and keywords to prove that even patience wont help. – Chris Haleua
  • Recently I’ve been using multichannel funnels to show that ppl look for discount codes in affiliate posts after clicking ppc ads. – Pamela Lund (@Pamela_Lund)

Q4: As an industry, do you believe we report on TOO many conversion points (between online and phone)? Why or why not?

  • I think collecting all conversion points is fine – it’s then presenting this data based upon client needs. – Matt Umbro
    • Agreed. I think you want to record all/most but report based on client knowledge and what they consider important. – Ross Kaplan-Winn
  • Conversion points? No–this is the core process that resonates w/clients. (Other points? Absolutely.) Always important to remember that what clients WANTS to know may not match what they NEED to know. – Theresa Zook
    • I guess I worry when being too granular with conversion tracking isn’t efficient account management. – Matt Umbro
  • Not really, but I think you have to emphasize the value/difference between all the conversions (& calls) you’re tracking. – Mark Kennedy
  • As an industry? Nah. What really matters is whether the client feels overwhelmed by it or not. – Susan Wenograd (@SusanEDub)
    • True story, I just worry sometimes that by tracking every single conversion we become less efficient as managers. And I’m talking more about the micro conversions, like Twitter icon clicks and video views. – Matt Umbro
      • You can flirt with analysis paralysism def. If you can force the client to admit what’s ultimately “success” it helps. – Susan Wenograd
        • The more direction you have the better! – Matt Umbro
    • It’s what you do with the data that matters. Optimizing more for leads/asales vs signups, which may inflate. – Mark Kennedy
    • Have to use best judgement. Conv.s that seem less significant can lead to insights you might otherwise miss. – Tyler Purcell
    • If the have same bottom-line value, not much need to break out. Only break out if different $$$ values. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • No, clients want to see where their spending goes. Now misrepresenting the value of conversions is a different story. – Tyler Purcell
  • In lead gen it’s more important to focus on what those conversions lead to instead of the conversions themselves. – Joe Martinez
  • It all depends on what client wants to see & what makes them comfortable. – Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
  • Data for the sake of data never helps. Data which can be interpreted to give actionables – absolutely… gimme all you got. – Steve Cameron
  • Collect it all! (Then report intelligently and honestly.) – Andy Powell
  • Reported metrics should succinctly address business goals. Be detailed but relevant. DON’T over-report. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • For myself, no, for sharing with the executive level, absolutely! If you’re not in the data daily, it’s too easy to be mislead. – Andrew McCarthy
  • I’ve seen FAR too many agencies mislead clients with metrics they don’t fully understand, but they sure sound good! – Andrew McCarthy
  • Only feels like “too many” conversion points when we do not keep them in the sequence & perspective of the client experience. – Chris Haleua

Q5: Have you found Google’s call extension and forwarding numbers to provide relevant leads/sales? Why or why not?

  • No, not a fan. Prefer 3rd party call tracking software. – Mark Kennedy
  • Not enought data from Google/Bing call tracking. – Melissa Mackey
  • No, because most people don’t interact with the numbers on the SERP/in the ad. – Conrad O’Connell (@conradoconnell)
  • The quality hasn’t been great so far. Seems like the bigger benefit is ad space and ad rank implications. – Neil Sorenson (@iNeils)
  • I use 3rd party – one line of code into GTM – that’s it – installed and working. – Steve Cameron
  • Many clients have told me that they get weird calls that aren’t relevant at all when call extensions are turned on. – Matt Umbro
  • Call tracking software let’s you filter out the crap and only report real lead calls since the calls are recorded. – Mark Kennedy
  • Not robust enough. But Tag Manager is GOLD. Use it to track form fields as events to see which conversions lead to which leads. – Joe Martinez
  • I prefer 3rd party. Not enough solid data with Google’s. But they take up space. – Matthew Lloyd (@MaLloyd20)
  • We’ve seen cases where the client expects a G number to show, but it isn’t shown and so leads aren’t tracked. – Andy Powell
  • Have NEVER had success with SERP=facing phone #’s. Not even 1 time! Phone # only on landing page much better results. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • Had google report a 20 minute call on a Sunday. No one in the office on Sundays. – Mark Kennedy
    • Yeah it’s crap like that which makes no sense. – Matt Umbro
  • Biggest benefit to Google/Bing call extensions is trying them, then convincing clients to adopt a paid call tracking platform. – Neil Sorenson
  • Call extensions have proven to be extremely successful, particularly for companies that offer services-plumbers, veterinarians. – Juan Restrepo
  • TONS of customer-service type calls, “what’s your address?” etc. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • Personally, no. I think the more info we can have, the more valued and informed decisions we can make. – David Bailey
  • Of course, but of course you need to measure every aspect of your call centers (KPI’s/funnel) just like you do for web leads. – Max Fink
  • If you have a good call recording software, you should be able to drill this down. – Juan Restrepo
  • SERP calls don’t generate many leads for G5 clients (usually current customers) but website call extensions have potential. Marchex is working with G5Platform to integrate AdWords website call extensions which I’m excited about. – Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy)
  • Not all clients can/will allow recorded phone calls, even w/call tracking. Sensitive info to some. – Melissa Mackey
  • In our tests, the few “good” calls were for questions already answered elsewhere on the site. Helped SEO, but killed our ROAS. – Andrew McCarthy

Q6: Do you believe the distinction between clicks and conversions is too little in today’s PPC? Why or why not?

  • On my home page – it’s not about the clicks, it’s about the ROI. – Mark Kennedy
  • At times, yes. I don’t believe all “micro conversions” should be considered goals. Some should still be clicks. – Matt Umbro
  • It can be for some micro-conversions if the conversion doesn’t give us much more insight into visit quality. – Kirk Williams
  • Clients are becoming more savvy, clicks are no longer a gauge of success. They want action: calls or conversions. – Nicole Mintiens
  • 100% yes. Someone clicks, get to webpage….whoop-de-do. Someone takes a valuable action on site? Potential $$ in the funnel. – Matt Vaillancourt
  • Yes, too little. Some folks comb out so many “micro” conv that it’s hard to realize there are no actual sales/leads involved. – Theresa Zook
  • And, when it’s their money – clicks are easy to get. Responsible management has to be about ROI – and that is conversions. – Steve Cameron
  • Just because you got us to your site for that white paper doesn’t mean we necessarily care about your brand. – Kirk Williams
  • OTOH, for some clients, the click is the conversion–they care mostly about website exposure. – Theresa Zook
  • The click is never the conversion. The true conversion (into a paying customer, however you evaluate LTV) is the conversion. – Max Fink

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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)
• Andrew Bethel (@AndrewPPC)
• Andrew McCarthy (@AmccartPPC)
• Andy Powell (@apowellgt)
• Chris Haleua (@chrishaleua)
• Conrad O’Connell (@conradoconnell)
• David Bailey (@dbaileyppc)
• Dipesh Shah (@D1PZ)
• Joe Martinez (@MilwaukeePPC)
• John Budzynski (@Budzynski)
• Juan Restrepo (@juanrrestrepo)
• Kirk Williams (@PPCKirk)
• Maria Corcoran (@mariacorcoran)
• Mark Kennedy (@markkennedysem)
• Matt Vaillancourt (@SEM_PPC_MattV)
• Matthew Lloyd (@MaLloyd20)
• Max Fink (@maxfink_SEM)
• Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)
• Michael Fleming (@SEMFlem)
• Neil Sorenson (@iNeils)
• Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesy)
• Pamela Lund (@Pamela_Lund)
• Robert Brady (@robert_brady)
• Ross Kaplan-Winn (@RossKWSEM)
• Stephanie Cockerl (@StephCockerl)
• Steve Cameron (@adventcom)
• Steve Gibson (@stevegibsonppc)
• Susan Wenograd (@SusanEDub)
• Theresa Zook (@I_Marketer)
• Timothy Jensen (@timothyjjensen)
• Tyler Purcell (@tylerpurcell)

Designing, Creating & Publishing Streamcaps

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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