Written by John McElborough on 20 January, 2014
Spending all day in PPC campaigns it’s easy to become engulfed by data. While its great to be able to build strategies based on solid numbers, its important not to forget that advertising is about talking to people and to make your advertising better, sometimes you have to listen to what they have to say.
We’ve taken on some really interesting B2B lead generation projects lately and its reminded me that when it comes to lead gen, its almost always quality not quantity that clients really care about, and so should PPC managers. I bet we all work in some niches where the traffic is so low and there’s so little data to play with that we end up becoming complacent and telling ourselves that we can’t optimise that campaign because there’s not enough data to work with.
So what can we do when there’s never going to be enough data to do anything boarding on statistical validity? Instead of trying to conduct quantitative analysis without data, think about what qualitative analysis you can do on the account. Here are some examples of what I mean by qualitative PPC analysis and how I’ve used it to improve low volume lead gen campaigns.
Phone lead tracking
Phone lead tracking is a beautiful thing. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t evangelise about it to prospective clients but as with all data points its easy for phone calls to just become another number in the conversion column of your spreadsheet. But a phone call is so much more than a data point; it’s a window into the mind of your target audience, a rare chance to see (or rather hear) what your targets are thinking and how they came to pick up the phone.
In the UK we work with Responsetap for call tracking and we’ve found the most useful feature of their system is call recording (other call tracking providers also offer this feature). By listening into the calls our PPC campaigns are generating we’ve found a huge number of insights including:
Keywords – real customers and phone operators use all sorts of language you might not of picked up in your keyword research – when you’re listening back to calls make a note of any potential keywords you notice callers using.
Pre-qualifying in ad copy – if you notice a lot of calls resulting in unsuccessful sales can you identify any opportunities to better pre-qualify visitors before they click on your adverts? For example if your client only sells to large businesses but they’re getting a lot of irrelevant calls from small businesses then find a way to pre-qualify in your ad copy by saying “large businesses only” in one way or another.
Brand campaign performance – I’ve found phone calls to be very useful in helping to answer the question which comes up in every campaign about whether we should be advertising on brand keywords. Listening to the calls generated by your PPC brand campaigns will help you analyse whether branded keywords are actually bringing in new business leads or whether repeat customers are just using your adverts to find customer service numbers.
Lead value – In B2B lead gen campaigns you’ll usually find that no two leads will have the same value. While you’ll ideally be able to get lead value figures from your clients CRM, in reality we’ve found this isn’t always the case, most often because the call operator doesn’t record the lead value (or potential value). By listening back to calls that generated leads we’re able to identify the calls that generated the really big-ticket leads and the keywords which triggered those calls.
Reading the sales emails
Sales emails and form submissions aren’t as interesting as phone calls but they can still provide real insights. We always try and get clients to BCC their inbound email leads to one of our mailboxes so we can review the types of leads they’re getting. At the most basic level this helps identify issues with erroneous tracking which you often see where a contact form is being spammed pushing up your lead numbers in Analytics/ conversion tracking.
You can also use sales lead emails in a similar way to phone call recordings to identify high and low quality leads, establish potential lead value and even work out the common questions people are asking in their initial contact. To give you a real example of this, we recently noticed a bunch of emails one of our campaigns were generating asked about whether our clients product was compatible with a certain system – the answer was yes but because we read the emails we were able to identify that small piece of information that was missing from the landing page. Clients love insights like this and it’s the sort of thing you’d never learn from crunching numbers in a spreadsheet.
Company name analysis
Its common for our B2B lead gen clients to only receive a handful of clicks a day and we might go days without a lead being recorded so looking at lead data alone doesn’t always paint a complete picture. One method of qualitative analysis we’ve found very effective in this sort of situation is examining the names of companies who we’ve attracted via PPC and seeing how well these match the profile of a typical customer for our client.
For B2B campaigns where we have this tracking installed we run through the list of known companies each week and research how well they fit the mould of a prospective customer for our campaign. This helps us refine campaigns at the keyword level, identifying keywords used by companies who we know our client would be excited about having on their site and adjusting bids on those keywords accordingly.
Matched search query analysis
This is the simplest piece of qualitative analysis I do on a regular basis but one which can be extremely valuable. Running through matched search query reports by hand is the best way to refine keyword lists, match types and negatives but also to gain a better understanding of searcher behaviour in your clients industry. When I’m working on very niche or technical campaigns for products which I don’t fully understand when I take the campaign on I find this type of analysis extremely useful for understanding more about what prospective customers are looking for, which also helps me to write better adverts and landing pages.
Visitor journey analysis
One benefit of working on campaigns where traffic and leads are sparse but high value is that when you get a lead, you can really spend time analysing it to the nth degree, something that would never be possible in an ecommerce campaign where you’re probably analysing data on thousands of sales in aggregate.
One of the most useful pieces of analysis I’ve found is to look at the customer journeys which have resulted in leads in step-by-step detail. This might not result in immediately actionable insights but for me running the campaign it really helps to understand how a high value visitor behaves on my clients site, the information they’re interested in, what pages they spend most time on and what pages they look at immediately before they pick up the phone. Off the back of this analysis you might choose to drop visitors onto a different landing page or tweak the user journey to drive more visitors down a funnel which you can see is likely to end up as a lead.
Not all clients are going to give you free reign of their CRM but if they do, there’s a huge wealth of qualitative campaign analysis you can do if their system is setup correctly. Recently we were able to use a clients CRM to calculate the average lifetime value of customers who were originally referred by PPC. This let us lay out a business case for bidding more aggressively on top converting keywords and helped us to secure additional budget because we were able to prove that the real ROI of our campaign was far higher than traditional reporting was showing.
Time to start thinking about quality over quantity
I hope this post has given some ideas for how you can conduct analysis on campaigns and gain valuable insights where there’s not the volume of data available to make rational decisions based on numbers alone.
So maybe when you next take on a campaign and see the top keyword only gets <100 searches/ month instead of moaning about a lack of data you’ll say “what a great opportunity to do some really in-depth qualitative analysis, bring it on!”
Author: John McElborough
+John McElborough is co-founder and MD of Inbound360, a London based PPC agency. John has been building and marketing websites for over a decade and has consulted for some of the UK’s largest brands on PPC and digital strategy. His work has been published on leading industry sites including SearchEngineJournal, Social Media Today and Moz.com as well as his own Marketing For Growth” blog