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A Better Way to Track Online Conversions and Measure ROI

by Neil Patel

Any marketer in his or her right mind wants to see a graph like this.

growth-marketing-chart

It’s the “up-and-to-the-right” trends that make us smile, sleep peacefully, and work hard.

If only there were a fabled “Easy” button to press so you can replicate these results.

The reality is it takes a lot of operational and tracking work.

Positive ROIs don’t materialize out of thin air. The process begins with understanding what you’re trying to get, and then tracking the data that predicts those paths.

I want to share with you a holistic strategy that has helped me in my understanding of conversion tracking, and has helped my businesses grow.

The process has a lot to do with the right level of understanding, a relentless commitment to tracking, and a strategic approach to developing your team and technology.

Understanding the Customer Journey

Customers don’t just convert on the first engagement, especially when entering through an SEO channel as opposed to PPC.

Here’s a breakdown of what a typical customer’s journey to conversion looks like:

search terms and intent

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The example above uses “cameras,” so let’s stick with that. When a consumer first searches for digital cameras, their initial research starts on a broad scope. It’s only after gaining a better understanding of digital camera features would they start choosing between Canon and Nikon digital cameras.

To fully understand your conversion rate, you need to track users at every stage in their journey. You’ll learn when and how customers drop off, and be able to pinpoint where in your sales funnel you’re losing people.

According to CSO Insights, a 10 percent sales increase can be achieved by implementing an adaptable, dynamic sales and marketing process. This can be created by mapping the customer’s journey like this:

buyer journey map

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Remember customers don’t want to be sold – instead, 74 percent of B2B buyers choose the first sales rep that adds value and insight.

By providing the right information to customers along each step of this search, you can become a trusted resource by decision time.

Think of it as a reality competition show, in which you can be eliminated at any round. You always need to bring your A game.

Customers want to be educated and entertained. If the camera company can educate readers on how to take photos and provide tips on using the devices, customers are more likely to inevitably trust them enough to purchase a camera.

In order to gauge the effectiveness of your digital campaign, you’ll need call, campaign and multi-channel attribution tracking.

Why is this approach to conversion rate tracking so vital to every marketing plan?

Why Tracking Is Necessary

Let me explain by showing you some numbers.

Here’s a quick breakdown of age distribution by social network for the top social networks online:

age distribution at top social networks

Although the numbers don’t change much for 25-64 year olds, millennials in the 18-24 range show huge interest spikes in Snapchat, Vine, and Tumblr. Odds are, these social networks likely aren’t included in your digital marketing campaigns.

Why not?

Most social media professionals will tell you to build a LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ account, but millennial interest in the younger half of the coveted 18-35 demographics shy away from these social networks.

Had you been analyzing your conversions end-to-end, you would notice trends like these. Thoryn Stephens, CDO of American Apparel, credits data like this as the biggest asset in the company’s customer engagement and retention initiatives. Such trends allow a company to pivot from useless strategies to more engaging ones.

The brand’s omnichannel strategy is successful when combined with data collection and analysis.

You need to know what the statistics in your analytics tools mean and how they can be optimized to drive conversions. As Alex Birkett at Conversion XL put it:

“…it’s easy to project the predicted ROI of optimization. It’s just really hard to measure it, post-hoc.”

Know What to Track

Judah Phillips at ConversionXL found 15 percent of CMOs don’t measure marketing ROI, with an astonishing 27 percent relying on human judgment.

Even more alarming, only 2 percent of companies track lead generation to sales metrics, while 25 percent of marketing teams don’t understand how to collect or use data.

Ouch.

To address all of these problems at once, I would start by looking at a basic sales funnel.

conversion optimization and seo

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Everything we do online, from SEO and PPC to social media and content marketing initiatives to website and conversion rate optimization, is meant to gently guide readers through a sales funnel.

You should then be tracking prospects and leads based on each piece of content to quantify the ROI. This is the traffic you should be monitoring in order to fully understand the quantifiable metrics of your digital marketing campaign. There are three key areas to focus on.

Website Traffic

Google Analytics, AdSense, and AdWords can provide valuable demographic data, but linking it to customer data from the backend CRM is a little trickier.

ConversionXL provides the nitty-gritty on how to set things up in this helpful guide.

percentage of search to revenue

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A major difference between your website and a banner or affiliate ad is your web traffic is owned by you, so you control all content on your website. Social media and any paid content and audiences are either paid for or leased.

If your blog or social media accounts get large enough for you to become an influencer, you can earn revenue with strategic paid advertising on your web properties. Just be aware of the property rules where your content lies.

By using the method in ConversionXL’s guide to create and track campaign codes within Google Analytics, you can begin tracking demographics and comparing them to customer demographics to narrow the focus of which landing pages are working best for which customers.

Mobile vs. Desktop

Mobile has overtaken desktop as the most used Internet searching platform. Here are some numbers in case you don’t believe me.

number of global users

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This is why Mobilegeddon, Google AMP, and both Panda and Penguin updates happened.

It wasn’t just a random sequence of events. Throughout these updates, Google’s Webmaster Tools and other web management reports were updated to separate desktop and mobile device tracking.

Although mobile devices have increased traffic, the conversion rates are historically poor.

This is despite mobile allowing for more personalized content, which Sherice Jacob finds assists even B2B businesses with their content marketing efforts.

measures of content effectiveness

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With the device listed as part of your attribution tracking, you’ll have a better understanding of how customers, both current and prospective, are responding to all online content.

It’s all part of an initiative to optimize landing pages using an information bias.

Keeping consumption and engagement high on all web properties and all devices is the holy grail of web traffic when combined with organic search results, and video is a great way to increase all of those KPIs.

Video Engagement

Everyone from traditional media to new media, bloggers, and even social media users knows video content is the fastest way to gain visitor engagement.

product video results

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Depending on how the video is hosted (on your web server is best, though a backup should also be kept), tracking video views should already be integrated into your web analytics.

Based on years of research, YouTube has determined that videos increase the duration and engagement of a user’s visit. Facebook and Twitter are now battling Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Apple for access to video content to hold on to visitors.

Companies from Dreamworks to Disney are invested in producing quality mobile video, and your business should be too.

If you think you can compete with Hollywood’s best and brightest, you’re nuts, but you can produce commercials for it. The video content you produce for the web can also be used for paid video campaigns.

With both virtual and augmented reality quickly becoming the new reality, fresh ways of experiencing the Internet are already happening.

Your marketing department’s graphic designers, writers, and videographers need to focus on creating omni-channel content. Otherwise you won’t be able to compete in tomorrow’s market.

Integrate Technology

Of course much of this analytics can’t be performed (at least not easily) with just an Excel spreadsheet. That’s why integrating Google Analytics and Salesforce is such a winning combination that I included two links here with instructions on how to do it.

These two programs should be a part of your conversion optimization budget, which studies show are increasing in 2016 and likely to continue this trend into 2017.

conversion optimization priority by organization

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There are plenty of free tools available to track web traffic beyond Google, SEMrush and SEOMoz are two popular tools for tracking keywords.

A spreadsheet or database table needs to be maintained with which employees have usernames or access to passwords. This will ensure all accounts are accessible and secured after the employee leaves.

Good security software is a must have for any small business.

Build the Right Team

I find one of the hardest parts of working with certain clients is when they don’t know enough about Internet marketing.

The CMO understands a few popular services and buzz terms, but the real meat of content marketing, social media, website optimization, SEO, and how it all relates to conversions and a quantifiable ROI is difficult to understand until you see it.

Here’s a quick infographic on what a Chief Conversion Officer does:

who is your chief conversion officer

This is a data-driven approach to innovative online marketing.

Sidwalth Deswal at VWO put together a great guide on how to set up KPIs and determine the right needs for building your conversion optimization team. Check it out.

Conclusion

Data-driven marketing is more than just a buzz term.

Marketing teams that are able to create adaptive and responsive omni-channel content are the ones that will continue to succeed in business.

Tracking a customer through sales funnels online is much easier than it is with print, TV, radio, and other marketing campaigns unless you pay to offer a coupon. Linking the premium version of Google Analytics with Salesforce is just the beginning of tracking conversions.

Understanding contextual mobile and social media data is another great step, and video content is becoming more crucial for keeping customers engaged across platforms.

If you’re not already tracking all of these key components, it may be time to hire someone who can.

What processes do you have in place that are allowing you to track conversions and ROI?

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Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue.

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