OPINION

Trekking AdWords’ Last Mile

Google AdWords is the most commonly used lead generation tool in many small and medium businesses. Layer in small and medium vendors ofCRM’s many varieties of applications, and the dependency on precise targeting for lead generation becomes even more important, due to the highly targeted messaging each uses.

Specifically, in CRM, many best-of-breed vendors known for the complexity and depth of their vertical market solutions are constantly working to turn this aspect of their operations into a lasting competitive strength. Their biggest challenge, however, is in creating value propositions that resonate with a broader audience.

Traditional forms of marketing communications, lead generation and event marketing only go so far. Enter Google AdWords as a lead generation strategy. AdWords accounts for the largest percentage of lead generation spending for many small and medium businesses for this exact reason — it allows both small and medium businesses, in addition to best-of-breed CRM vendors, to precisely target prospects that are already seeking guidance in highly specialized areas.

For all this dependence on AdWords as the primary lead generation strategy, many of these small and medium businesses — and, ironically, many best-of-breed CRM vendors — also manage the last mile of their AdWords strategy through manual processes. What often happens is that lead follow-up is sporadic as a result.

What’s been missing in all this is a view of a prospect’s end-to-end experience after arriving at any given company’s site.

Taking Conversion Tracking for a Test Drive

Driven by questions concerning this aspect of AdWords from my graduate marketing students and also by the reports of disconnects from friends who own a small aircraft charter company, I started digging into what currently available products deliver end-to-end process views from an analytics standpoint. Out of pure interest and the chance to help a friend out, I dove into this; Google is not paying me to write this and has never been a client.

I started by digging around inside Google AdWords and Analytics. Linking my Google AdWords account to Google Analytics helped to give a very high-level view of activity on the site I use primarily for distributing materials for my classes.

Next, I enabled Conversion Tracking by selecting that option under the Campaign Management tab. Conversion tracking works by generating JavaScript code you embed on your site’s appropriate Web pages to track events and activities.

These events or activities include tracking purchases; signups or registrations; requests for more information; page views; demo downloads or game plays; and another category you can use for any other tracking activity you want. The wizard-like interface generates the JavaScript code for each of the events and activities, and then the code can be inserted onto any Web page of interest.

After completing this process for downloads, for example, and running a test ad for the Silvio Napoli case analysis on my site, I found two additional columns on the Campaign Summary of my AdWords test account. The first is Conversion Rate and the second, Cost per Conversion.

It takes, on average, 24 hours for the changes to be reflected. While this example is academically based, you can see that the tool for tracking conversions is simple to set up and quick to view from the Campaign Summary page. You can also toggle on rates for cross-channel conversion analysis as well, following the same steps — with the exception of putting the JavaScript code on pages that are specific to different campaign originating Web pages.

Making the Analytics Leap

Next, I wanted to see just how well the conversion data generated from the JavaScript got picked up in Google Analytics. Setting up a Goal in Google Analytics is one way to do this, so I chose to track the URL again for the Silvio Napoli case study and named the Goal “Downloads of Case Study” and then toggled the Goal on. What’s interesting about the Goal interface is that you have the option of defining successive URLs to build out a Sales Funnel.

After a week of running a small AdWords ad for the case study and spending less than US$10 in total, I found there had been 450 clicks for the Silvio Napoli campaign on over 30,000 impressions. For companies that rely on hundreds of keywords in the AdWords strategies, the impact of tracking conversions is going to be much more significant.

What’s so useful about the Google Analytics interface is that it allows you to select from the Executive, Marketing and Webmaster views of data. Conversion Summary is available from Executive and Marketing Views, and it provides a funnel graphic — assuming URLs for each part of the funnel were provided — of activity generated from AdWords campaigns. I haven’t test driven the cross-channel feature yet, but my friend with the charter business is just initiating it this week. It will be interesting to see his results.

Lock In

Google Analytics has done a very good job of integrating AdWords with Analytics and also providing for cross-channel conversion analysis. Yet for many of the small and medium businesses, Google Analytics can be intimidating, as there are just so many features and tools. Google wants to lock the AdWords users into Analytics, making it their one and only conversion analysis tool. With the invitation now renewed for Analytics accounts, it’s a strategy that appears to be working.

Bottom Line

For the millions of small and medium businesses that have niche-based products, AdWords offers a chance to connect with prospects that other forms of lead generation cannot reach. Conversion tracking is lacking in many small businesses; the integration of AdWords with Analytics looks like a useful — although at times overpowering — approach to analyzing just how effective AdWords Campaigns are.


Louis Columbus, a CRM Buyer columnist, is a former senior analyst with AMR Research. He is the author of several books on making the most of analyst relationships, including Best Practices in Analyst Relations, which can be downloaded for free.


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