Optimizing PPC with CallRail Data


Session Transcription


My name is Tim Benson. I'm an Omni-channel Growth strategist here at Logical Position. What I'm here to talk about today is how to optimize our pay-per-click accounts with CallRail data. We just heard Josh talk about all of the advanced capabilities we have with CallRail and what we can do to track the sources of phone calls.

Today’s Agenda:

  • Budget optimization
  • Bid optimization
  • Search terms report
  • Phone call evaluations

The more you take advantage of the features that are part of CallRail, the more you're going to get out of it, and the more you can maximize the value of what you're spending across all advertising platforms. I've talked a lot about Google Ads specifically here, but a lot of these principles hold true for anything. You can go on CallRail and see the quality of leads that Facebook's getting, Microsoft’s getting and use that to gather insights and make adjustments to your budgets accordingly. I think these are the core foundations of optimizing your Google Ads campaigns based on CallRail data.

When we optimize CallRail data, it boils down to four core pillars:

  • Budget optimization
  • Bid optimization
  • Search terms report
  • Qualitative evaluations of generated phone calls

Budget optimization

Let's start with budget optimization. This is really just capitalizing on our advertising dollars by ensuring our dollars are being funneled to the appropriate places based on CallRail data.

It's important to know that with pay-per-click accounts, your PPC account budgets are actually set at the account level. You create your set of campaigns and give each campaign a daily total of what you're willing to spend. The sum of those campaign totals should roughly equate to what you want your target ad spend to be.

A real example

So you can see this screenshot here from the Google Ads interface. This is a real account I manage using CallRail services. They are a tree and lawn care company based out of Philadelphia, and we have different campaigns for the different services they offer.

You can see that for lawn service, we've allocated $18 a day. For tree service, we've allocated $20 a day. For Philadelphia-specific traffic, we have a shared budget for multiple locations. That allows you to pool a bunch of different campaigns to one shared budget. The PHC campaign at the bottom deals with insect control for trees and plants.

We have all of these different campaigns, and we give each of them their own budget to work with. It's really important your top call producing campaigns have the budget they need. Your budgets are constantly going to be adjusted, evolving to reflect the conversion data that you're getting.

Returning to my example, let's say that over the next 30 days, I notice that this PHC campaign at the bottom has substantially more calls than my lawn service campaign, but you can see the budgets are kind of flip-flopped. I would need to then allocate more money towards the PHC campaign, because it's outperforming my lawn service campaign. This is just one example of the moves you should be making to make use of call volume data generated through CallRail.

What to keep in mind when optimizing your budget:

  • Overall cost
  • Search impression share
  • Time of day reports

There are some important metrics to utilize when you're evaluating your budget. The first is overall cost. Your spend is allocated across campaigns, but if you have several campaigns, you want to keep track of overall spend.

I don't want you to have sticker shock when you get your first bill from Google and think like, "Man, I didn't think I was really spending this much money." Make sure you're keeping tabs on how much is being spent overall. Within campaigns, there are other important metrics I want you to pay attention to.

Search impression share lost to budget

An important campaign metric is search impression share lost to budget. This metric captures the total searches you could have shown for and reports the percent you missed out on, since you didn't have the budget allocated to it. You left those searches on the table, because you were limiting yourself with the budget cap you had set for that campaign.

If the campaign is successful, and you're generating a lot of phone calls but losing more than half of the searches because you're not giving enough budget, that's a good indication you might want to move some money around. Give that particular campaign more to spend.

Time of day reports

There's also time of day reports, which measures your clicks, your impressions, your spend, or whatever metric you want and breaks it down by the hour of the day. This report will show if traffic falls off a cliff at 12:00pm or 1:00pm.

Chances are that the search volume didn't slow down, but your campaign hit your budget cap at that time of day and Google shut your ads off as a result. That time is the sweet spot, and wouldn’t go away. The time of day reports are an important metric to make sure your campaigns have the longevity they need.

Bid optimization: maximizing cost efficiency with your advertising dollars

We’ve done an overview of how budgetary processes work, and how we put our marketing dollars into different buckets. Once we have those dollars sent to appropriate buckets, it's important for us to think about bids.

Bids are a huge, huge influencer of what our traffic will do and what changes will occur within our pay-per-click campaigns.

How do I get to the top of Google?

An ad’s position on the search engine results page (SERP) is determined by AdRank. AdRank is determined by two factors: max CPC (bids) and quality score. You've probably seen the screenshot I've attached here plenty of times. This is the Google Search Engines Results Page, or the SERP as us PPC nerds like to refer to it.

This example search is the Portland Car Detailing Service. Let's say someone who lives in the Portland, Oregon area wants to get their car detailed. These top two links here on the SERP, the Search Engine Results Page are ads.

How did those ads get to that top of that page? I guarantee you there's more than two businesses bidding on those keywords. So how did those two make their way to the top?

The answer lies in what's called the AdRank. An ad's position on the Search Engine Results Page is determined by AdRank. Ad rank is determined by two factors. One is your bid or the max cost-per-click. This is the number you're giving Google, the maximum you're willing to pay in a particular auction for a search.

Google Ads is all auction based. You're auctioning and jockeying for position on this page.

The other component of is quality score. Once you've gotten that quality score, it's tricky to get it to move. The best tool to influence your ad rank becomes the max cost-per-click, your bids. The higher your bid is going to be, the higher your ad rank and the greater likelihood that your ad is going to show on the top of that Search Engine Results Page.

How do I know if my bids are enough?

Now that we know what bids are and how they work, how do we interpret the data to figure out if our bids are in the right place? How do we know if we need to raise our bids, lower our bids, or just leave them as is?

To me, it all starts with a target cost for acquisition, or a target CPA. Think about it as your cost-per-phone call, since we're dealing with CallRail metrics here. However, CPA, cost-per-acquisition, is something you'll hear in digital marketing. CPA will make it really black and white as far as whether we need to change our bids.

How do we establish CPA?

To establish CPA, think about factors relating to your business, like your close rate.

How many of the phone calls you receive actually translate into business for you? What is the average order value once those phone calls do translate into business?

If you’re a carpet cleaning service and you charge $200 to clean four or five rooms in a house, you're going to have a different average order value than someone who runs a mold remediation company, where the average job is significantly higher. Thus, you're willing to pay a little bit more for a call because the potential jobs are more lucrative.

Factor in things like your margins. Returning to the earlier example, your lawn care treatment might have different margins than your insect control, which is going to involve a lot of materials, a lot of pesticides, and materials versus strictly labor. These are all things that you should be factoring when you're establishing your cost-per-acquisition.

LogicalPosition.com has a robust blog section. There's all kinds of resources that are helpful to set target cost-per-acquisition if you're having trouble figuring out what those numbers should be.

Once you have your target CPA, it's easy to know whether we need to adjust our keyword bids accordingly. If our keyword has a cost-per-phone call that's above the target CPA, we're going to lower those bids. If it's below the target CPA, that means we have room for improvement and we'll increase.

Examples of CPA adjustment

One of our clients runs a roofing company in central Oregon. Their target cost-per-acquisition is $150. You can see on this screenshot, I have the keyword sorted by cost.

Our most expensive keyword was the modified broad match for the word roofers. We spent almost $600 on that keyword. We received two phone calls, giving us a cost-per-conversion, a cost-per-acquisition, or cost-per-phone call of $284 bucks. That is well above our target. I'm going to want to lower our bids here. As you can see, our bids are pretty hefty for this keyword at $27.83, but I don't want to pay that much per click anymore. It's not translating to a cost efficient keyword in terms of our target cost-for-acquisition.

Lowering bids is going to lower my ad rank. That means I might show up a little bit less prominently or a little bit less often, but that's okay. I want to rein in the spend for this keyword and make sure I'm not spending more than I have allocated for it.

The next most expensive keyword was Albany roofs (yellow highlight). That one has a location qualifier to it. Generally the longer tail keyword we have, the more cost efficient it is. This one has a cost-per-conversion of $58.35, almost a third of what I've allocated as a target cost-for-acquisition. I have a lot of room to grow here. I can bid higher on this keyword, because I can spend more and still be well within my target cost-for-acquisition range.

Increasing that bid means increasing my ad rank. Theoretically, I would start to show up higher on the page, show up more often, really get that keyword more exposure, which is what we want because we're seeing success with it.

I want to give a quick caveat and say that you need to be careful not to overbid on successful keywords. Back in the day, Google referred to something called your average position, meaning the average rung on the ladder that you would show up on that Search Engine Results Page. They have moved away from the term average position. They now use competitive metrics as an aid to see where you’re showing up on the page and how much room you have to grow. One that I look at a lot is the Search Absolute Top Impression Share, the percentage of the time where your ad was the absolute highest link on that Search Engine Results Page.

As you can see here, one of my client's branded terms, they are showing up in that absolute top spot more than 92% of the time. There's few searches where we are not the highest ranking link on that page. If I were to raise this max CPC bid for this keyword, I don't get much out of it. There's nowhere else for that keyword to go, but Google would start to charge me more for those clicks. It is important to raise your bids when you're meeting your goals, but I do want to mention that there is a ceiling as far as how much benefit you get from raising those bids.

Device bids

On top of keyword bids, the other pillar I want to talk about is device bids. You can influence and modify your bids based on the device that the user is searching from. Mobile searches are common, and the share of searches done on mobile devices goes up every year. As long as I've been working in this industry, mobile's percentage of searches has risen every year.

However, mobile doesn't always translate to leads. I might want to use a bid modifier. This example of negative 30% means I want to bid 30% less if the search is coming from a mobile device as opposed to a desktop computer.

Let's use the same example of a target CPA of $150 bucks. This CPA is well above that, more than double. I probably need to get even more aggressive with this bid modification for mobile searches and bid down even more aggressively than negative 30%.

Your device bids are critical. That's an often overlooked part of pay-per-click marketing. It can be a way to improve your cost efficiency if you spend time looking. They have their own tab in the Google Ads interface now. It’s easy to navigate to the example screen and look at where your money's going in terms of devices.

There are many things you could do to influence your bids. You can bid based on the location of the user, day of the week, hour of the day, and more depending on your business and your business’s needs. I stuck to these universal bid changes as examples, which are just keyword level bids and a device level bids, but there are more.

Working with CallRail has the benefit that your phone calls are attributed to the keywords that triggered them. If you're using other call tracking services, you don't always get that. Make sure you're leveraging and utilizing that tool, because it can save you so much money, as well as help you get more phone calls, because you can see precisely what's generating those phone calls in the first place.

Search terms report: ensuring the right traffic

Now I'm going to get to the Search Terms Report. This is a really critical piece optimization that should be looked at more often.

The Search Terms Report allows us to make sure we're showing up for the right traffic, and allows us to make sure ads are showing for the appropriate searches. The report is a report of the user typed into Google to trigger those ads and the stats behind it.

This is important because we can catch things slipping through the cracks and showing up in our campaigns when really we don't want them. If you use the example from our roofing company in Oregon, a lot of searches are fine and related to the industry. However, you get down the sixth one down, how heavy the cement roof panels of the Sydney Opera House are. Sydney Opera House. That has nothing to do with my client's business. That's obviously not something I want to pay for. What's even worse, we paid $6.44 for this click. That is something we want to negate.

We can add negative keywords to prevent Google from showing our ads if these negative keywords are part of the search. In this example, I don't want to negate roof panels, because that's relevant to what we're advertising. I want to negate Sydney Opera House, because the person looking for that isn’t someone who's interested in my client's roofing services. Additionally, looking through the Search Terms Report helps you expand your keyword list. It might help you find keywords you're not bidding on yet but maybe should be.

Looking through this client's Search Terms Report, I came across this term metal roofing contractors, Eugene, Oregon. I got two phone calls from this search for a cost-per-acquisition of $43.55. That is well within what we're trying to have as a target cost-per-phone call, and you can see here based on the ad group name, I was already bidding on roofing contractors. I was not bidding on metal roofing contractors, or roofing contractors, Eugene, Oregon. Those might be other keywords to add to my list.

I wouldn't have thought to do that if I didn't check the Search Terms Report. This is really, really critical when I've led teams here at Logical Position. I insisted everyone check the Search Terms Report every time they were doing an optimization of an account. I hope you'll consider adding that as part of your workflow as well. It can save you a lot of trouble.

CallRail metrics optimization: taking conversion data further

We've talked about what we can do within the Google Ads interface. There are some things we can glean from the CallRail interface that are really helpful as well. These are things that can help us supercharge what we're getting out of CallRail and Google Ads alike. Let's take a look at what we can do to expand on that.

I really like to look at CallRail’s reports to qualify the phone calls we're getting and which keywords are yielding us those qualified phone calls. You can sort by the duration of the call, which is what I've done here. I've sorted them from longest to shortest. You can see that of the top five calls in terms of call length, two of them were from the same keyword, commercial roof.

This is really valuable because in the Google Ads UI, the interface in Google Ads, it's going to be very binary. Did this keyword generate a phone call or not? Once we go into the CallRail interface itself, we can look at the effectiveness of those phone calls.

Obviously we can listen to them and use that tool, but I also just think it's helpful to quickly scan and ask some questions:

  • Where were the calls the longest?
  • Where do the users seem really bought in, and really invested and interested in signing up or purchasing?

If I were to look at this, I would say, “Commercial roofs are clearly doing well. We're not just getting calls. We're getting really lengthy calls and the users seem really invested in what we have to offer.” I would go back to the LP search commercial and residential roofs campaign.

Look at the budget, make sure that campaign has the budget it needs. Look at the bids for this keyword commercial roof and make sure that I'm showing up properly for this keyword. See if there's any room to improve, like we had talked about with bid and budget optimization. The other thing you can do to streamline this process is to go through and mark whether the leads were qualified or not. You just check off this thumbs up icon here, which allows us to quickly go through and see which keywords are getting qualified leads.


1. How do you know you've lost impressions? Good question. There's no report that's going to say, "Oh, this is exactly how many impressions you didn't get because you were at a budget." That is a bit of a black box, and you're never going to get as precise a number as you might want. You have to take the numbers with a grain of salt, but I do like to look at the search impression share lost to budget as sort of a litmus test for extremes.

If I see that the search impression share lost to budget is 90%, I'm going to go, "Wow. Like I am really not giving this campaign nearly enough budget for what it needs." I have campaigns that have 10 times the budget they need and that metric will still say, "Oh, you lost 12%.” It can be a bit fickle, but I do think when you have the extremes it paints a picture of campaigns in desperate need of more money. We can also cross reference our cost-per-phone call and our cost-per-acquisition data to see if that's a campaign that truly needs it or not.

2. How do you outperform your competitors without outspending them? The other element of your ad rank I mentioned is your quality score. That is the other way of improving your ad rank without just jacking up your bids. To improve your quality score, you need to make sure of a couple of things.

You need to make sure the text of your ad is relevant to the keyword. Google does this to incentivize advertisers to make the ads look clean and make their overall product of a search engine helpful to users. One easy way to do that is to just literally put the keyword somewhere in the ad text itself. So for that roofing example, if the search was roofing contractors, Oregon, I might make that the headline. That way Google crawls it, sees that this person was looking for this search, and it's right there in the ad.

Another component of quality score is the landing page experience. It’s also important to ensure that users are going to find what they need on your landing pages. Make sure you are directing users to pages that are going to answer their questions.

With my tree care client, if someone was searching for lawn care, I don't want to send them to a general page or a tree care page. I want to send them to the page on the website that addresses lawn care so that they'll have their questions answered more immediately. Google has mechanisms of measuring how well people responded to the pages they were taken to.

The more engagement you can foster, the better quality score you're going to get. That's the single best way to outperform your competition by having better quality scores, having a better ad rank without jacking up your bids and trying to outgun them for spending.

3. When would you know that you're spending more on your bid again? You have your max cost-per-click, which is not necessarily what you're going to pay-per-click. That is going to be the actual CPC, the actual cost-per-click. In theory, you could raise your max cost-per-click or your bid, and your cost-per-click wouldn't change because you're still winning that auction every time.

What I would do is change that max cost-per-click, which is your bid, and then also reference your cost-per-clicks and see if those numbers rise.

You know if you need to raise that based on your cost-for-call sort of guidelines. If you are below, let's say you have a cost-per-call goal of $150. I'm willing to spend $150 per phone call that I get. If you're already spending $200 per phone call you should probably lower those bids, but if you're only spending like $45 or $50 per phone call you could go ahead and raise bids there provided that you're not already capping out on those searches.

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