Agency Increases Leads by 21% and Reduces CPL by 21%

SCUBE marketing is a digital marketing agency focused on improving paid search, paid social, and display campaigns for lead generation and e-commerce companies. Even though most companies come to us to improve revenues and increase profitability of their digital marketing campaigns, we have noticed that almost all of them need help with their analytics, specifically with:

  • Tracking everything to enable data-driven decisions for making better marketing investments
  • Attributing leads to their marketing channels to calculate accurate ROI

Today I will show you what you need to track and improve your campaigns using newly available data. I will use a law firm client as an example, because:

  1. Their business is heavily focused on lead generation
  2. Many people are aware of and may have worked with lawyers
  3. Lawyer Saul Goodman (of Better Call Saul) is my favorite character

Agency Marketer's Guide to Client Retention

Great Campaigns Start With Good Tracking

Asking customer -How did you find us-- is not an effective lead attribution strategy...

Marketing analytics have become an integral part of the lead generation strategy for companies. A recent CMO Survey reports that spending on marketing analytics will increase by 66% over the next three years. We push our clients to become data-driven marketing organizations because it creates a win-win situation for the clients and us.

Here is why:

  • It helps to set, evaluate, and manage marketing strategy
  • We can attribute the leads and the marketing spend to respective channels
  • Everyone knows exactly how each channel is performing and can determine what to do next

The typical ways to capture generated leads are:

  • Web form inquiries (on page)
  • Web chat inquiries (on page)
  • Calls from the Campaign call extensions (off page)
  • Calls from the landing pages (on page)
  • Calls from the dedicated offline or online campaigns (off page)

Web forms and chats are not difficult to track, as they easily integrate with Google Analytics. Campaign call extensions are pretty easy too, as the ad platform uses a separate phone number attached to the campaigns and report the calls directly in the interface.

Calls from the landing pages or dedicated offline or online campaigns are tough to track, if you are using the main business phone number. You know you are getting calls, but not sure where they are coming from.

If you tried to survey your customers or even ask them how they found you, you were probably not very successful. People get busy and forget things quickly. We tested this with our clients and the most common answers were “The Internet” or “Google” – good luck using this information to improve your campaigns.

In our agency, we adopted CallRail for call tracking. CallRail helps SCUBE to complete the full picture by tracking calls and attributing them to respective marketing campaigns. It integrates with Google Analytics and is easy to implement on most website platforms.

Advanced Tip: Use a CRM in your sales process and connect your lead tracking with sales. It’s very useful to calculate the sales conversion rate and revenue per keyword.

Now that we covered the essentials of campaign tracking, let get into the next step: the baseline.

Establish a Baseline for KPIs

Asking customer -How did you find us-- is not an effective lead attribution strategy... (1)

Let’s start with why you need a baseline. If your tracking is incomplete, you can’t make data-driven decisions. If you make your decisions just based on intuition, you might lose a lot of money.

Let’s continue with our law firm client as the example. Prior to CallRail, they were measuring leads through web forms and campaign call extensions. The firm knew that Google Ads (formerly AdWords) campaigns were generating calls, but wasn’t aware of how many and where they came from. Here is the approach we took:

  1. Established an old baseline without call tracking. The number of leads and cost per lead (CPL) over 6 months before call tracking.
  2. Implemented the following CallRail tracking methods: Dynamic Number Insertion to measure the calls from Google Ads campaigns and Campaign Level Call Tracking to consolidate all offline campaigns into one interface.
  3. Established an old baseline with call tracking. The number of leads and CPL over 6 months after call tracking implementation.

As soon as the call tracking was implemented, the CPL started going down significantly. The results were revealing:

Old baseline

The takeaway is the campaigns were doing much better than anticipated. In addition, we learned three important lessons:

  1. Phone call importance – phone calls were more important than anticipated, they drove 65% of leads, web forms drove 25% of leads, and call from ads drove 10% of leads.
  2. Phone call delay – a percentage of the calls had a significant delay from the first click on the ad. Prospects noted the phone number (which was a CallRail tracking number) during their research and contacted the firm when they were ready. Some delayed a week, some one month and others more than a month. CallRail helped us to account for those phone calls and attribute them to the appropriate campaigns.
  3. Offline campaign performance varied significantly – some campaigns drove clicks without generating any leads. Campaign level tracking helped us to identify which campaigns were generating calls.

Get to Work (Improve Campaigns Using New Data)

Now, once we’ve gotten new data (thanks to CallRail), we felt like kids in the candy store. We could finally make data-driven decisions to improve the campaign. Here is the high level approach:

Get Your Priorities Straight (Go Back to Your Objectives)

It all starts with the priorities. You cannot focus on everything at once, so prioritizing by a specific objective helps you focus and be more efficient. In our example, we started with two objectives:

  • Growth – increase the number of leads at an acceptable CPL. We sorted campaigns by number of leads and scheduled for further analysis. In these campaigns we were looking for the root causes of success and opportunities to expand.

  • Profitability – reduce CPL while maintaining an acceptable lead volume. We sorted campaigns by CPL and scheduled in the additional analysis for the root causes of high CPL. This usually falls into two categories: campaigns that don’t convert, but incur costs and campaigns that convert, but cost per click is too high for the conversion rate or vice versa.

Campaign - profitability

Taste the Champagne on a Beer Budget (Optimize Campaign Budgets)

Asking customer -How did you find us-- is not an effective lead attribution strategy... (2)

Optimizing your budgets can help you get more leads at the lower CPL without digging deep into the account. Before we go into the mechanics, understand these metrics that affect your budgets:

  • Daily budget – maximum you are willing to spend per day.
  • Search impression share – think of this as your market share metric. It’s a ratio of your ad impressions compared to the available impressions in the auction.
  • Search lost impression share (budget) – a percentage of impression share you have lost due to low daily budget.
  • Search lost impression share (rank) – a percentage of impression share you have lost due to low bids or low Quality Score.

Big idea: To optimize your campaign budgets, shift the ad spend towards campaigns that are producing results and good ROI.

The mechanics of our approach are below:

  1. Enable columns in campaign view with the metrics above.
  2. Prioritize campaigns based on Growth or Profitability objective.
  3. For campaigns with Growth objective, evaluate the Search Impression Share. Your goal is to increase it. If it’s below 100%, look for the reasons: budget or rank. If it’s budget, increase the daily budget. You will spend more on campaigns that have good ROI.
  4. For campaigns with Profitability objective, evaluate the Search Impression Share. Your goal is to decrease it, if the daily budget is not constrained. After you adjust the daily budget, you will spend less on campaigns that have unacceptable ROI, until the underlying issues are corrected.

Campaign - budget

That’s it. Once we optimized the budgets we started seeing shifts in performance.

Forget The Keywords, Optimize Your Search Terms First

One of my pet peeves is the distinction between keywords and search terms. They are usually used interchangeably, but are different.

Quick & Easy to Understand Definition:

Search Term – the exact word or set of words a customer enters when searching on or another search engine.

Keyword – the word or set of words advertisers create for a given ad group to target ads to customers.

We focused on what search terms we wanted to target first, because that’s what people type into the search box. It helped us to decide the right keyword strategy and match types to target the right search terms for the client.

Then we ran a search term report for campaigns prioritized by objective. I call this technique “Under the Hood Analysis”, which consists of revealing the search terms triggered by keywords, analyzing their relevancy and KPIs, and taking appropriate action.

Here is how you get there: Go to Keywords tabin your Prioritized campaign, then click “Search terms” section.

Keywords - STR report

The search term report tells you what terms your keywords triggered. You will find out three major types of search terms:

  1. Irrelevant search terms you don’t want to target. Exclude full term entirely or the words not relevant to the campaign. Example: pro bono bankruptcy attorney. If the law firm is focused on commercial work, “pro bono” is not relevant and needs to be excluded.
  2. Relevant search terms with poor KPIs. Analyze the KPIs and decide the next steps. You have three options: exclude or add as exact match keywords to manage separately and wait for statistically significant data.
  3. Relevant search terms with good KPIs. This is an opportunity to expand. If these search terms are not managed as exact match keywords, add them. You will be able to control the bids and improve the ad position and increase the impression share to get more traffic.

Test Ads and Repeat the Process

A/B testing can lead to quick wins from the same traffic and improve the understanding of prospects. Here’s an example of how we improved leads by presenting the ads from two different angles:

  • A vague message with a call to action to help and social proof
  • A specific message with the potential end result

In our test we knew that we were targeting people who are trying solve a specific problem. The ads have to focus on solving that problem. In our test, an ad with a specific message won by generating more leads at the lower CPL.

Ad - different angle

Here’s an example of how we improve leads and reduced CPL by testing plural vs. singular subject in the headline. Quick checklist before we go:

  • Same keywords triggered – Check
  • Same landing pages used – Check
  • Same description used in the ads – Check
  • Same URLs used in the ads – Check

The only change was the subject in the headline. Take a look at the results below.

Ad - plural vs singular

I urge you to start testing your ads to find out which ad resonates well with your prospects. Below is a checklist you can use when starting A/B testing your ads.

SCUBE Marketing A/B Testing Checklist:

  1. Set ad rotation settings to even rotation
  2. Don’t test more than two ads at once
  3. Write for humans and solve their problems
  4. Decide on the specific angle for each ad
  5. Keep the targeted search terms in mind
  6. Don’t be afraid to test small changes
  7. Decide who needs to click on your ad and who needs to be repelled
  8. Monitor frequently, but take action with statistically significant data

Final Results: Leads Up By 21% & CPL Down by 21%

The four tactics above are just a sliver of the actions we took to improve the account. After 6 months of improvements, it was time to measure the impact. Paid search leads increased by 21% and the CPL dropped by 21%.

New baseline

You Can Do This (As Long As You Have the Right Data)

To summarize, to improve your campaigns you need to start with tracking all KPIs that matter, establish a baseline with KPIs, and improve campaigns using data. Improvement is a never ending process, because the market conditions and consumer behavior change constantly. In order to have success, we have to adapt constantly.

No matter how good you are with paid search, if you don’t have enough data to analyze and make decisions, your efforts will be suppressed. CallRail has helped us complete the loop, make better data-driven decisions, and deliver great results to clients.