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How much do your PPC campaigns really contribute towards business?

August 26, 2013

ppc-attribution

Attribution continues to be a hot topic when it comes to PPC.

It is common for companies to base PPC performance upon the buyer’s last click prior to a conversion or sale. This is called, “last click attribution” — giving credit to a marketing channel, based upon the last action a visitor takes. But a buyer’s journey is more complex than that and all good marketers know that PPC spans the entire funnel, including early consideration. If that is the case, then basing PPC performance upon last click alone, is under-representing its true value as a marketing channel.

So how much does PPC really assist in a conversion or sale? And how much does PPC really contribute towards business?

Of course, the answer will depend upon your company and the efforts being made in the search space. But in order to get an idea of the total contribution of your PPC efforts, it is important to look at both direct attribution as well as assist conversions.

Direct PPC Attribution Based on Last Click

Sales that can be directly attributed to PPC (based on last click) is quite straightforward to see, particularly when it comes to e-commerce. You spend money on a searcher’s click and at the end, you get an online sale that can be easily linked back to your spend.

Offline purchase is a little more of a challenge, but not impossible. I was lucky enough to work with a company who had in place a standard process which required sales people to close out offline orders with an order amount. What this meant was the ability to see which offline orders were generated from the web. Adding parameters to the URL that included medium information (EG: PPC) which stayed with each visitor’s record, meant that offline orders could be attributed directly to PPC, based on last click.

The problem with the last click approach is that it is short-sighted. A customer’s journey is not based upon one single path or even one touch; it is multi-channel and multi-device, and no longer about one single moment of truth, but multiple moments that are equally important. This is why assisted attribution is important.

Assisted PPC Attribution

If you are lucky, you have access to multi-event attribution tools, systems, models and a team of super smart statisticians who can provide you with conversion and sales numbers that your PPC program assisted with.

If, like me, you are an ordinary Joe, then Google Analytics (GA) is as good a place as any to start in order to give you a directional idea around PPC assist activity.

A prerequisite is that you have your goals set up in GA. Then you can start digging in to the data by going to Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions. Remember to adjust your date range and your look back window (any time from 0-90 days) depending on what is appropriate for your business. Unfortunately, GA doesn’t let you go back beyond 90 days… but hey, what do you want for free?

You can then start to build models based upon the assist data. One simple example may be that you use the percentage of assists from PPC to apply against the conversions or sales you get from the web. Sure, the method may not be perfect, but it is a start. If anything, lean more towards the conservative as you start building out your models. This way you aren’t starting with over-inflated numbers. Trust me, you will be thankful for this as you start to improve your understanding and adapt your methodology over time.

With the prominence of PPC in the early stages of the marketing funnel, particularly when it comes to display, it may not be surprising to find that the assist activity from your PPC campaigns is more than double the contribution of your last click (direct attribution) numbers.

Hungry for More?

Attribution is a massive and complex topic. Here are some helpful articles to provide more food for thought:

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