Measurability is no doubt a huge attraction of paid media – the way we know exactly what return we generate and can optimise to further increase it. However, one of the biggest flaws is the focus on last-click, which we know can result in an imbalance of attention being paid to bottom-of-the-funnel activity, rather than looking at the top of the funnel and the initial interactions that customers make.
This is often seen at a basic level in the performance of brand versus non-brand keywords, and the way in which display campaigns are sometimes perceived as having delivered poor value.
Yet, while last-click and attribution are certainly part of the problem, it may be that the quest for ROI can sometimes make things worse.
The wrong KPIs
Consider a typical display prospecting campaign, sitting pretty squarely in the top of the marketing funnel – most likely in the awareness or research stages.
The ultimate goal of the campaign is to drive sales/revenue, but this can take a long time – sometimes well beyond the scope of a regular 30 or 90 day cookie window. This is complicated further by the need for robust impression tracking in tools like analytics to understand when a sale has been driven.
Yet the real goal of the campaign should be – particularly in the short to medium-term – to find new users who are unfamiliar with the brand and bring them to the website for the very first time. Once this is done, it could be said that prospecting has done its job and it’s now over to retargeting and paid search to get that user to the point of conversion.
But rather than assess this campaign’s success on how many new visitors it drove, the KPI of end-goal conversion is often what is used.
Not enough conversions
Another instance where the approach can cause problems is in optimising paid search campaigns, where marketers may be trying to optimise without enough conversion data to make reliable bidding decisions.
This issue is more prevalent with non-brand keywords, which are less likely to drive last-click sales. This doesn’t mean the keywords are adding no value – if these terms were paused, then conversions would probably be lost further down the line.
Solving this requires a shift in focus onto micro conversions – the actions users often take before purchasing, such as creating an account, signing up to an email or extensive site browsing – when it’s appropriate to do so.
Avinash Kaushik wrote extensively about this subject almost 10 years ago. He believes that looking at micro conversions, in addition to macro ones, allows us to better understand the behaviour of the distinct personas who use a site; it forces us to look at more of the multichannel picture.
When we ignore them, we’re saying that we don’t value the users who spend significant time on our websites, or those who signed up to receive emails, or even those who went to the trouble of creating an account. Just because they’re not ready to buy right now, doesn’t mean these users shouldn’t be valued and looked after because there is every chance they will convert in future.
Of course, with some of our efforts we can create remarketing lists that specifically target these users to help bring them to the point of finally converting. But the credit for those macro conversions would go to the later activity – as it arguably should do, as the job of those channels is to drive conversion.
But we would still be undervaluing the activity that drove the micro conversions because we just don’t value them as highly.
Thankfully, the increased use of attribution – and data-driven models in particular – is helping to address this issue. Data-driven attribution looks at all of the micro conversions and assigns macro-conversion value based on the part that every interaction played across the whole journey.
Still a challenge, however, is the fact that few businesses are set up to use data-driven attribution to help shape their use of channels and budgets. In a recent research study, we found that 82% of marketers are still using single touchpoint attribution (first, last and most engaged channel) to help calculate ROI. Only half (51%) think they are using the right approach. Marketing tools, such as Almanac, enable you to visualise the entire online customer journey, including impression tracking, to help you with advanced attribution.
If you’re struggling with attribution, the first step is to ensure you have goals set up to track your micro conversions and assign them value. Report on them, as well as your macro conversions, and consider using traffic and brand awareness increase as KPIs for certain types of display and other upper-funnel activities.
In the vast majority of businesses, most customers won’t convert on their very first interaction with a new brand, so measurement and reporting should reflect that.
With more and more brands understanding the need to look at the whole customer journey, this approach enables better judgement of the success of marketing campaigns, and how they can have the right impact at the right stage of the customer journey.
If you would like to learn more about tracking and reporting on micro-conversions, get in touch for a user journey template and discussion points to look at with your team.
Arianne Donoghue is paid media development manager at Epiphany