There’s always been this widely-held belief that when running paid search campaigns to e-commerce sites, that was your shot to turn them into customers. If you didn’t, they were gone and their visit was a worthless endeavor. Now, this should never really have been true. But with the advent of the social web and increased tracking effectiveness, it hasn’t been further from the truth.
If you’re running or evaluating PPC campaigns (or any kind of marketing campaign really) for an e-commerce site and just measuring sales, you’re undervaluing the effect of the campaign. The intermediate or influencing steps in the sales process used to measure these effects have been dubbed “microconversions.” Makes sense. Not full conversions, but useful steps along the way that lead to future conversions, or even better, long-term relationships with customers.
So let’s talk about some examples of microconversions and why you should track them.
Here are some ways that you should be engaging PPC customers beyond just a direct sale:
Facebook likes, and followers on Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+ can be important long-term marketing tools that could be as valuable, if not more valuable, than an actual first-visit conversion. In each situation, you’re given “life-time” access to providing updates to potential customers.
As these social networks have grown, they’ve also aided in your ability to continue to market to customers successfully. Facebook allows businesses to run offers followers can claim and has its own ad network where you can target messages specifically to followers, in addition to followers seeing updates and engaging with your social presence. Twitter provides constant updates and interaction capabilities with users, and LinkedIn provides updates as well. Google+ is growing, and their addition of communities and ties to Google’s network will surely provide advertising opportunities in the future. And Pinterest, one of the fastest growing social networks, not only shows users your visual updates, but is also a medium that encourages sharing and increases awareness for your brand or products.
Depending on the strength of the social program accompanying the website, the value of a social contact can have different values. If your social media presences are just “there” and don’t really provide value, those followers and likes are probably relatively useless. If you actively engage followers, turn followers into purchases, influencers, and brand advocates, then depending on the user, they could be extremely valuable.
So, especially when it comes to social media, your microconversions are worth what you put into them (you’ll see this is a bit of a recurring theme).
E-mail marketing is one of the oldest online marketing tricks in the book. Maybe it’s an industry newsletter, daily deals, or just periodic promotions, but effectively engaging users via e-mail can be extremely valuable. If you are able to create interesting e-mails that keep users interested and provide incentives to act later, then an e-mail address can be a long-term gold mine.
It isn’t just about effective messaging, though. Your landing page and website also need to place an emphasis on gathering e-mail addresses so PPC visitors will convert. Create attractive sign-up forms that include sign-up incentives, or guidance regarding the types of e-mails they will receive. It could be as simple as a 15% off coupon for subscribing or mentioning that they’ll receive periodic coupons or industry news (depending on what your users are looking for).
Collecting e-mail addresses and sending a poorly thought out message once a quarter isn’t going to help you rationalize your PPC campaign very much. A dedicated focus on e-mail marketing, however, with well-research presentations and effective incentives, can turn subscribers into much more. It can also feed social media presences, helping develop a more complete overall marketing strategy.
More and more online stores are offering two different options for checking out: site registration and guest checkout. A lot of people opt for the guest checkout, but plenty register on the site as well. This helps you convert cart abandons and continue to market (usually via e-mail) to these potential customers over time. They can send reminders of unfinished shopping carts, or use retargeting ads to get them back to the website.
Plus, if they’re registered on your site, it likely increases the chances of them coming back to make additional purchases. Not only can you continue to market to them, but the checkout is going to be easier the second time as well. The easier it is to check out, the better it is for your e-commerce store, and thus the higher real long-term returns on your PPC campaigns.
Yes, I know they aren’t used as much as they used to be. There’s aren’t many people making birthday lists and sending them to their moms. But the capability is there in most online stores, so if people use it, consider it some kind of microconversion. In all likelihood, these can be viewed more as cart abandons than wish lists (people add things to their cart, leave, then might come back later to see if they really want to purchase).
Retargeting or Remarketing, terms used fairly interchangeably, is running advertisements across display networks to users who have previously visited your website. These can be customized based on certain pages that they have visited, and for larger e-commerce sites they can be even be customized to display certain products users have viewed.
In this sense, every visitor to your website who doesn’t constantly clear his/her cookies (ads run based on browser cookies) and is interested in your products, provides some kind of value to your PPC campaign. Even if they don’t convert on their first visit, users will constantly see your branding as they browse the web, remind them of your company when they are ready to make a purchase, or encouraging them to further research your products (or engage on social media networks).
Do you offer PDF’s, case studies, or white papers on your website for download? If so, when someone reads one it’s a pretty good indicator of engagement. Track downloads and count them as successes – that’s added value and a greater chance they’ll remember your brand and come back for a purchase later.
Advanced analytics can let you know how long people view videos on your site for and allow you to set up goals (microconversions) to let you know when you’re having a sufficient impact. Even if these visits don’t lead directly to conversions, if users are spending time viewing your marketing material, then the visit was a somewhat successful one. No revenue on the first visit, but they were engaged with your branding and marketing, which could benefit your brand in the future.
If you operate a blog, users can typically subscribe to your RSS feed so they are notified when you make additional posts. Users interested in keeping up with your content are similar to social follows in that they will be constantly informed of your business updates. That certainly adds long-term value to your brand and website.
Time on Site / Number of Pageviews
The most basic engagement metrics you can monitor via analytics are time on site, time on page, and the number of page views per visitor (you can also look at bounce rates, new vs returning visitors, etc) to give you an idea of how effective these visits are. Some might call it a stretch to call these microconversions, but it’s acceptable to call a certain amount of brand impact a success. Whether it’s viewing a lot of pages or spending a lot of time researching your brand, it can have long-term impact on the user that provides value (especially in conjunction with remarketing campaigns).
“Get Out What You Put In”
The better your ability to convert users across other marketing methods, the more value PPC microconversions will have. If you don’t make an effort to convert visitors outside your website, then there isn’t much value added. But if your brand has other quality marketing programs – actively engaging and converting users over social networks, writing compelling e-mails, and displaying quality ads, then PPC values extend far beyond the value of the sale.
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