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Tracking Offline Conversions In Paid Search
Despite the black blindfold tightly cinched around my head, I desperately tried to see through it and giggled with anticipation. But then they began to spin me. Dizzy with excitement and determined to take my best shot, I lunged forward. Amid the howls of laughter erupting from my friends huddled around me, I anxiously tore off the mask to see how I had fared. Not only had I missed pinning the tail on the donkey’s backside, I had missed the board completely!
While this age-old game may have been a part of your childhood too, the concept shouldn’t define how you optimize your paid search campaigns. Yet many B2B marketers might very well be taking a shot in the dark. Why? Because they know that a good portion of their revenue is generated offline, yet they don’t take it into account when making bidding decisions.
Understanding the danger
Failing to take offline conversions into consideration is tantamount to being blindfolded, and it can cause marketers to make poor bidding decisions because in essence, they are not fully informed about what’s actually going on. Without a complete view of the situation, you could very well be spending too much — or not enough — on some keywords. In fact, you may be focusing on some keywords because you have a gut instinct to, or because the keywords either generate a lot of traffic or are inexpensive, or even just because your CEO wants to be visible on those keywords. Talk about taking a shot in the dark.
Straightforward online tracking
Tracking offline conversions is actually quite similar to its online counterpart, which is pretty straightforward. With online tracking, once a user conducts a search and then clicks on a paid ad (containing a tracking URL), a cookie is placed on the user’s computer, and then she is directed to the website. When the searcher then makes her purchase online, she is taken to a confirmation page where a pixel fires. When this occurs, the keyword responsible for the conversion can then be tracked. In addition, you can get the keyword’s cost from the engines so the keyword’s ROI can be determined, as can the ROI of the ad groups, campaigns, and overall program.
How offline tracking differs
While similar to the above online approach, tracking offline conversions requires a little tweaking. Specifically, you need a separate “offline” pixel, and you need to get customers to a confirmation page that houses this pixel. Because a cookie is placed on a user’s computer when they initially conduct a search and click on a paid ad, you’ll be able to tell which keyword is responsible for the offline sale. And by taking customers to a “thank you” (confirmation) page that houses the offline pixel, you’ll have essentially mirrored your online tracking system for customers who convert offline. Then, as is the case with online tracking, once the pixel fires, you can receive keyword level revenue data, and marry that with cost data to determine each keyword’s ROI as well as the overall program’s ROI.
Half the battle
The only caveat to the above offline tracking approach is getting users to the confirmation page. One way to do this is to send users an email requesting confirmation of their purchase by clicking on a link that leads to the confirmation page (where the offline pixel lives). In addition, you also might want to consider offering an incentive to get customers to click on this link.
Making use of the data
But what’s the point of tracking your offline sales if you don’t analyze the data? It’s like going to the doctor for a prescription and not getting it filled. Now that you have your online data combined with your offline data, don’t forget to analyze it! Doing so will help you can make smarter bidding decisions.
Segmenting keywords to improve ROI
One way to start analyzing the data is to segment it into three categories: positive ROI keywords, negative ROI keywords, and unknown ROI keywords (ones that you can’t designate because you don’t have enough data on them yet).
Michelle Stern is a Client Services Director at iProspect, responsible for managing the activities of multiple client-facing teams on organic and paid search engagements. She leads overall campaign strategy including the integration of search efforts and other client marketing initiatives. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.