Working The Funnel: Finding Value In Non-Converting Events

As performance marketers, it’s our job to find the valuable clicks and filter out the crap. By tracking specific events through cookies and pixels, we attribute revenue to clicks and keywords. Newer tools like conversion funnels allow us to further identify which clicks lead to subsequent clicks which in turn lead to conversions.

Generally speaking, we use conversion funnels to show the value of early consumer touch points such as display ads, Facebook ads, or generic paid search.

So, for example, even if clicks from Facebook don’t lead to many conversions, we can determine that there is some value in guaranteeing that a user reaching your site fits a particular profile ad guaranteed by Facebook’s incredible demographic targeting.

Early touch points and clicks are often called ‘upper funnel’ clicks. A click not leading directly to a conversion is considered upper funnel if it leads to conversions after the user re-engages with the site via another channel or keyword.

By definition, an analytics system will not register a click in a conversion funnel if the user does not eventually convert. And by all logical optimization best practices, keywords and ads driving clicks not included in the funnels or directly associated with a conversion get bid down and/or removed from the marketing mix due to inefficiency.

But what if this best practice is leaving a significant percentage of potential conversions on the table? By depending on traditional conversions to measure user qualification we’re putting blinders on – grossly limiting the number of potentially qualified users we can identify.

More often than not, there is an action a user commits on a site prior to converting – for example in the retail environment, a user places an item in a shopping cart prior to purchasing it – which is not tracked as a traditional conversion by most marketing teams as a conversion event.

This data (users committing actions on a site but not converting) is the foundation for remarketing – which has been widely embraced as a strong performing channel…so why don’t other channels with more precise bid management capabilities leverage the same upper funnel qualification to assume potential value?

It just takes one extra step to understand the value of such a click and incorporate it into bid management practices.

To make this happen:

  1. Define a new conversion for the upper funnel event (ex: entering shopping cart)
  2. Define a conversion funnel for the shopping cart

Conversion funnels identify drop-off rate between sequential screens.

While they do not provide insight into the sources, keywords, or users progressing through the conversion process, they do provide a normalized conversion rate between the start and finish of a goal or action such as maneuvering through the shopping cart and making a purchase.

Identifying the conversion rate of a shopping cart


With a conversion indicator for the upper funnel action and a CPA – for the purpose of this example let’s say the CPA is $10 – and a 30.31% conversion rate (as shown above) between shopping carts and purchases, the theoretical cost per order is: $10 / 30.31% or $32.99.

Take is one step further by calculating a theoretical Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) by associating a channel/category average order value (AOV) and then divided by the calculated theoretical CPA. So if the AOV for similar keywords is $100 then the theoretical ROAS is $100 / $32.99 or 3.03.

The process is straight forward – all it takes is a little setup and all of the sudden we are associating potential revenue with non-converting events, providing insight into revenue forecasted to arrive as users move downstream.

By establishing a conversion event in a tool like AdWords we can further leverage conversion funnels to identify even more upper funnel terms, or multi-channel conversion funnels to identify those early touch points which driving users to the shopping cart (for which we now can associate revenue).

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Analytics | Search & Conversion


About The Author: is the Vice President of Performance Marketing and Analytics at SellPoints and is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | LinkedIn


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.

Comments are closed.


Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide