Far too many paid search mar­keters take a “chuck it over the wall” approach when it comes to dri­ving web­site traf­fic. They gen­er­ate exten­sive key­word and neg­a­tive lists, care­fully craft and test com­pelling ad copy, and metic­u­lously set up effec­tive account struc­tures includ­ing detailed audi­ence tar­get­ing. How­ever, once the click actu­ally hap­pens, they view their job as done with the searcher at that point “over the wall” to the web site itself and beyond the cam­paign manager’s sphere of influence.

Yet with many (hope­fully most) of us now judged and com­pen­sated based on actual con­ver­sion vol­ume and effi­ciency – not merely clicks and vis­i­tors – we absolutely must con­cern our­selves with every step along the path to con­ver­sion, under­stand­ing where vis­i­tors fall off, and exert­ing effort to plug those holes. This is exactly why devel­op­ing an inti­mate knowl­edge of site-side ana­lyt­ics data is so crit­i­cal to today’s search mar­keter. The days of “Well, I deliv­ered the clicks – web­site own­ers are to blame for them not con­vert­ing” have long since passed.

The great news is that all of the tools and data already exist and are read­ily avail­able to search mar­keters to do deeper analy­sis and gain greater con­trol of the vis­i­tor con­ver­sion process. As we build out our dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing pro­grams directly upon and tightly inte­grated with busi­ness ana­lyt­ics, we can opti­mize our adver­tis­ing cam­paigns directly to the met­rics that show not sim­ply final con­ver­sions but also engage­ment each and every step along the way. (It’s the very rea­son I fell in love with Omni­ture tech­nol­ogy over seven years ago, and have been lov­ing my job ever since!)

Bounce Rate

Aside from total con­ver­sion vol­ume, cost-per-conversion, con­ver­sion rates, and over­all prof­itabil­ity – hope­fully the pri­mary mea­sure­ments of any search pro­gram – I believe Bounce Rate to be the next most impor­tant (yet under­val­ued) met­ric for any search mar­keter to mea­sure and ana­lyze. It is the pri­mary indi­ca­tor of whether or not your ads are over-promising and your actual web­site is under-delivering. It high­lights mis­align­ment between pro­mo­tional mes­sage and site expe­ri­ence. You can have the most refined key­word list ever and excep­tion­ally crafted ad text, but if fol­low­ing an ad click the searcher imme­di­ately decides your site is not where they want to be and leaves – you’re doing it wrong (and pay­ing for it)!

The rea­sons for sub­par Bounce Rate are var­ied. Cer­tainly, a poor page in and of itself – very slow load times, con­fus­ing nav­i­ga­tion, lack of clear call to action or nav­i­ga­tion path – can drive Bounce Rate up. But it can also be a mat­ter of mis­aligned pro­mo­tional copy. If you are pro­mot­ing a “lim­ited offer” or “newly launched” prod­ucts, you need to make sure those pro­mo­tions are front-and-center on the land­ing page. If you are high­light­ing spe­cific brands or prod­ucts types, ensure you have pic­tures and details for those spe­cific items “zero clicks away” as vis­i­tors reach your site. Don’t just give up on high Bounce Rate land­ing pages as “bad pages” – look at align­ment and arrange your cam­paigns accord­ingly. (And for those instances when it actu­ally is a “bad page”, don’t just change your des­ti­na­tion URLs and move on qui­etly – tell some­one about it so they can fix or retire that page!)

As many of you have heard, a few weeks ago my col­leagues run­ning Site­Cat­a­lyst announced a notable step for­ward for Adobe Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Suite users, mak­ing this type of analy­sis eas­ier than ever before. As of our May code release, Site­Cat­a­lyst ver­sion 15 now sup­ports report­ing on Bounce Rate for all eVars – which includes Search­Cen­ter and other cam­paign track­ing variables.

Incre­men­tal Con­ver­sion Rates

Bounce rate by itself is great, but it is also only the first in a broader cat­e­gory of crit­i­cal search ana­lyt­ics met­rics: Incre­men­tal Con­ver­sion Rates. Far too fre­quently mar­keters only look at over­all con­ver­sion rate – Conversions/Clicks. Yet hid­den within that sin­gle ratio is a wealth of action­able infor­ma­tion about how vis­i­tors to your site are flow­ing (or not) along the path to con­ver­sion. What is the Cart-to-Checkout ratio? How many peo­ple are get­ting to the second-to-last step in my con­ver­sion fun­nel and then bail­ing out? Of the peo­ple that don’t bounce imme­di­ately fol­low­ing a click to my web­site, how many ulti­mately pur­chase some­thing or gen­er­ate a lead? Under­stand­ing and directly address­ing these incre­men­tal con­ver­sion rates trans­forms the effec­tive search mar­keter from being a “chuck it over the wall” vic­tim at the mercy of site own­ers, and into a more holis­tic busi­ness dri­ver directly affect­ing the most impor­tant bottom-line suc­cess metrics.

My favorite exam­ple of this type of analy­sis is what I call “Fail­ure to Close” rate. Whether you’re run­ning a retail busi­ness, mar­ket­ing for a travel/hospitality site, or respon­si­ble for vis­i­tor acqui­si­tion with the inten­tion to gen­er­ate leads – many web sites have mul­ti­ple steps in their con­ver­sion process. It may be as sim­ple as a two-step lead form, or as com­plex as a seven-step retail check­out expe­ri­ence. Regard­less of length, each of these vis­i­tor flows has a “bot­tom of the fun­nel”, and it is there at the bot­tom of the fun­nel that vis­i­tors should be most likely to con­vert. Often by this second-to-last step they’ve already pro­vided your busi­ness with a sig­nif­i­cant amount of infor­ma­tion (name, email, address, phone num­ber, credit card num­ber, etc.). And yet even after going through all that effort, there is inevitably still a per­cent­age of cus­tomers that aren’t hit­ting that final “Con­firm Order” or “Sub­mit Form” but­ton. How big is your “Fail­ure to Close” rate? Is it grow­ing or shrink­ing? Do you know where these vis­i­tors are going instead of com­plet­ing the con­ver­sion process?

No More “Chuck­ing It Over The Wall

Each of these ques­tions can (and should) be answered using site ana­lyt­ics, and not solely in com­plex ana­lyt­ics tools that can only be under­stood by advanced data ana­lysts. Each of these data points is avail­able directly in search mar­ket­ing tools like Adobe Search­Cen­ter+. As search mar­keters we each need to avoid con­tract­ing a case of “Itsnot­myjo­bitis” when it comes to ana­lyz­ing on-site con­ver­sion rates and flows. If you’re judged on actual con­ver­sion met­rics – Rev­enue, ROAS, Leads, CPA, Profit, ROI – shouldn’t you want to grab the reins and ensure more of those clicks you’re dri­ving through your search mar­ket­ing efforts – clicks you’ve already paid good money for – are lead­ing to higher and higher con­ver­sions rates?

As dig­i­tal mar­keters, let’s all com­mit to stop­ping the “chuck it over the wall” men­tal­ity that has plagued our ranks in the past, and instead jump over that wall our­selves, empow­er­ing each of us to more fully con­trol our own per­for­mance mar­ket­ing des­tiny. And if you need a boost to get up and over that wall, the good folks here at Adobe are more than happy to let you “stand on our shoul­ders” as you get your footing.