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The Key to Online Advertising Is Tracking Results

In the olden days, advertising was an expensive and risky prospect. Brands would spend lots of money up front on print ads, television commercials, or radio spots. Next, they’d hire an advertising firm to create and execute the concept. Then, they’d have to buy the air time or ad space. And they did all this without much insight into whether or not the concept would actually be successful.

Fortunately for today’s small business owners, tracking online advertising is possible! And it provides insight into exactly how each campaign performs. Armed with that information, you can tailor your messaging in future campaigns. You’ll lean into tactics that resonated with your audience and ditch those less-successful approaches.

If you’re advertising online but aren’t tracking your results, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Tracking online advertising empowers you to better understand your customers and boost your ROI on each and every campaign. Here’s what you need to do to effectively track your online advertising.

Create Conversion Goals in Google Analytics

The first step to tracking how your ads perform is defining your goals. Every ad campaign that you run should be driving viewers towards a specific action. You might create an ad designed to encourage someone to download your white paper. Or maybe it pushes them to sign up for your newsletter. Or perhaps it invites them to request a free trial of your product.

The ads should also be directing viewers to your website, where they can take the desired action. And that’s where conversion goals come in.

In Google Analytics, you’re able to define your conversion goals. A conversion is a desired action that someone takes on your website—something like filling out a form to request a quote or successfully completing check-out in your online store.

Google Analytics allows you to create up to 20 conversion goals for your business. Focus on the goals that make the most sense for your industry and business strategy. For example, a contractor might be more interested in getting folks to request a quote, whereas a clothing retailer might be more concerned with that successful check-out metric.

No matter what goals you define for your business, Google Analytics can help you track the steps that people take on your website to ultimately reach that conversion; this is called a goal funnel. Creating a goal funnel provides a visual representation of your data. That way, you understand where people drop off in the process towards completing a given conversion.

For example, if the ultimate conversion goal is a successful check-out in your online store, you can see if you lose people in the product browsing stage, or whether people are putting items in their carts and then abandoning them.

Check out this video from Google for a more detailed look at how to set up your goals in Google Analytics.

Link Your Ads to Google Analytics

Now that you’ve defined your goals in Google Analytics, it’s time to get your advertising and analytics metrics all on the same page (literally). By linking your Google Ads and Analytics accounts, you can keep all of the data on both your ad campaigns and website performance all in one place.

Google Ads allows you to track performance for each individual ad campaign, so you can see things like impressions and clickthrough rate. And when your two accounts are linked, you can then draw a direct line between how people interact with each ad and the actions they took on your site.

So let’s say you own a marketing consulting firm. You’re running an ad encouraging people to download your latest white paper on social media marketing trends for 2020. When your Ads and Analytics accounts are linked, you can see the CTR on the ad itself. Then, you can see how many people actually follow through with requesting the download once they get to your site. This gives you insight into how each piece of the marketing puzzle is working, and it can help you identify any weak spots in the conversion process.

Monitor From Click to Client

While it’s great to be able to see how ads influence visitors’ behaviors on your site, for most businesses that still doesn’t offer a complete picture of the ad’s performance. What about people that call your business to follow up on the ad they saw online? Or the people who stop by your brick-and-mortar location in person?

This is why it’s important to implement offline tracking methods to generate a full picture of your advertising campaign’s effectiveness.

Call tracking services, like CallRail, allow you to track how ads drive prospects’ behaviors on the phone. The service works by inserting a line of code into your website. That code allows you to associate online and offline interactions with your business. It integrates with your Google Analytics and Ads platforms so that you can determine your exact cost per lead.

It’s also a good idea to track in-person interactions you have with customers. Tracking purchases at your brick-and-mortar locations can help you see whether people who found you online ended up becoming customers in real life. There are a number of ways for you to bridge the gap between online and in-person interactions. If you’re a retailer, collecting an email at checkout to send an electronic receipt can help you put a face to the email.

If yours is a business where it’s difficult to collect email at checkout (say, a restaurant or cafe), you can gather that information in other ways. Restaurants can use online reservations systems to capture email addresses. Cafes can create digital loyalty programs that collect email addresses at the point of sale in exchange for a free cup of coffee every ninth purchase.

Unifying this in-person and online data is easily achieved if you’re using a CRM to manage customer interactions. CRMs make assembling all customer data in one place simple. From contact information to every past interaction with your brand, it all lives in your CRM. This kind of click to client information is invaluable in understanding the performance of your advertising.

Learn From Your Campaigns

Once you’ve created a picture of your online advertising campaign’s effectiveness, you may feel tempted to kick back and relax. But really, you’re just getting started.

By tracking online advertising, you’re now at a huge advantage. This information can propel your future advertising decisions. Maybe in tracking your ads you found that the messaging in one campaign performed well, while another failed to result in conversions. Or perhaps you learned that your ad was driving folks to your website, but they were getting lost along the way and not reaching your ultimate conversion goal.

Every advertising campaign—whether a raging success or a big old flop—is an opportunity for you to learn and improve. You can recreate the tactics that worked well in your next campaign. For those less successful campaigns, you can try a new approach next time.

If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Paid Search.

72 7 Essential Stages of Building a Total Online Presence

There are many moving parts involved in marketing and the online elements increase in importance with each passing day.

But, marketing is a system, and to effectively operate this system you must assemble and integrate each of the important parts into something that looks like the whole.

Your online presence is your key to success no matter what your business sells – no matter if all of your transactions are done face to face – no matter if you don’t yet see a way to get a return from your Facebook page – no matter if you’ve never bought an online ad.

The key, however, is to build a Total Online PresenceTM, much like you would a tall, sturdy building, by constructing floor by floor in specific order or in stages. Your stages may differ just a bit based on where you are today and you’ll surely come back and revisit, add on and revamp each stage as you grow, but I believe the following model is the surest way to view your online marketing as a system.

Below are the seven stages of building a Total Online Presence.

7 Stages of a Total Online Presence

7 Stages of a Total Online Presence

Content Platform

So much of what happens online revolves around content. It’s how you get found, why people pay attention and how you start to exchange value. Without a content platform to build from a great deal of effort in other stages will be wasted.

To me the content platform starts with building a listening station with tools like Google Alerts, TweetDeck, Trackur, Social Mention, Sprout Social or Radian6. From this point you can gain insight into your market, your competitors and important groups, such as key journalists, while starting the work of better understanding your most important keyword phrases.

Keywords are like chapters in your total body of content plan. Doing research, using tools such as Google Keyword Tool or Wordtracker, on the most important ways to show up when people search for a business like yours and creating blog posts around these chapters, using an editorial calendar approach, is how you fortify your content platform.

Once you start consistently creating content, you can produce valuable eBooks that will be the pivotal element of your email lead capture stage.

There’s really very little reason to play this game if your don’t put the effort in at this stage.

Organic SEO

Having someone type a search phrase that is key to your business and finding a blog post or page from your site on page one of the results is the ultimate payoff and, long-term, may be the difference between success and failure.

Search Engine Optimization can be complex and time consuming, but most businesses can generate significant results without making it so, if you simply focus on the following three elements.

Produce keyword rich, educational content – we covered this above, but search engines live on blog posts and other educational content. Use a tool like Scribe from Copyblogger to help you write more search engine friendly content.

Make it easy on the search engines – Make the on page elements such as your blog titles, URLs, ALT image attributes, subtitles and internal links work for you and use XML sitemaps that make it easy for search engines to grab your latest. Check out Search Engine News for great primer.

Draw lots of links naturally from other sites – Simply writing great content will start this process, but so will writing guest posts, uploading content to places like YouTube and Slideshare, making thoughtful comments on other blogs, submitting online press releases and amplifying your content in social networks. (Covered below)

Email Marketing

An engaged email list, eager to hear from you, is the most valuable asset your can build. 1000 responsive email followers trumps 25,000 Twitter followers every day when it comes to actually promoting the things that make your money.

Focus on building a list of email subscribers that want to hear from you and social media will become a tool set to help you do more of that.

Choose an email service provider (ESP) such as Constant Contact, GetResponse, AWeber, MailChimp or Infusionsoft and go to work on building email capture forms with the offer of your free eBook or weekly newsletter before you move on to social media.

Social Media Marketing

This is certainly an area where you should consider strategy before tactics.

The first step is to understand how your current customers are using social media and how you can use social media to somehow serve them better. If you do that, you’ll get immediate value.

Create Twitter lists of customers and add their social profiles to your CRM tool. Add a tool like Rapportive to your email.

Then claim and build your profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Picasa, Slideshare and Pinterest.

Your plan to work and engage prospects in all of these networks may not be clear yet, but the first step is to claim the free real estate so you can start exploring.

Once you start to share content, build connections, reshare other people’s content and discover best practices in each individual network, you can begin to amplify your content and start finding ways to drive prospects to your eBook and newsletter in an attempt to start a relationship headed towards conversion.

Online Advertising

Many people waste advertising and then conclude it doesn’t work. Pay per click advertising can be very effective when done right. One of my favorite things about it is that a platform like Google AdWords allows you to test your thinking a dollar at a time.

Here’s my take on how to make ads pay – Use your ads to drive content awareness instead of simply to sell. Drive Facebook users to sign up for your eBook first and then you can sell them over and over again.

The basics of PPC are this: Use lots of punchy, dramatic ad copy, but test, revise and test. Create tightly focused ad groups with highly relevant ad copy, work negative keywords out of your list. Test some more.

Mobile and Location

Mobile is more of a behavior than a tool. The first step is to analyze what behaviors your customers are exhibiting before you dive into or dismiss Foursquare or text messaging.

I can assure you this however, your customers are reading content, searching for things to buy and using reviews to make decisions on mobile devices. Claim your location based profiles in places such as Foursquare and Yelp.

Create mobile and tablet friendly viewing options with tools such as WPTouch, Tekora or GoMobi. Start creating mobile specific ads, landing pages, coupons and offers that take advantage the growing use of mobile devices as a major part of the purchasing process.

Analytics and Conversion

Like many stage-based processes there is a cyclical aspect as well. For some, creating benchmarks and key performance indicators is really the first step. So, if you’re one of those folks you can start here, because no matter where you are in the process this stage will always evolve.

Many people can’t start the process of measuring success until they are measuring in real time or can’t start the process of tweaking and testing until all of the elements are in place.

As you build make certain you install tracking code from a tools such as Google Analytics, Spring Metrics or KissMetrics so you can begin to build the data to test and refine from.

Then you can start building conversion goals, funnels and events, tracking your ads and split testing your landing pages, opt-in pages and sales pages to discover ways to increase conversion.

Even something as overwhelming and complex as the changing face of marketing online get just a bit more manageable I think when you start to view it as a system.