How to Measure Branding PPC Campaigns

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Rule #1 in every paid search campaign (PPC) is Identify and Track a Measurable Conversion. For 95% of campaigns this is a must, but there is a new breed of paid search campaign: the branding campaign. These are based on traffic to a site only and intentionally do not rely on traditional tracked metrics (sales, forms) for results.

Before I get into the new breed let me make one thing very clear, paid campaigns are almost impossible to optimize if there is no trackable conversion to measure. Paid search managers rely on the conversion to determine where they are losing the searcher. The funnel of paid search starts with the impression, or the search query.

The click happens when you get the searcher’s attention with your 3 lines of poetic, intent-based perfection. The click through rate lets your manager know if the keyword and ad are targeted. After the click, conversion metrics based on ad and keywords are imperative. They allow managers to tell if the website followed through with the promise of the ad. If the searcher does not perform the intended action, there is something to fix or optimize.

The new breed of branding-focused PPC is missing the conversion metric. The intent of these ads is to inform the customer of the brand, send them to the site, and grow trust. They are looking to convert the searcher in the long term, which is not directly measurable.

You cringing yet? This goes against everything that is online marketing. We have seen a rise in budget levels over the past 10 years because executives can SEE the return on this advertising model. The selling point is in the ROI, and traditional advertising mediums have been losing ad dollar share because of that.

Another change is coming to the online marketing space. Trust is still a big part of the consumer’s decision-making process and with all of the scams online, it makes sense that a return to some form of branding was going to happen. How do we make this work though?

As much as branding campaigns cannot be tied directly to specific sales, every paid search campaign needs to have metrics and benchmarks. If you are tasked with a paid search campaign with no conversion metrics and a focus on traffic, dig deeper for what they are looking for from the traffic. Most branding campaigns should be measurable through a marked increase in overall traffic (given), but here are a few more metrics you might want to track:

  1. Click Through Rate – CTR is still very necessary to determine relevance to the end user. If you stop looking at this, you are not getting the best traffic for the cost.
  2. Time on Page – This metric will allow you to see how long people are spending on the initial page. This is one of the metrics to determine landing page relevance to keyword and ad. In most cases, the higher the better.
  3. Bounce Rate – Are your visitors leaving quickly? You might be on the wrong keywords, need a page redesign, or new ad copy if the traffic from your paid campaign has a high bounce rate. The main goal though is to get your branding campaign to drop your bounce rate over the entire site. An increase in return visitors will have an affect across the board if the branding campaign if effective.
  4. Return Visits – This is the key to any branding campaign. Are they coming back? A branding campaign should work with all other advertising to bring new people in and give them a reason to come back. If you are not growing your percentage of return visitors for the site overall, something isn’t working.
  5. Total Time on Site – If your intent is to drive traffic and get more people interested in your brand, then the entire site needs to be targeted to them. If the total time on site goes up (be sure you are not tracking yourself), this trust and branding goal is being met.

Remember that the online marketing world changes everyday. Roll with it and use your analytical brain to tie old media with new metrics. Everything is trackable and measurable online. Find benchmarks from prior years and forge a new path.

The guest post is by Kate Morris. You can find her on her blog or on twitter @katemorris.

Kate Morris
Kate Morris is an SEO Consultant for Distilled Consulting in Seattle, WA. You can find her on twitter @katemorris.
Kate Morris

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  • Kristy Bolsinger

    This is an interesting use of ppc for sure! I wonder how many will take the time to adopt and measure its effectiveness. I saw an example of this recently on Facebook near Christmas. It was a holiday video ad…like a commercial. No call to action other than to play the vid. There was no “sales pitch” made and there wasn’t even a clickable link on site – only a url in the video.

  • Robert Brady

    As usual you’ve hit the nail on the head. Thanks Kate. (But are there really PPC managers out there who don’t already know this? If so they should be fired.)

  • Kate Morris

    Hehe, thanks Robert. I am assuming that there are tons of managers that think that you shouldn’t run a PPC campaign for branding, or have executives who think so because there are no conversions to measure. It makes sense once you think about it though. 🙂

  • Xurxo

    Hi Kate,

    Great post and I agree with you that many advertisers and executives might cringe at the thought of using PPC for branding but it does make total sense because of the proxy conversion metrics you mentioned. You can do a branded campaign and gain more insightful intelligence from PPC because of the increased transparency and measurability. But you have to measure so analytics is key.

    This strategy of using proxy conversions (bounce rate, time on site, etc.) is also very effective in industries where conversions occur more frequently offline such as by phone or walk-in traffic especially in the case of big box, bricks and mortar stores.

    These additional KPIs allow PPC managers to measure the quality of the traffic and paint a clearer picture despite the lack of online conversions.

  • Jeff Lancaster – Outrider

    How about optimizing down that avg CPC? Usually a great sign of a good CTR and quality score.