Testing Outside the Box

By Grant Parker, Account Strategist

The paid search world encounters many paradoxes that we must navigate. We see one each time a client calls for expansive reach and greater consumer volume while at the same time we are asked to increase ROI and efficiency. One such paradox that I have been wrestling with in my mind recently involves the inherent desire to improve Click-Thru-Rate (CTR) on paid search ads while also improving the overall efficiency of my campaigns.

Now there may not be an apparent contradiction here, but let me break down what I mean. We attempt to improve CTR through ad testing, best copy practices, etc., all in an effort to bring more people to our site and lower our costs per clicks (CPCs) through search engine minimum bid reductions. The contradiction appears when you consider that we are charged for each click, and not nearly every person that we convince to click our ads will convert at our site, so our efficiency is reduced. It may actually be beneficial to lower our CTR and avoid strictly navigational traffic. The volume comes at the expense of efficiency.

Rather than attempting to improve CTR whenever we optimize our text ads, we should be focused on the conversion rates of these ads. Current technology is available that will allow us to tie back our post click conversion to specific ads, and this should be the KPI of our creative testing. If we are able to write ads that are more purchase oriented, perhaps we can raise the conversion rates of the users we bring to the site. At the very least we will dissuade users with no purchase intent from clicking our ad and driving up our media costs unnecessarily.

Ideally we would bring in as many people to the site as possible and make it the job of the website to convert the users. But living in our less than ideal world, we need to recognize that there will always be site content challenges beyond the advertising agency’s control. So if we are unable to improve conversion on the site, we should return to the actual ad as our next best method of control.

I am not suggesting that CTR be forgotten altogether, as it is an important tool in reducing CPC costs. What I am saying is that the conversion rate of individual ads can be a great way to improve efficiency that is often overlooked. The client’s desire for more volume will still be there, but focusing on ad conversion can make us more efficient on current keywords, and allow limited media dollars to be focused on expanding reach to entirely new keywords.


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