In just a moment, we are going to show you exactly how to improve the performance of an advertising campaign, from increasing traffic to conversion rate optimization.
But first, we want to paint a picture.
Stop us if this scenario sounds too familiar…
You spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars working on a marketing campaign that you are certain is going to take your business to the next level.
You have put together brilliant work. Some straight-up Mad Men type stuff. Don Draper would be proud. And your boss is definitely going to be happy. We are talking early promotion, 25K bonus, vacation in Sandals, Jamaica-level happy.
So there you are. All the pieces are in place and you are ready to hit the big green GO button. Maybe you even gather your team in the conference room to give them a big rousing speech, inspiring them to hit the ground running with how busy things are about to become. Then, you take one final deep breath to prepare yourself, and you turn your ads on.
… and nothing happens.
Then, nothing keeps happening.
Ominously. Terribly. Nothing continues to happen.
No explosion of sales. No flood of new clients. No landslide of leads. No campaign celebrations. No early retirement.
You better check the wiring on that GO button of yours.
And take a long look at your marketing campaign.
You shouldn’t feel too bad if that scenario evoked a touch of PTSD. Eventually, every business owner, marketing director or advertising agency faces a disappointing marketing campaign. In fact, this scenario is incredibly common. Marketing campaigns that launch to instant, overwhelming success are rare. Refining and optimizing are always essential.
At this point, there is one HUGE mistake that you can make.
That is to walk away from all your hard work, call it a failure, and start over fresh with a new idea and a new campaign. In fact, we never slap the ‘failure’ label on a campaign or project that doesn’t turn into an immediate goldmine. For us and our clients, the greatest success often begins with a whimper rather than a bang.
Time and pressure turns coal into diamonds.
Luckily, we don’t need 1 billion years to transform an underperforming campaign into a money-making success. That is because we have the process of optimization down to a science. We know exactly what it takes to build success.
Before we can refine and optimize a campaign, we need to diagnose exactly which parts of the campaign are underperforming. Maybe (but hopefully not!!), the entire campaign requires work. More likely, there are just one or two underperforming elements that are holding the rest back. These are the leaks in our funnel. If we patch them up, positive results (and $$) will start flowing through.
This process of targeted diagnosis helps us achieve maximum impact with minimal investment, in terms of time and money. However, for best results, optimization and refinement should be ongoing through the duration of your campaign and the life of your business.
When we begin analyzing the performance of a campaign, we start by breaking it up into two distinct parts – traffic, and conversions.
It’s a simple but powerful division. Whatever our established KPIs are, be it sales, social follows, email opt-ins, phone calls, or website queries, we know we need two things to be successful: we need real people to see our offer, and we need them to take action on our offer.
We need to generate traffic, and we need to convert on that traffic.
Our targeted diagnostics begin with traffic. After all, we can’t really test and analyze our conversion elements unless we are certain that people are seeing them. Now, traffic is a big, big complicated topic, especially when it comes to optimization. In an effort to make things easy to digest, we are going to focus on three primary traffic types, and three essential factors for optimization.
Paid: Like a light switch, paid traffic is either on or off. All it takes to shed light on your campaign is cold hard cash. The largest platforms for paid digital traffic are Google and Facebook. These companies make things simple for you – simply build ads, fund them, and traffic immediately starts flowing to your website.
There is just one problem with paid traffic… you have to pay for it. Every click or impression costs cash. Depending on your industry, a single click could come with a bill of a few hundred dollars.
In theory, increasing paid traffic should be as easy as increasing your ad budget. As we all know, things are rarely as simple in practice as they are in theory. Turning paid traffic into a profitable venture requires knowledge, experience, and lots of testing.
Organic: Organic traffic comes from visitors who find your website (primarily) through Google search queries. The best part about organic traffic: it’s free. You don’t pay a dime (directly) for any of the visitors who discover your website, blog, product page, or sales page.
Google process billions of search queries each and every day, so you can see how organic search represents a massive opportunity for your business. The potential returns in terms of traffic are staggering. Ranking in a top 3 position for a single high-volume keyword could send 15,000+ highly targeted visitors to your site. Converting on even a fractions of those visitors could transform your business.
Achieving such positive results through organic traffic requires two things: time, and dedicated SEO work.
Social: In the third quarter of 2017, Facebook registered 2.07 BILLION active monthly users. Instagram was only a modest 800 million individuals. Twitter was the chosen platform for 300 million assorted tastemakers, entertainers, intellectuals, politicians, lurkers, trolls, brands, and regular ol’ people.
Each of these massive channels can be utilized in two ways to direct traffic to your website: by building a social following (with time and dedication) or through social advertising (which we addressed in the paid advertising section above).
Volume: The first factor we look at when we are optimizing traffic, is volume. Are enough consumers discovering our business, landing on our website, and viewing our offers? If the numbers are surprisingly low, it’s no wonder the campaign is not seeing great results.
If this is the case, what can we do to increase traffic?
That depends on which type of traffic we want to increase, paid, organic, or social (determining this is a large topic for another day). Internally, we have a wide array of techniques and tools for increasing traffic. And we are always adding to our toolbelt as we innovate and react to specific markets, scenarios, and technological changes.
Learning which tool to apply is largely an issue of experience. Less experienced agencies or business may simply ask for a large paid ad budget to increase traffic without considering the fact that their ads may be fundamentally flawed due to poor writing, improper targeting, or misguided research.
Targeting: Speaking of targeting, here we are with our second factor for traffic optimization. Let’s say you are in a scenario in which the volume of traffic flowing through your campaign is high, yet for some reason, you are still not seeing positive results. Targeting may very well be the issue.
The question to ask yourself is, “am I generating the right kind of traffic?”
Who is viewing your ads or organically discovering your website? Are they the type of person who would even be interested in what you offer? Are they simply digital window shoppers? Are they lost?
One of the primary signifiers of poorly targeted traffic is a high bounce rate. Although… that could be a signifier of poor copy or design as well. It gets complicated!
One of the ways we ensure that we generate targeted traffic is starting out each campaign by creating a highly detailed and researched customer avatar. We then use this avatar to inform our advertising.
CPA: Profitability is always the bottom line. While it is quite common for campaigns to operate at a loss for a period of time, sometimes even an uncomfortable period of time, there must be light at the end of the tunnel somewhere. To make sure we are always headed towards the light, we devote ourselves to financial metrics such as cost per acquisition (CPA).
A campaign can be considered a “failure” for many reasons. It’s possible that traffic is high and sales are bumping, but your balance sheet refuses to get out of the red. In such a case, it’s likely that you are simply spending way too much to generate traffic and convert it.
If a lead costs you $150, nurturing the lead costs another $100, and you are converting at an incredible 40% rate, but your product only costs $60… guess what? You can generate thousands of sales a day, but you are always going to be losing money. This means you dramatically need to optimize your CPA and your cost per conversion (CPC).
Isn’t it nice when everything flows together like that?!
Now, we are going to frame our conversation about conversions under the assumption that you have already run through the targeted diagnosis process on traffic. Let’s assume that problems have been fixed and holes in the funnel have been patched.
In this game of make believe, you are generating a high volume of targeted traffic for pennies on the dollar… but still, something about the campaign isn’t working. You are falling short on all your KPIs and the pressure is on. You know traffic isn’t the problem. So what is the issue?
Luckily, we performed a neat division on our campaign earlier in this piece which makes diagnosing our problem a simple process of elimination. If the problem is not traffic, then it must be conversions!
It’s time to optimize two primary metrics: conversion rate (CR) and cost per conversion (CPC).
To do this, we analyze three conversion factors: user experience (design and development), copy (our ability to sell) and our offer.
There are many ways optimize the three conversion factors we just introduced. Some are more powerful and more effective than others. However, for individuals who do not have decades of advertising experience, A/B testing is by far the simplest, most effective way to optimize conversion.
A/B testing allows you to accumulate hard data through split testing simple controls and variables. This allows you to make informed analytical decisions. When performing your own A/B testing, it is important that you create a robust and intuitive system for tracking exactly what you are doing. Otherwise, you can make change after change after change and end up lost in the weeds, completely unsure of which change produced which result.
With that being said, let’s take a look at our three conversion factors.
User Experience: If you spend much time browsing the websites of advertising agencies, you have probably seen the abbreviation UI/UX. It stands for user interface and user experience. That is exactly what we are talking about here, we simply like to avoid esoteric jargon.
When thinking about user experience, it’s important to put yourself in the headspace of someone who is a blank slate. They are about to land on your website or sales page for the first time. They have never heard of you, your company, or your offer before.
How do they feel when they land on your website? Do they understand what they are seeing? Do they know why they are here? Is the design inviting? Does it align with their expectations? Has it been purposefully designed, or is it just a mishmash of disconnected elements?
Is it easy for visitors to make a purchase? Can they easily navigate the site to find out more information or to give you a call? Does the site make them trust you?
If you fall short on even one of these questions, you could be destroying your CR and CPC. Many of these questions can be answered by diving into your analytics. But that is a large topic for another day.
Copy: By its definition, copywriting is the act of writing text for the purposes of advertising or marketing. Since the days of David Ogilvy, copywriting has been acknowledged as one of the most essential elements of advertising. If anything, this timeless truism resonates even louder in our modern digital world.
For our purposes, copy can be considered any of the customer-facing wording or content across your website, social platforms, emails, blogs, white papers, case studies, or sales pages.
Studies have consistently shown that copy is the #1 determining factor at driving conversions.
With that in mind, how good is your copy? Is it clear and concise? Is it engaging? Is it snappy, informative, and entertaining? Is it strong and authoritative? Has it been specifically written to improve engagement, opt ins, and sales? Why are you using the words you are using?
In our earlier section on targeting, we introduced the concept of a customer avatar. This is a powerful tool that we use for creating thoughtful, intentional copy. When optimizing copy, answer each of the questions above using a well-written customer avatar. And as always, test, test, test, test, test!
Soon, your conversion rate will begin improving dramatically!
Offer: What is your offer? Is it a product or service? How is it priced? How did you determine that pricing? Do you have upsells, cross-sells and introductory offers? Is your offer a quality of life improvement, a necessity, or something consumers have never even heard of before?
All of these questions will determine how you should craft your marketing and advertising while dramatically affecting the performance of your campaign.
If you are confident all other aspects of your campaign are performing, then you should consider making alterations to your offer. Changing the price point, rebranding the offer, or even changing its presentation could dramatically improve the performance of your campaign. Split testing is a great way to dial in the perfect price point for your product while helping you improve profitability.
Putting all of this information into action may seem like an overwhelming job, but there is no question that it is a job that can be done! Time after time, we have taken underperforming campaigns apart using precisely this process and turned them into money-making successes. The best part of the optimization process is that it is iterative, and creates a lasting, sustainable model for success. Just take things step-by-step, one optimizing factor at a time.
If you have any further questions about how this process works, please do not hesitate to reach out and ask. Here at Helix House we live and breath optimization, and we are more than happy to help!