September 4, 2014

4 Things Before You Pay For Traffic

Do This Before Considering Paid Search

Thinking about diving into paid search, or growing existing paid programs?  There are four essential concepts to work through before your start throwing money away.

1) What’s the Value of a Visit?

2) Design with Conversion in Mind

3) Establish Your Message

4) Develop an Organic Strategy

What’s the Value of a Visit?

A great starting point for your marketing team is calculating the value of a visit to the channel that you plan to invest in.

Performing this analysis allows you to more intelligently bid in channels such as Paid Search or Programmatic Display, since paying for clicks can be expensive depending on your vertical and the competition.

To calculate value per visit:

Visit Value = Average Customer Value * Conversion Rate

Average Customer Value can be challenging to calculate, as it factors in customer lifetime value (CLV).  If it requires more time for you to determine CLV, you can calculate single-purchase visit value.

Single Purchase Visit Value = Average Order Value * Conversion Rate

Interested in learning more about CLV? Check this out.

Design With Conversion in Mind

Each year, Exact Target surveys marketing professionals to learn about top marketing priorities.  The #1 priority for 2014 was “driving increased conversion rates.”

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) starts with good design, and CRO comes in many shapes and sizes. It can range from a complete website redesign to subtle tweaks and funnel optimization.  Think of CRO as leveraging data to design a better user experience.

CRO gives you higher returns from your paid sources – increasing conversion rates makes higher cost (i.e. more competitive and, presumably, higher value)  traffic more justifiable and, hopefully, profitable.

Design and CRO are counterparts: design is the look and feel of your site, while CRO is the impact of that design.  It’s important to not lose sight of your conversion goals, which can be negatively impacted by over-designing.  If a user gets caught up in crazy parallax scrolling or overpowering animations, it can negatively impact their experience.  A bad user experience can cause a user to bounce or forget why they came to your site in the first place: to convert.

Establish Your Message

You have two areas of influence in paid search: your message, and the amount you’re willing to pay for a click (your bid).  If you nail the message, you will pre-qualify visits and increase engagement, positively impacting conversion rates. All of this allows you to more accurately bid.

In an intent-driven medium like paid search, it’s important to have a focused message.  Trying to be everything to everyone will only hurt you.  Take this example: if the user searches for [waterproof camera] and you only have a small selection of waterproof cameras in stock, it’s more beneficial to not show up than to set false expectations.  In instances like these, it’s better to not pay for a click than pay for an unqualified one.

Ad copy is important.  It’s your potential customer’s first interaction with your brand, so be relevant, and highlight your ad value proposition (i.e. free shipping, best selection, top rated).  Most importantly, link to an informational page that is no more than two clicks away from your conversion point.

Develop An Organic Strategy

A well thought-out organic strategy can make a huge impact on your paid search initiatives.  Resolution Media and Kenshoo recently released a case study that revealed even if you hold top organic position for a given search term, paid search still claims 40% of click share. As organic position declines for that search term, paid search delivers a dramatically higher click share to the retailer.

If we take this conclusion and flip it on its head, the importance of organic rank becomes clear: you can mitigate the cost of paid search by improving organic rankings for search terms that deliver high value clicks.

The goals of Paid and Organic search should be aligned.  You want to get qualified traffic to your site.  Once you identify the search terms you want to rank for organically, you can create a stop gap using paid search until you get traction on the organic side.


There are many benefits to paid traffic acquisition, but it’s a high-risk game.  You need to have direction, knowledge, and a game plan, or risk burning a lot of money with little return.

Taking the time to understand your customer, your ad value proposition, your goals, and how your customers want to engage with your website will enable you to be more effective and efficient with your investment.


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