Bridging the Gap Through CRO
Digital marketing is robust, to say the least. There’s an abundance of factors that go into such an all-encompassing industry — from outreach, to SEO, to social media, to ads, etc. So much so, that I find it fairly challenging for someone like me, a web designer, to keep up with the brilliant minds I work with on a daily basis. It’s like learning how to run before you can walk, and although it is quite challenging at times, it’s an opportunity I’ve really come to embrace here at Power Digital.
Because everyone is highly knowledgeable in their respective fields, I find myself constantly learning new things about digital marketing day in and day out, whether through meetings, articles, or even conversations around the water cooler. This not only helps me develop into a better UI/UX designer, but also as a cross-channel digital marketer in my own right, albeit to a somewhat lesser degree.
As much as my digital marketing acumen has expanded during my time here at PDM, if I’m being completely honest, I’d chalk up PPC as being one of the few channels I’ve had the least amount of experience and understanding of. When you think about all of the fundamental elements of digital marketing, PPC and web development would probably be on the opposite sides of the spectrum. At Power Digital, PPC (or pay-per-click advertising), which is led by our Paid Media department, entails marketers running ad campaigns to get users to visit a particular landing page on their website.
This essentially means they are paying for site visits to strategically gain a return on their investment, or ROI. On the other hand, web development, in the realm of digital marketing, offers more of a supporting role for the other digital marketing channels. Implementation of tracking codes, website optimizations, creation of landing pages, and even full website builds and redesigns are just a few of the ways our web development department helps support the rest of the team for success. But when looking at the two channels, how do they interact with each other?
Discovery & Overview
Finding an Opportunity
“How do they interact with each other?” This was the underlying question that got the ball rolling on the 3-month long Power Pairs Mentorship Program, which I sought to answer with the guidance of my program mentor and PPC extraordinaire, Hans Tveten. Early on in the program we were able to identify that the bridge that connected both the PPC and web development departments was CRO (conversion rate optimization), a rather niche category within the web development department.
Although CRO falls within web dev duties, if I’m being completely honest once more, it’s an aspect of my department that I wasn’t well-versed in. Since PPC was a digital marketing channel I’ve had yet to dive into, and CRO was an unfamiliar aspect of the department I’m in, we thought it’d be best to merge the two to set up the groundwork for what would be our main objective for the Mentorship Program.
Related: CRO Meaning in Digital Marketing
As Hans and I huddled up, we thought it’d be best to build a curriculum and a set of learning objectives around the idea of bridging the gap between PPC insights and CRO strategy. The goals we established for myself consist of:
- Better understanding of the CRO process from A-Z
- Fundamental understanding of Google Ads
- Understanding quality score for testing
Learning & Growth
The CRO Process A-Z
Before diving into our crash course in Google Ads Fundamentals, Hans and I reached out for some outside help to learn more about CRO. And there was no better person to reach out to than PDM’s Director of Web Development and CRO guru, John Saunders. John was able to run us through the essentials of CRO to give us a strong foundational understanding of the subject, as well as the current process we have in place.
There are two main tools that we use for CRO here at PDM: Lucky Orange and VWO. Lucky Orange is what we use primarily for analytics and comes with an array of valuable tools within the platform, such as heatmaps, scroll maps, and visitor recordings (which we’ll get into later). VWO is a tool we use as a result of the analytical data we find in Lucky Orange — it’s what we use to implement A/B tests based on our findings in Lucky Orange, giving us the flexibility to manipulate different variations of a landing page or website if we need to.
Although there is a wide array of metrics we can utilize when optimizing for conversions, the main points of focus we like to dive into when analyzing CRO include the following:
- Heatmaps: Lucky Orange’s Dynamic Heatmap functionality allows us to get a better understanding of how users are interacting with our landing pages and websites in regards to clicks. It’s able to show us precise areas of where users are clicking, providing us with a pattern or trend to go off. People tend to click above the fold? Let’s capitalize on that by promoting a popular product in that area on the webpage. Not a lot of users are clicking on a “Contact Us” button buried near the bottom of the page? Let’s try moving that to the top to increase visibility, and altogether more clicks.
Source: Lucky Orange
- Scrollmaps: These help us understand where users generally tend to drop off on a landing page. It provides us with a visual on the hot and cold areas of a page in relation to what users are seeing as they scroll, and what they’re not seeing because of where they drop off. In analyzing this, we’re able to determine what to try and prioritize on any given landing page, such as page length or ensuring users are seeing what you want them to see in order to garner conversions. If we see that users are trending towards dropping off just before a product slider in the lower half of a page, one A/B test you can implement right off that bat would be to move that product slider up towards the “hotter” area of the page to increase its visibility.
- Visitor Recordings: Lucky Orange’s video recording feature is another valuable tool we gravitate towards when analyzing user behavior on our landing pages and sites. The ability to actually see how users are interacting with a site, rather than making educated guests with heatmaps and scrollmaps, is extremely valuable. If your site performs better on desktop mode as opposed to mobile, using a visitor recording of a mobile user would be an ideal method to diagnose reasons as to why mobile isn’t converting as well.
Google Ads Crash Course
After getting some baseline knowledge about the ins and outs of CRO, Hans ran me through a crash course on the fundamentals of Google Ads. What Google Ads essentially does is connect customers to businesses through varying ad placements within their search and display networks. However, as digital marketers, what we want to focus on is how these ads get served to customers in the first place. Here are some elements of Google Ads that we focused on to get a good foundational understanding, while still maintaining relevance to CRO:
Google Ads Account Structure:
Each Google Ad account is organized by a hierarchical framework called the Account Structure. The Google Ads Account Structure is demonstrated by the diagram below, with the “AdWords Account” being the umbrella that holds all of the underlying categorizations of Google Ads:
- Campaigns: A set of ad groups that share commonalities, such as budget, location, and targetings.
- Ad Groups: A compilation of one or more ads that target a shared set of keywords, and can be organized via a common theme.
- Keywords: Words or phrases that are entered by users into search queries.
Google Ads has a few different campaign types that determine where customers will be able to see your client’s ads. These campaign types include the following:
- Search Network: Ads that appear in Google’s search results
- Display Network: Ads that appear throughout Google’s Display Network by matching your client’s ads to relevant websites or apps.
- Search and Display Opt-in: Ads that appear in both Google’s search results, with an option to display on relevant websites or apps via GDN.
- Shopping: Ads that appear in Google Shopping.
Although each type is beneficial in attracting site visits, high-potential customers, and building brand awareness, Search Network is the campaign type that consistently provides the best results.
Campaign Settings and Targeting:
Knowing that a Search Network campaign is the best ad campaign type that provides the best results, we now need to know how we can serve these ads to the right customers and get the best-suited ads served in front of the best-suited pair of eyes. That’s where targeting comes into play. It’s an advertiser’s goal to attract the most qualified customers or leads as possible through your ads, and the way to do that is by customizing your campaign’s targeting through a variety of ways:
- Audience Targeting: Allows marketers to precisely target audiences based on certain categories pertaining to their demographic or interests. Some notable examples of audience targeting include demographic, remarketing, or in-market.
- Demographic Targeting: Pinpointing ads to be served to users based on their location, age, gender, or device type.
- Remarketing: Targeting users who’ve previously visited your site.
- In-market Targeting: Targeting users who have been searching for products and services similar to the ones you’re running ads for.
Keyword Match Type:
Understanding keyword match types is vital to the success of a campaign, as they give advertisers the control and flexibility to serve ads based on how relevant a search term is to a campaign’s targeted keyword. For every keyword added to a campaign, the keyword can be assigned any of the following match types:
- Broad: These give you the widest reach, but has the potential to provide you with the least relevant keyword match.
- Broad Match Modifier: These are signified by adding a ‘+’ in front of all the words in your keyword. This tells Google to match a search term that has any, or a close variant of, one of the words in your keyword with a ‘+’ in front of it.
- Phrase: This match type is signified with quotation marks around the keyword, and matches up with search terms that have the keyword included.
- Exact: These match up to precise keywords being searched, and provide you with the least amount of reach, but the most relevance.
We use Broad Match Modifier and Exact Match types the most as these tend to work the best in attracting the most qualified and relevant customers and leads.
Source: Cardinal Path
Remarketing is a method digital marketers use to connect (or re-connect) with previous website visitors who’ve interacted with your site or app. This provides you with the opportunity to serve ads to those users who are browsing other websites or apps, keeping your brand top-of-mind for the customer even though they’re somewhere else on the internet. There are a number of key benefits to remarketing with Google Ads, including:
- Well-timed ads being served: You’re able to show ads to those users who’ve recently interacted with your website or app.
- Focused advertising: You can create remarketing lists that advertise for specific instances, such as abandoned cart shoppers being reminded of what they’ve left in their cart.
- Large-scale reach: You’re able to remarket across all devices.
- Easy ad creation: Your ads can consist of text, image, and video for free by using Ad gallery.
- Campaign stats: You’re able to pull stats and reports of how your campaigns are performing.
Understanding Quality Score for Testing
One key aspect of PPC that has a direct correlation with web development and what we do in the realm of CRO is Quality Score. Quality Score is a proprietary metric Google utilizes to determine the overall quality of your ads, as well as the landing page users will be directed to if your ad is clicked on. It’s based on a 1-10 scale (10 being the highest), with Google deeming three main factors that affect an ad’s quality score. These include:
- Expected click-through rate: A metric that determines how likely an ad will get clicked on when it’s shown for a particular keyword. There’s a variety of factors Google takes into consideration when calculating this, such as past keyword performance based on your ad’s placement.
- Ad relevance: A measurement of how relevant a keyword is to an ad. Google takes not only your ad’s copy into consideration, but also the copy on the correlating landing page.
- Landing page experience: This refers to the overall user experience when someone lands on the intended page directed by your ad. A few factors go into determining this, such as relevance of the page copy to the ad copy, website load time, and page or website organization.
With these three factors in mind, if your Quality Score ranks fairly high, then Google deems your ad to be useful for users searching for particular keywords. It’s also important to note that Quality Scores are based on performance over time. So, for fresh ads, typically there’s no Quality Score designated towards them since Google needs some time to aggregate all of the data.
The reason why Quality Score is a pivotal metric, for both Google Ads and CRO purposes, is because a good Quality Score can result in the following:
- Higher click-through rates
- Lower costs-per-conversion
- Improves the return on your investment
Quality Score is also a key metric for CRO purposes. Since it’s a metric that gauges the usefulness of a website and landing page, if a Quality Score shows up as being relatively low for a particular campaign, then the PPC and CRO departments can collaborate on how to best optimize the ad copy and landing page experience for optimal results.
Refinement & Opportunities
Incorporation of New Methods
By no means do we think our current CRO process is broken. In fact, we think it works very well for us and our clients. But nothing is perfect, which is why we think it would be extremely useful to integrate PPC analytics and data into our workflow whenever applicable. When it comes to conversion rate optimization, although we test solutions based on relevant data and diagrams we pull from Lucky Orange, these changes are based on intuition — changing the placement of a call-to-action button from the bottom to the top of a page doesn’t necessarily guarantee increased visibility and conversion for that particular element. But with the addition of a valuable metric like Quality Score comes into play for example, the potential for page visits and conversion goes up, because it’s a metric that Google initiates as being highly relevant for users.
With the addition of the Quality Score metric into our CRO process, we went ahead and included a tracking column for it in our CRO deliverable document we use in-house. This allows us to track conversion changes over time as we continue to test and optimize.
Reflection on the Power Pairs Mentorship Program
The 2018 Power Pairs Mentorship Program provided me with the opportunity to broaden my arsenal as a digital marketer in my own right. After Hans ran me through the curriculum he put together on Google Ads, I had the urge to keep learning and dive a bit deeper into the world of Google Ads. Without pressuring me to do it, he suggested that I could take the Google Ads Fundamental Exam… and so, I did.
I passed with an 89% and am now Google Ads Fundamentals Certified!
Sure, I probably won’t be going into Google Ads on a daily basis or run ad campaigns anytime soon. But to have the opportunity to not only learn and understand the basics of Google Ads under a seasoned veteran like Hans, and to also gain some valuable intangible skills from him that I can apply to my own professional skill set is invaluable. Although I feel like I’m far from the account manager he is, I feel as if his business acumen, attention to detail, and overall professionalism has definitely rubbed off on me throughout our time together. With added skill set I’ve gained, I’m now able to speak to the basics of Google Ads and integrate what I know now with what we do in regards to CRO.