1-800-LOST SEM LEADS: How to Attribute 50% More SEM Leads Using 800#'s

It's deceptive, really. That lowly toll-free number at the top of your SEM landing site or page. Sure, people call it; you capture leads and on a good day even make some sales. You figure some of those leads and sales are a result of your hard-fought SEM campaign. But how many? How many phone leads can you really attribute directly to your paid SEM efforts versus organic activity, or worse, other offline media traffic that happens to be funneling into the same location?

The answer is quite simple. And it requires only a nominal amount of IT attention to know your real ROI from your SEM campaign.

Let's use an actual case study to illustrate how you can attribute additional SEM leads/sales/conversions via your inbound toll-free number.

Company X is running an SEM campaign to drive completed applications online for a financial product. Visitors click through a paid search ad and find themselves on a landing page that includes an application form and a toll-free 800# located at the top of the landing page. The campaign is meeting the goals and is deemed an overall success. Company X tracks its search campaign from CPCs all the way through to a cost per application. An application in this case is considered a conversion. All SEM conversions are based on completed online application forms, and this number determines overall cost per conversion.

So we zero in on the toll-free number activity. Specifically, how do you partition phone leads and conversions appropriately, if at all, to the various channels? Unlike a DRTV campaign where we can source via unique 800 number per media source, in this case Company X only uses one toll-free number.

Why are those leads falling through the cracks? The issue, of course, is that Company X is losing some of the consumers that landed via SEM efforts to the phones - because they have no source tracking. And we know as an industry that some consumers are predisposed to picking up the phone and calling, rather than filling out a form. So how do you track these people and allocate them to your SEM efforts? And even better, how do you differentiate them from organic traffic or those who typed the URL directly into their browser? And even further, how do you identify if they were coming from Google, Yahoo or MSN? It's all in the numbers -- 800 numbers. We dynamically serve unique toll-free numbers on the landing page based on the varying traffic sources. Then, by using a tracking code that is tied to the click thru URL, we can now identify the search engine where the user first originated. With that unique identifier, the landing site serves a unique 800 # that is assigned to each search engine and allows us to track the user to a Cost per Application -- even if they choose to call. If the user clicks thru an Organic listing, the number displayed on the landing site is the original default number. If users type the URL directly on their browser, the 800 # displayed will again be the original default number.

So, in the end, the dynamic phone number insertion not only provides the ability to track the efficiency of each search engine, but also allows for identifying the number of calls received via organic listings.

The results? Enough to make any SEM campaign owner dial for big SEM dollars -- using the methodology above, the number of applications attributable to Company X's paid SEM increased by 50%, while the overall cost per application dropped 30%+.

With a better understanding of your consumers' behavior, and by attributing accurately toll-free phone conversions to your SEM efforts, you now have the ability to become more aggressive on your search efforts, driving more leads, more sales and more ROI.

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