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When should you ignore your metrics?

Metrics rule courtesy of Life in LDN on FlickrJohn Wanamaker famously said, “Half my advertising fails, I just don’t know which half.” Of course, the mantra of digital marketing is its ability to measure everything. So, why did two outstanding digital marketers (and long-time FOT’s[*]) recently point out that killing PPC keywords that don’t convert might be a bad idea? How is it two respected online marketing and e-commerce commentators came to this conclusion? Weren’t they looking at their reports? Couldn’t they see they were wasting money? Or is there something else going on here?

GetElastic’s Linda Bustos is up first, suggesting “failed” keywords contribute to the sales funnel and may help more than they hurt. GrokDotCom’s Jeffrey Eisenberg says that no matter how much we obsess over the data, it’s not the keywords that fail to convert, but what we do with those visitors.

At its core, what they’re both saying is this doesn’t represent a failed strategy, but a failed metric. And they’re right.

Driving traffic to your site, particularly traffic at the top of a purchase funnel, may not turn into a sale on the first visit. And, as Linda points out, cookie deletion, phone orders and the “last click” problem all compound the issue. Metrics – to paraphrase the old saying – are like a bikini: what they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital. Measuring the contribution of your various channels is difficult. But it’s not impossible. By following best practices for developing your key performance indicators, testing where possible and segmenting your keywords into appropriate ad groups, you can attribute more successfully. The key takeaway is not to ignore your metrics, but to make them work for you.

Think I’m wrong? Should you always trust your metrics? Or, better yet, have you found ways to track that work for you? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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Image credit: Life in LDN via Flickr using Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

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Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I like the fact that you followed up to Brian and Linda’s posts and tied them together like this. In contrary mainly to Linda’s post, however, I think it’s important to note that cost is a big factor here, and when a given keyword fails to convert AND it eats up a lot of your budget, it’s time to work on that keyword. Either, like Brian suggested, figure out why it fails, or (if you’re unable to find and fix the problem), kill it. Then see what happens. Are your gross sales affected? If not, then perhaps it didn’t contribute to the sales funnel at all. But if sales drop, then maybe it is a keyword lacking proper attribution.

    A blanket statement NOT to cut those keywords is almost as generic as a blanket statement TO cut them. Everything should be tested!

  2. This is a great comment, Susan, and exactly on point. Blindly following any single piece of advice without testing its value to your business is a recipe for disaster.

    Thanks for the insight and thanks again for reading.

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