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Click Path Analysis: Why You Need to Account For All Clicks, Not Just the Last Click

Aug 21, 2007
Click Path Analysis shows the chain of clicks a customer makes to find your Web site before they make a purchase. For example, a customer may click on your Google PPC ad and then a couple days later click on a link to your product in Nextag before purchasing from your Web site.

For sites using 3 or more sources, click path analysis reveals a somewhat complex picture: 8% of searchers who find sites with paid search click on more than one paid ad. On average, this doesn't seem like multiple clicks are an important component of analyzing PPC performance. However, the range across our customers is from a low of 2% to a high of 98%. And the percentage is highly correlated to the more "considered" purchases. The customer on the low end of the scale has an average sale price of $80, while the customers on the higher ends of the scale have average sales that range from $250 to $1000.

One of the main conclusions we drew from our analysis is that you really need to be in all places at all times. By places we mean organic listings, paid search listings and comparison shopping engines. We also drew a few other conclusions from our click path analysis that we will discuss in the following sections.

Be All Places at All Times - It's all about maximizing your exposure to your customer's search patterns. The main reason why choosing good keywords is difficult is that customers don't search for your product or service in obvious ways. For this reason, it's important to have a broad portfolio of keywords and product exposure in search engines to make sure you cover all of your customer's search patterns.

We see a large number of purchases that find a site for the same product query from multiple sources like Google, MSN, Shopzilla, etc. The customer is "shopping around", going from site to site. This is why it's important to be in many places. Multiple source advertising will also reinforce your credibility as a retailer. Your PPC ads show up in Google searches, your product is listed because of Froogle / Google base and they see you in Nextag. By being all places at all times you create your own legitimacy AND you maximize your real estate presence by being in as many locations as possible. This only increases the likelihood that a customer will choose your product.

Many people use a Google search rather than URLs
Just because you have an easy-to-remember or obvious (to the average observer) URL doesn't mean a customer is going to use it. Customers often find you because they click on an ad driven by specific product search. Many times the customer doesn't purchase immediately and does research by looking at other ads and maybe even performing different searches. Customers don't remember every search they did, but they may remember something about your name. Because they are in "search mode" mentally they don't think to go to the address bar and type in the URL. Instead, they type your name into the Google search box.

You can rank #1 or be in the top 10 organically for your company name. But your customer - who just spent the last hour researching your products and who is in a paid search mode - may be tuned into the PPC ads. This is reinforced by the click path patterns we see where customers search for very specific product searches and then conduct the final search on one of the company's branded terms. We always recommend to buy paid ads for branded terms.

The customer learning process - Based on the patterns we saw, customers search for your products in a "top down" fashion. They start with very generic terms and, as they learn about what they are searching for, perform additional, more specific searches. Your keyword strategy should reflect this search process. Broad keywords are important to establish some presence on the page, but you don't necessarily need to be #1 because many customers are in browse mode. You also want specific, exact match phrases with more detailed keywords as they learn more from their review of multiple sites. These exact match terms are cheaper in almost all cases and will deliver well-targeted shoppers.

Another interesting conclusion that can be drawn from our analysis is that some customers find it easier or better to use Google as the search engine for your site. You may have great onsite search that is used, but some customers will choose to use their Back button and go back to the search engine to refine their search to find your products.

Why multiple conversion trackers are bad - The existence of click paths should reinforce that you should only use one conversion tracking tool that manages tracking for all your advertising sources. If you use the conversion tracker for each individual advertising source, you coulc be double counting conversions. If you are not tracking each source, then you will be losing the benefit of true performance analysis for each advertising source.

You should use a universal conversion tracker that tracks each click and knows where the click came in relation to a customer's purchase. A universal tracker also reduces the amount of tracking code on your site, which can add up over time and impact your page load times (load times have been shown to have a direct impact on conversion rates).

Why you need to take multiple clicks into account for your PPC bids - So many purchases depend on multiple clicks, it is important to evaluate your PPC and shopping engine performance in multiple ways. Most PPC bid management tools only allocate the revenue (and in some cases the real profit) to the last click made before the purchase. By using this simple method, you run the risk of evaluating your bid prices incorrectly.

Make sure you use a bid management tool that lets you evaluate your click performance based on multiple revenue/profit allocation schemes across all clicks that led to the purchase, including the introductory click, the assisting/supporting click and the closing click. This allocation will allow you to accurately assess the performance of keywords and manage your campaigns more efficiently.
About the Author
Adam is the Chief Revenue Office at ClearSaleing. He is a seasoned sales manager starting insides sales teams at Google and Actuate Software. Adam holds a B.S.B.A. in Marketing from The Ohio State University. ClearSaleing
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