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April 21, 2010

Chasing Leads: Offline Lead Tracking in SEM Campaigns, Pt. 1

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Tracking the source of your leads is perhaps one of the single most important elements in your overall marketing campaign. It’s the method by which you’ll gauge budget, approach, revisions, and a host of other deciding factors. Whether your reps are instructed to inquire ‘how did you hear about us?’ or there are checkable boxes online, having a lead tracking system in place is a mighty tool and an asset to your business’ bottom line. The value of an SEO campaign in terms of lead tracking is tied up with the particular search engine marketing company you select. Based on the company’s abilities, it can take your existing SEM campaigns from lackluster to high performing marketing tools that are integrated, of course, into your overall initiative.

In most non e-commerce applications, the obvious goal of an SEO campaign is to generate both a high number of leads and also a greater quality of leads. Of course, the search engine marketing company running the campaign can sometimes be frustrated since its involvement with lead data ends as soon as someone sends a form or picks up the phone to call the client company. The big problem here is that a wealth of data is being lost that could help improve the SEM campaign, and it becomes harder to follow closed leads back to their original online source. Moreover, it’s nigh impossible to track the online source of customer calls. Without help from a search engine marketing company, the client company itself is often unable to compare leads from the web versus traditional sources. On its own, reliable lead tracking becomes a near impracticality despite its importance in reevaluating future initiatives. This is a shame since the data is readily available.

As anyone who has ever done a lead quality analysis, which hopefully you or your search engine marketing company has performed, you’ll know that all leads are not created equal. That is to say that leads from some sources will be a higher quality than other sources, making frequent, detailed lead tracking a necessity. What follows are three scenarios starting from most ideal – exceedingly rare – and trending to the most common, which is unfortunately, well…common.

Three Lead Tracking Scenarios

Scenario #1: Ideal – In a perfect lead tracking scenario, leads from the website are filtered through a sales management system, such as Salesforce, which has an easily integrative tool that takes leads from the website and automatically fills in the data, adding it to a data set. A custom phone number can also be created by your search engine marketing company and used for each individual campaign that you wish to track, so that the salesperson filling in the data on Salesforce can tell by incoming numbers where the lead was generated.

If someone interested in your services or products came by a pay-per-click ad, for example, he or she could be sent to a customized landing page with a designated phone number to call. If a visitor came in through an organic SEO channel, there are off-the-shelf programs that serve up a unique phone number that a typical visitor punching in the URL would not see. Taking it one more step further, there are systems that will allow you to tell with great granularity where each phone lead came from, down to the individual ad/keyword etc. level.. The phone call data from closed sales can thus offer the same wealth of integration that you can receive from online lead forms, for example. Indeed, you ca, track any metric that’s internally important, from which channel is bringing the highest quality leads and average dollar sale per web channel, all the way to a direct ROI correlation for each individual search engine marketing initiative (again, down to the individual keyphrase level, if desired).

Of course, only two obvious channels have been cited, SEO and PPC. You can, however, use the same philosophy effectively for any initiative, such as email marketing, banner advertising, or the like. Unfortunately, a majority of companies are not set up for this type of granularity, especially without guidance from an experienced web analytics or search engine marketing company. Rather, a number are set up to work with a proprietary CRM system that doesn’t lend itself well to web integration, leaving meaningful lead tracking by the wayside. Sometimes, companies still perform lead tracking using spreadsheets or other such simplistic methods. Often the people tasked with such initiatives are aware of the severe limitations of the current system but suffer from an inability to get buy-in to switch to something more high tech.

Transforming Your SEM Campaigns

This brings us to scenario #2, which is not 100% ideal, but still allows for significant lead tracking and data analysis. In the next installment, we’ll discover how both this scenario and scenario #3 can also be used to track sources and metrics with a high degree of success – if done properly. From ideal, we travel to workable, and finally to a common but unfortunate lead tracking scenario, which still presents some redeeming qualities for you and your search engine marketing company to work with.


Scott Buresh is the founder and CEO of Medium Blue, which was named the number one organic search engine optimization company in the world by PromotionWorld in 2006 and 2007. Scott’s articles have appeared in numerous publications, including ZDNet, WebProNews, MarketingProfs, DarwinMag, SiteProNews, ISEDB.com, and Search Engine Guide. He was also a contributor to The Complete Guide to Google Advertising (Atlantic, 2008) and Building Your Business with Google for Dummies (Wiley, 2004). Medium Blue is an Atlanta search engine optimization company with local and national clients, including Cbeyond, Oliver Wight Americas, and DeKalb Medical. To see how we can help you achieve your online marketing goals, please contact us.

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