Conversion Tracking & Ad Performance

This week we took some time to deliberate on how to track our conversion rates and how to implement conversion tracking. Adwords provides a nice conversion tracking tool that can be placed on a conversion page (the page that a visitor lands on once they’ve completed your goal for them). By placing the tracking code on the conversion page, Adwords can automatically calculate your ROI and provide you with some valuable data to help make more informed campaign decisions.

Unfortunately, as an Amazon associate, there is no obvious place to put the conversion tracking code. All final sales are completed off of my website and through Amazon’s shopping cart, and I don’t have the ability to place tracking code there. There is the option to place the tracking code on other pages of my site, such as an ad landing page, or better yet, to integrate it into my buttons that send visitors to Amazon.

The first option is really not helpful because it doesn’t give me any additional information that I don’t already have. The second option is technically difficult considering the 100 or so pages I would need to manually make changes on, even if I could figure out how to make the JavaScript work. Plus, the button click option doesn’t give me any additional data either.

I decided that my best course of action for conversion tracking was simply to use the information from Adwords and Analytics to determine how many visitors I was receiving from Adwords. Then I can use the data provided to me by Amazon in my associate dashboard: clicks sent, items purchased, and total affiliate commissions. Using all of that data, I can fairly easily, albeit manually, calculate my ROI.

This week we also did some fine tuning to our Adwords campaigns. Between the two campaigns I had running, I took some time to figure out what was working and what wasn’t. Honestly, I was surprised that I hadn’t made any more sales this last week and my ROI is in the tank. In fact, the ad group that I expected to do the best (best inflatable kayak) was really performing poorly compared to my other ad group (inflatable fishing kayaks).

Here’s a screenshot of what I mean:

Adwords ad groups
Previously running ad groups.

The CTR for “best inflatable kayaks” is about half the CTR for “inflatable fishing kayaks”. Plus, the CPC is higher and the average position is lower. The “inflatable fishing kayaks” group has sent me a ton more traffic. Between the two, “best inflatable kayak” is clearly the loser. So, I paused it while I thought about what to do.

As I considered my next move, it struck me that I never included any “buy” or “for sale” keywords in my campaign. Honestly it makes perfect sense that I should have them. I’d been focusing on keywords related to “best” kayaks and kayak “reviews,” which are fine, but which are earlier in the buying process for most people. They are researching when they use those keywords, not necessarily looking to open their wallets. When they type “for sale” related keywords, though, they are much closer to making a purchase.

I think this mistake was a hold-over from my days of creating niche sites and ranking them with SEO. It was and still is almost impossible to rank in the organic search results for keywords relating to buying, or for specific product names, because you are competing with huge brands like Amazon and other big retailers who fill up page one of the search results. On the other hand, “review” and “best” type keywords are much more easily rankable.

I think this old habit caused me to overlook a glaring reality: when using paid advertisements you’re on the exact same footing as any other company. If you can create a good ad, with a good landing page, I don’t think big companies have any more advantage over you (other than perhaps their ability to bid more, which may be a limiting factor for affiliate sellers like myself).

Anyway, based on this realization, I took some time to create a new landing page on my site directly related to “kayaks for sale.” I reviewed the top twenty or so “for sale” related keywords in the Adwords Keyword Planner and created content on that page geared to the seven most common categories: fishing kayaks, sea & touring kayaks, inflatable kayaks, whitewater kayaks, two-person kayaks, sit-on-top kayaks, and cheap kayaks.

Then I created a new add group with the top twenty or so keywords and a new add (below). There is a significant amount of search volume for the phrase “kayaks for sale,” roughly 60k per month. My hope is that this new ad and ad group will not only bring a significant amount of visitors to my site, but that those visitors will be more in the buying mindset. If it works, I should see my ROI go up this week.

New Ad Group

As of now, I’m still waiting for the ad to be approved. It was initially rejected due to editorial violations (one too many exclamation points?). I’ve changed it and resubmitted, and I hope that I can start seeing some traffic from it within the next twenty four hours.