4 Things To Get Right Before You Pay For Traffic

If you’re thinking about starting to pay for traffic or expanding an existing program, there are four core concepts to get right before you start burning cash.waste-money-burn-featured

  1. Determine: What’s a visit worth?
  2. Design for Conversion
  3. Get Your Message Right
  4. Establish an Organic Strategy

Determine: What’s A Visit Worth?

The most immediately actionable analysis for a marketing team is to calculate the value of a visit to the channel you are planning to invest in.

This analysis is essential for intelligent bidding in more sophisticated channels such as Paid Search or Programmatic Display, because paying for clicks can be expensive depending on your vertical and the competitive landscape.

That said, the calculation for value per visit is pretty straightforward:

 Visit Value = Average Customer Value * Conversion Rate

Average Customer Value can be a complex metric to calculate because it factors in customer lifetime value (CLV). An initial calculation for single-purchase visit value is going to be easier to do and can serve as a primary indicator while you sort out CLV:

Single Purchase Visit Value = Average Order Value * Conversion Rate

If you’re interested in reading more about CLV, check this out. In the Bay Area, we call this Data Science — because we use Macs, make pretty visualizations with R, pay too much for rent, and like to wear our 33 pieces of flare. :)

Design For Conversion

In a recent survey of Top Three Marketing Priorities for 2014, the #1 priority was “driving increased conversion rates.”


ExactTargetBlog 2014 State of Marketing

Good design is one of the best forms of conversion rate optimization (CRO), and CRO comes in many shapes and sizes, from complete redesigns to subtle tweaks and funnel optimization. Think of CRO as data-driven design — let the data tell you how to evolve your user experience.

CRO enables paid traffic sources to flourish — increasing your conversion rate makes higher cost (read: more competitive and, in theory, higher value) traffic opportunities a justifiable expense and hopefully profitable.

Design and CRO go hand in hand: design is the look and feel of your website, whereas CRO is the impact. Don’t lose sight of your conversion goals. Over-designing your site to the point that a user gets caught up in some funky parallax movement or over-the-top animations can negatively impact their experience and cause them to forget why they visited your site in the first place: to convert.

Get Your Message Right

In paid search, you only have two levers to pull: your message and what you’re willing to pay (your bid). Getting your message right will qualify those visits and increase engagement and subsequent conversion rates so you can more accurately bid.

In an intent-driven medium such as paid search, you need to consider what the user is telling you. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. If the user searches for [waterproof camera] and you have a small selection of  waterproof cameras in stock (or none at all), it’s probably better not to show up than to set false expectations. Not paying for a click is better than paying for an unqualified click.

Your ad copy is your potential customer’s first interaction with your brand. Be relevant, highlight your ad value proposition (free shipping, best selection, top rated, etc.), and link to an informational page that is no more than two clicks from your conversion.

Establish An Organic Strategy

A recent case study by Resolution Media and Kenshoo revealed that even if you hold top organic position for a given search term, paid search still claims 40% of click share. As organic position declines for that search term, paid search delivers a dramatically higher click share to the retailer.

click share by position

By flipping the conclusion on its head, you can spin the message in a different light: mitigate the cost of paid search by focusing on improving organic rankings for search terms proven to deliver high value clicks.

Paid and Organic search should have the same goal: get qualified traffic to your site. By having a game plan for search terms you want to rank for organically, you can create a stop gap via paid search until you can get traction on the organic side.


There is a time and a place for paid traffic acquisition. That said, you need to have direction, knowledge and a game plan, or else you could burn a lot of money and get little to nothing out of it.

Taking the time to understand your customer, your ad value proposition, your goals, and how your customers want to engage with your website will enable you to be more effective and efficient with your investment.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Analytics | Analytics & Marketing Column | Channel: Analytics | Conversion Rate Optimization


About The Author: is the Vice President of Performance Marketing and Analytics at SellPoints and is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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  • https://twitter.com/ArtEnke Art Enke

    Good post Benny.

    I find this stat surprising: “…paid search still claims 40% of click share.” This should be enough to get anyone out of the mindset of only wanting organic traffic.

    I’m glad you included #4 also because it seems that sites that are well-optimized for conversion have great opportunity to also achieve organic results simply because user-engagement is a priority.

    Having worked with hundreds of clients in various industries, I’ve seen companies have greater success when they start with a “conversion focus” (PPC mentality), followed later by organic strategy. Yes it’s important to make sure that SEO functionality is in place but focusing on the conversion funnel first seems to always yield greater dividends in the end.

  • http://www.sbwebcenter.com/ Steve

    Art, that’s a bit out of context…

    1. That study was done specifically for one company, HP.
    2. 40% isn’t that surprising when you consider that people search for brands like HP or hewlett packard and just click on the very first listing they see which in most cases is the paid ad of the actual company.
    3. Paid search traffic is closer to 2 – 18% of overall click share, depending on the industry.

  • http://www.mybirthdaye.com mybirthdaye

    I once used paid search, but it was a very big failure. The reason was simple, my landing page was not optimized to it’s best level for the customers.

    The paid traffic can convert better if they are the qualified leads, but if they fail in their expectations then there is nothing gained but a bounced visit.

    The best way to work a strategy is to make sure, one gets at least the sale equaling at least twice the amount paid on the traffic. One can’t go with just one ad or inventory. There needs to be many experiments and tweaks in the process.

    Many will benefit from this post which I found on Kingged.

  • http://www.seogdk.com/ SEO Expert : Seogdk

    Hi Benny,

    Great information……..!!!

    These 4 guidelines save your money as well as increase user engagement to your website.

    Design and conversion rate optimization (CRO) are the very important of your website because both are interconnected. It means that design of your website is a visualization of your information while CRO is result of visualization.

    This article extracts valuable info which is really helpful to set your organic strategy as well as informative suggestions about paid search.



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