Not All Conversions Are Created Equal

Determining key performance indicators (KPIs), setting benchmarks for success, and monitoring your website analytics are crucial steps in assessing the effectiveness of your digital marketing. Understanding performance by channel and tactic, whether search vs. display or paid vs. organic, ensures you’re spending your marketing dollars wisely, targeting the people who are most inclined to make a purchase and maximizing your return on investment. One of the most important KPIs marketers measure is conversions. Conversions don’t always indicate a sale, especially for non e-commerce websites, but they do indicate that a person took some action that pushed them closer to a purchase.

Here at Union Street Media, there are several behaviors that we track as conversions, including New Customer Registration, Click to Call, Contact Us, Schedule a Viewing, Inquire About a Listing, Ask a Question, Email a Friend, Save a Favorite and more.

We track total conversion volume and conversion rates (the percentage of sessions that result in a conversion), but tracking conversions holistically isn’t enough to understand the value of each marketing channel in driving conversions. That’s where multi-channel funnels (MCFs) reporting comes into play.

Multi-channel funnels reporting in Google Analytics summarizes the roles and contributions of your digital marketing channels in driving conversions. A channel can play three roles in a conversion path:

  • Last click or direct conversion is the interaction that immediately precedes a conversion. The higher the last click or direct conversions for a particular channel, the more important the channel’s role is in driving completion of conversions.
  • Assisted conversion is any interaction that is on the conversion path but is not the last interaction. The higher the assisted conversions, the more important the channel is in influencing conversions.
  • First interaction is the first interaction on the conversion path; it’s a kind of assisted conversion. The higher the first interactions are for a particular channel, the more important the channel’s role is in initiating new conversions.

Assisted conversions are the interactions a person makes with your website before the final converting interaction. In plain English, channels (such as paid search, organic search, direct traffic, or social media) that assist conversions lay the groundwork for the actual conversion to take place, and thus deserve due credit. In naming the influences that lead to a conversion, we can better identify the ways in which our digital marketing efforts are leading to measurable outcomes for your business. Not understanding assisted conversions is like not understanding a point guard’s role in winning a basketball game

How Can I Better Understand MCFs for My Website?

The simplest way to understand the contributions of digital marketing channels in driving conversions is to look at your Assisted Conversions report in Google Analytics. Look at these columns: 1) Assisted and 2) Last Click or Direct Conversions. Keep in mind that the only channels that are included in your Google Analytics reports are the paid channels in which you’re currently investing and the organic channels driving traffic to your website.

You can also understand the overlap between channels and top conversion paths, to better evaluate the effectiveness of investing in each channel (as assisted and last click conversions both play an important role in driving people to the last interaction). The below diagrams show examples of how assisted and last click conversion data can be visualized. In the first, conversions are reported in aggregate, with organic search driving the most conversions overall. We are also able to understand the percentage of conversions being influenced by organic search + direct + paid search, which is 1.46% in this case.

Conversion Funnels

In this diagram, you can see the top conversion paths and campaign paths for paid advertising campaigns (in this case, paid search), including the channel driving the earlier interaction and the channel driving the last interaction or last action before converting (in the first example, users searched for the website, clicked on an organic search result, left the website, returned to the website at a later time by typing the URL into a browser, and then converted):

It is essential to an effective digital marketing strategy to use data to make recommendations for the best allocation of funds by channel. Knowing the distribution of conversions allows you to weigh different channels, understanding it is the collective impact that yields the best results, but channel investment (both in time and money) should be prioritized based on outcomes. Multi-channel attribution and analysis is not a one time exercise; it is something you need to do all the time, at least every two weeks at a high level and for paid channels, and at least every month in detail and across all channels.

In closing:

  1. For multi-channel attribution modeling to work, all of your digital marketing campaigns (search, social, email, display, and/or affiliate) must be properly tagged with campaign tracking parameters. If you’re running paid media campaigns with us, we’ve taken care of this for you. If not, you may be missing valuable insights.
  2. It is important to understand and calculate your Cost per Acquisition, also called Cost per Lead, in addition to just conversions. You may be getting a lot of conversions, but if the CPA is much higher for one channel than another, it may be worth optimizing your media mix. Measuring a CPA is also helpful to compare the ROI of digital marketing efforts to traditional, or offline, marketing (such as print, billboards or outdoor marketing and sponsorships) which is generally less cost effective. CPA is a standard metric we track for paid media campaigns.
  3. You don’t have to do attribution analysis for all of your conversions in aggregate. You can select specific conversions you consider to be important, such as click to call, and understand the channel contributions in driving that specific conversion to better optimize your marketing efforts for just that action.