SMX Overtime: How to run effective top-of-funnel search campaigns
Paid search pro and SMX speaker Amy Bishop explains the various micro-conversion options and how to determine what's best for your audience.
SMX Overtime is part of our SMX speaker series from SMX presenters who answer questions from attendees on a variety of topics.
In February, I had the pleasure of speaking at SMX West about the ins and outs of top-of-funnel search campaigns. Since then, I’ve had a few follow-up questions come in, which I’ve answered below.
What kind of micro-conversion do you recommend for top-of-funnel?
There are so many good options for top-of-funnel micro-conversions. Think of micro-conversions as a way of delivering information and there are so many different ways to do that. The “best” way is going to depend upon your audience. Who are you trying to reach and how do they like to receive their content? For example, do you have a sense of what devices they use most frequently? If you expect most top-of-funnel queries to come through mobile devices, you likely wouldn’t want to leverage a lot of downloadable PDFs or hour-long webinars. Engaging videos, interactive quizzes, or app deeplinks could be better options, for example.
The content itself is important, too. For instance, typically the higher the person is on the food chain – the less likely it is that they have a lot of time to allocate toward reading lengthy content – especially if the content goes into great detail about tasks that would be executed by lower level roles. Those are better for the folks that are in the weeds. There could be exceptions for lengthy content that is higher-level strategy, or that involves a high degree of industry data.
Nobody knows your audience like you do – so only you will know which micro-conversions will perform best but popular content types include: videos, podcasts, ebooks, infographics, guides, research studies, webinars and seminars, interactive quizzes, and how-tos. You could also measure their engagement with other content on your site, such as email subscriptions, blog subscriptions, and blog shares as indicators of high funnel interest.
Depending on your site and your typical user engagement, you could also set goals around things like the number of pages visited – as a top-of-funnel indicator (not as a bottom-funnel goal) but I generally don’t suggest that if you can avoid it because it doesn’t necessarily mean intent (it could mean they couldn’t find what they were looking for) and it doesn’t provide as much information from a remarketing standpoint as if they had indicated interest in a specific content topic.
Can you please explain again how to enable audiences within Google Analytics? You said you need to give Google Analytics permission to access audiences? Did you mean Google Ads needs to give Google Analytics permission? Or do you set up audiences in Google Ads or Google Analytics?
In order to set up the Audience report within Google Analytics, you need to first ensure your demographic reporting is enabled. Once that’s enabled, you’ll need to build audiences within Google Analytics. (You may have already built audiences within Google Analytics, and you can use those, too!) In the same way that you must grant Google Ads access to use those audiences, you must also check the box to allow Google Analytics to use those audiences in reporting.
What are your thoughts on using Youtube as a top-of-funnel campaign, and what KPIs or CTAs are you looking for in this type of campaign?
Youtube can be a great way to move up the funnel because there are so many options to get in front of your target market. You can use Youtube to drive to top-of-funnel micro-conversions, or you can even just use the fact that a prospect viewed a video as a KPI – depending upon the content.
Do you have experience on how to connect this TOF Google Analytics data with MQL, source and source detail that lives in Salesforce? Are there best practices on how to bring the GA and Salesforce data together to tell one story?
Unfortunately Google Analytics and Salesforce will likely never match perfectly but typically the best case scenario to get a good read on which sources and campaigns are driving leads that are ultimately becoming MQLs, SQLs, etc, is one or both of these options:
- Use URL parameters to capture lead data and insert leads into Salesforce campaigns in order to report on those leads via Salesforce.
- And/Or import your Salesforce leads back into Google Analytics so that you have the data in both places.
How can we effectively partner and plan top-of-funnel search in coordination with broader awareness efforts (Display, Video, Social, etc.)?
It helps to ensure that all folks managing various channels work through the exercises of defining and mapping the journey together, as well as sharing data and insights as to what is working in each channel as there can often be learnings applied from one channel to the next.
After mapping out your customer journey, it helps to also build out audiences around each of the micro-conversions. This both helps you to track the longer-term performance of those actions in the Audience report within Google Analytics, but also allows you to add exclusions across campaigns. You don’t need to determine which channel will be responsible for driving each micro-conversion – because you can use multiple channels driving toward the same content – but what you do want to ensure is that if someone has already taken that action, even if through another channel, that you aren’t then using other channels continuing to try to drive that prospect toward an action that they’ve already taken.
Can you offer some tips for mapping the customer journey?
There are a few different techniques that I like to use for mapping the customer journey. The first thing – and something that is really important – is building out your market segmentation and your personas. The better you understand your prospects, the better you can understand their motives and the content that they need to help guide their decisions.
Once you have your market segmentation and personas built out, I like to put together a table (but really any format will work) for each persona to outline what criteria are most important to them in their decision making journey and what kind of content that we have – or need to create – in order to keep them engaged and informed. Put yourself in their shoes – what would that journey look like? What do they care about? What do they need to know? You can talk to client-facing folks such as sales reps and customer support to get a good sense of questions and objections that they commonly handle, which can help you to flesh this out. Keep in mind: they’re speaking with your prospects every day!
Depending on your industry, you can also often find studies from credible sources such as Google, Bing, ComScore, Kantar and the like which can also help guide this exercise.
You can start to validate your work by looking at your website analytics and identifying paths using the flow reports to see if people are engaging with your content in the way that you expected. And if you have the resources, you can do market research to get input from your prospects, as well.
How do you recommend connecting sales occurring offline with top-of-funnel sales?
The best way is to take the steps that I noted above to connect your online and offline data:
1. Make sure to pull your online activities into your marketing automation and CRM systems so that you can track how prospects have engaged at different parts of the funnel. Micro-conversions are a great way to track engagement, which is why I highly recommend them for use mid-funnel and top-of-funnel. If your micro-conversions are gated, that’s even better as you can ensure a lead is created – if it hasn’t already been, in order to pull data into back-end systems. If your micro-conversion isn’t one that makes sense to gate, then marketing automation can help by tracking that person anonymously until a lead is created, so that they can be added to the appropriate campaigns at that point.
2. Likewise, if you have the capability to upload data from your CRM back into Google Analytics and Google Ads.
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