First-party data integration is becoming increasingly important for businesses as we move towards a predictive era, in light of the removal of cookies. At the same time, we must consider the fact that digital channels become more competitive with an increasing number of advertisers competing for the same space. This higher competition increases the need to accurately measure the profit driven by digital search, with paid search being one of the key marketing channels where advertisers are increasingly focusing on profitability.
Whilst e-commerce marketers can easily measure paid search performance through online sales, a number of other verticals that rely heavily on paid search struggle to understand the full value of their digital activity. This is often a challenge faced by businesses with long sales cycles who are not able to directly measure the value of sales online.
Part of the solution to this problem is integrating first-party data across the different biddable channels. Marketers can also overcome this issue by shifting the focus from action to revenue, and the key performance indicator from cost per actions to return on investment. Tech is a key part of this process for paid search, with Search Ads 360 (SA360) being at its centre. In this blog, we will explore the four steps required to kick start this journey toward better measurement.
Step one: Collect
First-party data will remain proprietary and highly valuable to your business. This data often reflects an online action taken on your website such as a phone call, form submission, account creation or quote request. For example, if we reference phone calls, this may be tracked via a call tracking software. The data collected can help you gain insight, and better understand your customers and performance.
Step two: Analyse
The data collected can be analysed in a privacy-ensured, safe way via a number of methods using a Google Cloud solution, such as Ads Data Hub and Google Big Query. You can also leverage the data that has been collected directly through a specific platform that you’ve implemented, such as a tracking software or internal reporting data.
Step three: Integrate
Once you have collected and analysed your data, you can use the insight you’ve gained towards activation across a number of channels in your business. There are multiple ways to do this in SA360.
The first option is to leverage the integration built into the system you are currently using. SA360 has direct integration with call tracking softwares, such as ResponseTap or Infinity Tracking, which can allow you to surface the different steps of a call directly in SA360.
Another method is to upload offline conversions yourself, leveraging the option to upload a bulksheet from the Search Ads 360 application programming interface (API) or the Campaign Manager 360 API. Data should be uploaded on a regular basis i.e. every 24 hours, so it can be used for reporting and bidding purposes.
When leveraging the API, you can set up an offline Floodlight activity for tracking offline conversions and begin working with the webmaster to start storing the click ID necessary to track the user journey.
Step four: Activate
Once you having integrated the offline activity in SA360, you will be able to use this data for a number of purposes:
You can create columns for the offline tags. For example, you could create a column for each step of the funnel that leads to a sale, including form fill, qualified lead, and signed. With SA360, you can combine each of those in a weighted conversion column that will upweight the value of the later stage of the conversion funnel more heavily. This would be done in a column that would follow a formula similar to this one: “Form Fill + 2*Qualified + 4*Signed”.
The new columns can be used individually to bid towards the goal that you think is most important. Sometimes you may not have enough volume coming from your offline conversions, so you may want to leverage the weighted conversion column detailed above. We would recommend to run several tests to identify the offline goal that works best for you.
One of the key changes that occurs with activation is a switch from an action focus to a revenue focus, which is often in line with internal reporting or finance data. This will completely change the strategy and the bid strategy you use, as you are now able to measure the revenue driven by your paid search activity and operate towards a return on ad spend (ROAS) target.
Offline conversion tags are compatible with auction-time bidding, and we would recommend to leverage this feature after you have completed a number of tests and picked the goals that work best for you.
What can you expect from first-party data integration in terms of performance?
After integrating offline data in SA360, one of our business-to-business clients has been able to start bidding against enquiries (or confirmed leads) instead of online form fill.
The Croud team has leveraged SA360 bid strategies across a number of markets, and as a result, has been able to drive a 41% increase in enquiries, as well as a 20% decrease in cost per enquiry. Going beyond offline enquiries, the data integration allows the team to bid towards a ROAS target instead of a cost per acquisition target.
As competition increases online, linking first-party data is key to many businesses’ paid search strategies. By feeding brand new information that is not measurable directly online to the bidding algorithm, companies can gain a competitive advantage over their competitors. Advertisers can leverage automation to improve business performance, and close the measurement between what can be tracked online and the final outcome of a click on ad.