“Buying Google clicks is just too expensive for us so what other online marketing options do you have for us to consider? How about renting an email list – can you guys help with that?”

There I was sitting in a prospect’s office in Auckland’s central city, listening to the story of why they were looking for Google AdWords Campaign Management services from someone like us. It was just a few minutes into our discussion when – Bam – out came this bombshell. A failed AdWords experiment was there sitting across the table from me.

Now, some would miss the opportunity a comment like this can bring. They may jump into the many reasons why buying an email list was probably the least favourable of all options worth pursuing. But not me. Nope, this was just gold. So I started to question exactly what they had experienced with AdWords and how their failure here could reveal some startling truths about the overall health of their online marketing.

I asked some more questions and my prospect shared all he could, in all its tragic detail. How their cost per click was in dollars not cents. The AdWords budget was in thousands not hundreds and after all this there were pitifully few leads produced at what ended up to be an abhorrent individual cost per lead. The first two parts of the story were actually good news of what could lie ahead – that I will expand on later. But losing money with Google is never fun to experience for anyone, so I took my time to explain what this all meant and how it was worthwhile to take on Google again – but perhaps with a few tweaks to their methods of engagement.

I began with why the strategy was worth pursuing. You see, your ability to run a successful on-going Google AdWords campaign is a real-world gauge of the lead generation effectiveness of your website compared with all those of your bidding competitors. Yep, your ability to purchase clicks at a profit can reveal how effective your website is at turning traffic into leads – compared with everyone else in your market who tries to do the same. This in itself is some quite cool live data with which to benchmark your business against others.
I followed this with a few words on why expensive keywords are a good thing to find when you enter a bidding market like the one AdWords operates. Let’s not think cents here, nope we are really looking for those keywords that are worth dollars per click. For instance, Google and its Keyword Tool can tell me that for the keyword “cash loans nz” I should be prepared to pay around $4.00 per click. This is an amount that would make most online marketers think twice before paying. Nevertheless, trust me, it’s a good sign. Prices like these reflect what competitors are prepared to pay day in and day out because for them the investment is worth the return. And in most cases, large dollar clicks are there because for the majority of bidders they are producing large dollar returns.

The prospects behind those clicks have a strong need that they want met AND they are prepared to take action online to help them find a solution. In comparison, super-low click costs – say sub 10 cents – are warning signs that you are possibly entering a troublesome market. Here you may find clickers but those willing to take some action – and a profitable one at that – may be a bit more elusive.

As an aside, for those interested in knowing their keywords bid price but who are not yet running an AdWords campaign, fortunately Google makes it relatively easy to get a guide on this value. Just head over to the Google keyword tool, then login to your AdWords account (you don’t need any campaigns running – just an account set up) and search the keywords of your market in your region. You should see something like the image to follow.

So by now we had discussed how his keywords were in the costly part of the market and how this was a good thing. And just by looking at who was bidding on these words we could also assume that others in his market were living with these costs. This left the simple question of whether he wanted to make the necessary changes to enter the market and survive.

Well, with 90% of NZ searchers using Google as their tool, he really didn’t have a lot of options. That left the task of finding out the areas he needed to focus on to make these dollar clicks start to pay. Here’s a short overview of just four of the points we covered.

Conversion rate was the starter. Yep, the hard truth could be that your bidding competitors may own an e-commerce website that converts at 4% while yours struggles to get above 2% for exactly the same items. Or for those of you in lead generation land, your competitor’s offline sales process could be twice as effective as yours. It could be their lead follow-up, their phone script or even their face-to-face presentation. Any one or all of these could be a good rung or two above your own, which ensures they convert twice as many leads into customers as you do. Even though their lead quality is, once again, exactly the same as yours.

Next up was the method by which his competitors were valuing the total of each sale or lead and then allocating a proportion of this to marketing. For instance, they could be valuing each sale just on its initial amount. So when a typical first-time customer may spend just $100 then a proportion of this amount would go towards their AdWords costs. Now it could be that over the next 11 months these “typical” customers will purchase another nine times. And if all goes well after this they will do the same for an average of three years, moving their lifetime value to $3000 rather than the paltry $100 of the first sale.

Those who are super-confident in their customer retention strategies can afford to invest with the $3000 value in mind, leaving the rest to struggle, trying to compete in a world where their sale begins and ends at $100. With work, they could look at each lead not as $100 coming in the door but as $3000 of long-term value. Strategies to move your world beyond the first sale include an email newsletter, a rewards program, or whatever it takes to transform single-purchase customers into multiple-purchasing machines.

Following on from the economic power that comes to those with a strong customer retention plan there’s also the hard fact that your competitor could make more money per sale than you do. So while you may both bid on and sell item A, your bidding competitor could then go on and sell to the same customer items B, C and D, none of which you offer. This pushes up their average revenue and therefore profit per transaction. Maybe even to a value that allows them to sell item A at a loss, knowing that the other products will make this up and then some. Not such good news for those who only sell A :((.

Unfortunately, it may well be one or all of these strategies at play with your high-bidding competitors. It would be so much easier if you could wave a magic wand and have revealed exactly what they are doing to make it work for them when it doesn’t for you. Nevertheless, there are some very crude maths you can run to help reveal how far you have to go to get things back on track.

So to follow on from my cash loans example – here we have an average $4 per click amount. Allowing for a fictional goal application conversion rate of 5%, the cost per application would be $80. The first question is, if you operate in this business, could you live with this cost? And if not on your first sale, could it work if your looked further down the lifetime of your customer? If the answer is still no, then what conversion rate would it work with and is this realistic?

We answer questions like these during our Online Marketing Review process. It’s the first step we take new customers through when they are looking to join Permission. Yes, it’s a paid service but comes with some performance outcomes that ensure you only pay for what you want. Call us today if you would like to learn more about this first step.

It all started with Tom Cruise yelling it in his office in the movie “Jerry Maguire” as he played a struggling sports agent trying to make a mark and convince an athlete to join his sports marketing business. Recently “Show me the money” arrived on our screens again – this time as as one political leader asked it of his opposition to highlight a perceived weakness in his financial calculations.

Four simple words that in both instances did a great job of cutting to the nub of the issue.

So how about we ask the same question of your website?

We all know the costs are easy for everyone to see. There’s hosting, web development, and even optimisation services from people like us. But what about the other part – the revenue side – where can you find these parts hidden inside your web pages?

Most people think that e-commerce websites are the only ones that can produce the necessary answers. Of course they’re wrong. Lead generation sites can do the same – you just need to know how to set up their analytics tools to do the job. Then all you need to do is know which reports “show you the money” and you are underway.

Nevertheless, I’m going to tackle how to find the answers for all those e-commerce website owners first. So Mr and Mrs e-commerce website using Google Analytics its now your turn to “Show me the money”.

OK – let me start with the bad news. Out of the box, the Google Analytics code you add to every page of your e-commerce website WILL NOT gather the “money” data you need. So while you may be able to correctly set up some goal completion actions to see each sale roll through your website, none of these will have any revenue data attributed to them.

The good news is that Google spells out clearly what needs to happen to make this work. All you need to do is amend the Google Analytics tracking code so that the final page of your shopping cart includes the revenue and order details for each converted sale. This will then be swallowed up by Google Analytics account and reported back to you later on.

Yes, it is a bit techie to set up. But fortunately there’s a ton of content inside the Google Analytics help centre to make the changes relatively straightforward. And finally, yes, you will need to test the bejeevers out of it to ensure it works exactly as you want it to.

Once done you are well on the way to seeing the money in your website. The first obvious place to look is the overview e-commerce report that shows the large bucket of all the revenue your site has generated. All going well it should marry up reasonably closely with what your bank tells you your Internet sales deposits were for the same period.

This is nice to know but not necessarily very useful when deciding what needs changing. So sales are up 20% – now what?

Finding out what traffic source is responsible for what % of revenue is quite handy to know. The image to follow shows this. Down the left-hand side are some of the traffic streams this website receives – Organic Google, Google AdWords, Direct, Yahoo and Bing. On the far right there’s a per visit value for each stream.

So now we can see that when someone arrives onto the website from typing the URL into their address bar – as direct traffic – they represent $13.14 in revenue. That’s quite cool. Just imagine a bell set up to ring in your office every time it occurs – with you smiling, knowing that this means another $13 dollars is very likely to be heading towards the bank account. Nice.

So why is it so high? Repeat business. Yep, these are customers coming back again and again and it reveals a very strong operation that does a great job of keeping its customers informed and very happy.

However, now look at Google AdWords – here the revenue per visit is a miserly 98 cents. This traffic is dominated by prospects so the sales values are much smaller. There needs to be some careful work done here to ensure that the click cost doesn’t chew through all this possible revenue.

Per visit value reports are a great way for your website to “Show you the money”. Here’s another report that uses the same metric but this time relative to the organic keywords customers have used to find your website. Data privacy concerns means that this looks like just a big box of hidden data but look to the right and those values relate to keywords listed – but hidden – on the left-hand side. And yes, there’s a keyword in there with a per visit value of $80.96. That would be the big bell that rang when someone arrived from Google using that keyword 🙂

How much optimisation work would you embark on to improve your listing for an $80 keyword compared with a $10 one? Reports like these make the decision of where to focus your search engine optimisation efforts so much easier to make.

There is one last report for those interested in optimising their pages for sales rather than just for search terms. This one shows the per visit value for the top landing pages of your site. (Remember that Google Analytics defines a landing page as the first page your visitor lands on when accessing your website.) This site is well optimised for Google so while their home page receives a ton of traffic so does a long list of other pages – all responsible for making that great first impression for a new visitor.

Cast your eyes across to the right and you will see Per Visit Value data here too. Yes, the home page is the top value of $11.65, but there’s a $6 page that looks to be doing well also. Conversely, there’s a $0.00 for a page that attracts a fair bit of traffic – trust me on that one – this page needs a bit of work.

OK, so that should get a few e-commerce website owners diving for their Analytics accounts to “Show themselves the money”. But what about our lead generation friends? Are they completely left out? Fortunately not – BUT they do need to make a small change to see reports like these in their accounts. To do this they need to amend their goal tracking details to include an approximate revenue per lead.

The process of working out what this should be can stop people in their tracks and ensure they go no further. So lets make it a simple thing for everyone. How much is an average quality lead worth for your business? Now, you don’t have to be exact but is it $250, $100, $75, $50 or $20? Either pick one that “feels” right for your business or work out some sums including the average conversion rate of your sales process, lifetime value of your average customer and the cost of marketing you can attribute to your profit and still have an ongoing business.

Work through the simple maths and you should end up with a value. You can then attribute a percentage of this value across the various goals you have running on your website. For instance, a goal registering a quote request could get 100% of the value, while a person subscribing to your email newsletter would be only 20%.

To follow is an image of where to add in this value in your goal set-up area.

Once you have done this, all those “per visit value” reports you thought were just the domain of owners of e-commerce websites are now available to you and your lead generation website. For instance, to follow is an image of the landing page report for a lead generation website with per visit values for each page – handy stuff when it comes to optimising these pages to push this value northwards.

So why not sit down this month and ask your website to “show you the money”? Some may want to shout out the request at the screen, others will suffice with the little dance that Cuba Gooding Jr does as he asks Jerry the same question – whatever fits for you – just ensure you get the answers you need.


The New Year is usually the ideal time to stop and plan the next 12 months and list any changes we want to make. Change can be a difficult “thing” to deliver. We start with the enthusiasm of a recharged soul in early January and by March the business is back doing exactly what it did 12 months ago.

Earlier in 2011, I wrote about how to improve your chances of success when I took a very generic model I had stumbled upon and applied it to online marketing. You can read more about it here.


While writing this I had an epiphany moment. When I looked deeper I could see one part of the model that, when followed, would act as a reliable predictor of whether a particular change was going to be relatively easy or difficult to deliver. Recent events have underscored this point even more.

And the piece of the model? What’s at stake.

Yep, after you have spent all the time describing what the current situation is and followed this with the nice blue sky of what the future should look like, then you should sit down and write down what’s at stake if nothing changes. What you write here will be a very strong predictor of whether anything changes at all.

Here are a few examples of this in action.

I start with one from my own history. I can’t remember for how many years I told others I wanted to run my own business. It must have been at least 10. But still I did nothing about it. Then in mid November 2002 I was called into a meeting room and told my position was being made redundant and I was expected to leave the office in a week. Young family, young mortgage and a recruitment market that was winding down for Christmas. There was a lot at stake so I purchased some business cards from a local quick printer, borrowed a laptop from a friend and within two days the name Permission was born and I was calling on prospective customers.

Now something closer to home. There was a lot of discussion prior to the election on the suitability of Phil Goff as the Labour Party leader. Personally, I thought he did an OK job but the knives were apparently out looking for a replacement before the election campaign began. As we know nothing changed until after the result was in. I seriously doubt that the person who got the job after the election would have achieved it before.

Now something too close for comfort. I ride with a friend who has recently gone through prostate cancer and survived. He’s had one hell of a year. He rides with a bunch of us that bash our way around Woodhill Forest on our mountain bikes most Sunday mornings. Our ages range from late thirties to mid sixties. Prior to finding out about Nick, how many of us do you think had been to the doctor and inquired about checking on the health of our prostate? None. And now – all of us.

If there’s nothing or very little “at stake” then there’s very little chance the change you want will take place. So thinking back to your possible list of New Year’s resolutions – how about becoming fitter, losing weight or owning a new Ferrari. What really happens if none of these are achieved? Best way to get fit? Register yourself and your friends for an event – be it cycling or running – 6 months out and start training. Now there’s something at stake.

This is a great example of you having to actively create the “at stake” part to ensure the change occurs. Goal setting is another way to do this. Publicly stating your goals takes this one step further and is proven to increase your chances of success. All you have done is raised the “stake” one level higher.

The unfortunate thing is that sometimes life can create the “at stake” part for you if you don’t. For instance, a competitor opens up nearby and starts to entice your customers their way. A health scare makes you realise that exercise is really important or the act of having a doctor’s check-up is worthwhile.

So this January please take the time to plan where you are and where you want to go but also think through what really happens if nothing changes. Really? If there’s not a lot AND you really want the change to occur then start creating some serious down and gritty “at stake” issues.

Have fun.