Conversion Rate Optimization: Whose Responsibility Is It, Anyway?

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Used to be, in the agency world, we had to sell clients (or bosses – when I say clients here, I’m talking bosses too) on the idea of PPC. Heck, we used to have to sell clients on the idea of a website once upon a time.

As recently as 5-6 years ago, clients didn’t know what PPC was, or that it even existed. That’s all changed now. I’ve met few clients who didn’t have at least a basic understanding of PPC. They may not be experts at it, but they know what it is.

Nowadays it’s not hard to convince clients to engage in PPC, or even SEO for that matter. Driving qualified traffic to your website via search is something almost everyone wants to do.

The challenge today is what happens once people get to the websites.

Conversion rate optimization, or CRO, has been around for a long time. Entire companies exist to help website owners with CRO. Entire books have been written about it. Great blog posts like this one are being written about it. And still, it seems, few companies are actually doing it.

As a PPC manager, then, how much can we be responsible for conversions? And how can we lower the cost per conversion without touching the landing page?

It’s a constant challenge for both agency and in-house PPC’ers. When I worked in-house, I had more input into website optimization than I often do now in an agency setting, but our in-house web development resources were stretched thin. There were always 20 other projects ahead of CRO.

In the agency world, it’s both better and worse. Sometimes we have a budget for CRO – that definitely falls in the “better” camp. But sometimes, clients are unwilling or unable to optimize their websites. I’ve had clients who can’t even install tracking codes, much less use them to optimize for conversion.

So what’s our responsibility as a PPC manager, then? Well, of course there’s still a lot you can do:

  • Optimize ad copy & keywords for conversion rate or cost per conversion
  • Optimize for CPC
  • Pare down the program to the best-converting keywords, ad networks, etc.

Those are all good things to do, depending on the situation. In my opinion, though, a good PPC manager will do one thing no matter what the situation:

Make recommendations for improvement.

So often I see advertisers whose campaigns have been optimized to within an inch of their lives, and yet the website is terrible. It practically scares visitors away instead of enticing them to convert. And of course, conversion rates are low.

It’s our job as PPC managers to recommend simple site changes that could make a big difference in the conversion rate. We may not be the ones to implement the changes, but it’s our responsibility to suggest them.

What do you think? How have you convinced your client or boss to do some CRO? Is CRO your responsibility as a PPC manager, or is it someone else’s? Share in the comments!

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  1. We take an active role in CRO for all client campaigns including PPC, SEO, Social, Email,… everything. There have been too many occasions in the past where we didn’t because of things like little experience at the time, lack of budget, client didn’t see the need then, and these had a higher likelihood of producing lower conversion rates & ROI. This is no longer the case and I encourage everyone to be highly involved in your conversion process.

    If you are not yet experienced enough, throw in testing and Usability audits as a place to start. You won’t make anything on this to start, but you’ll get invaluable experience that will help you and your campaigns for years to come.

    • Melissa Mackey says

      Couldn’t agree more, James. If you’re not actively engaging in CRO, your campaign success is in jeopardy.

  2. Great perspective on CRO and great post all around. As David Rodnitzky has pointed out, for a successful program the ingredients are: great PPC, a compelling offer (product or service )and a good funnel / user experience. conversion rate optimization is absolutely fundamental here, and it can’t be ignored. We use the analogy of a stereo system. You might have an amazing, super high quality digital file of the best song ever, and you might have a great amplifier, and you might have the best audio cables available, but if the speakers are busted, you won’t get any good sound. For online direct marketing, all the stars need to align, and conversion rate optimization and the user experience are a big part of that! we don’t get paid for this work, but the hope is that the whole PPC program is lifted by improved conversion rates.

  3. So enjoy your posts and look forward to Friday morning reading them!

    We actually don’t work on projects where we can’t design and/or modify the landing pages. We did 2 in the past where we could not touch the site and the results were less than stellar. Clients sure don’t want to hear that their site is the problem either – any more than they want to hear that their sales people can’t close leads!

    But, the reality is that even the greatest of PPC campaigns, sending lots of quality traffic at a lowest CPC possible will ultimately fail in the client’s eyes if:

    1. The landing page either sucks or is too general to be effective (like the site’s home page)
    2. The web site in general is awful or broken or confusing
    3. The client is not clear on what the PPC program is supposed to achieve
    4. There is not buy-in on the client side as to what to do with the leads or customers your PPC sends them

    It’s tricky to manage expectations in this area. Technically, our job is to get eyeballs on their site. After that, it should be up to the client to close the sale or qualify the lead. But, clients often want to know why they are “spending all this money on PPC” and not seeing any increase in sales.

    We have been very fortunate to be able to work with clients who allow us to do more. It definitely makes for happier clients and better end results – at least in our experience!


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