As an advertiser, you hear it every day: “more conversions,” “increase conversion rate,” “optimize for conversions.” Like other industry buzzwords, “conversion” has been used so many times and defined so few that it’s seemed to have lost all meaning.
You know conversions are so valuable that they can make or break a business. But, do you know what they are? What they aren’t? Do you know some of the most valuable types?
Today we cover this and more in our advertising conversion guide.
What is an advertising conversion?
An advertising conversion refers to any goal action taken by a potential customer that you’ve deemed valuable to your ad campaign. Expanding on that definition, Google offers some examples:
Conversion: An action that’s counted when someone interacts with your ad (for example, clicks a text ad or views a video ad) and then takes an action that you’ve defined as valuable to your business, such as an online purchase or a call to your business from a mobile phone.
One after the other, these “conversions” lead visitors through the buyer’s journey, and grow more meaningful along the way: prospects convert to leads, leads to customers, and customers to loyal advocates.
But generating these actions isn’t easy. They require the right tools and strategy, and a knowledge of how each type fits into the overall ad campaign.
Types of advertising conversion
While the term “advertising conversion” refers to a goal action a visitor takes in an ad campaign, it’s very broad. There are actually many types of advertising conversions that can be completed by a prospect. Which you aim for is largely dependent on the type of campaign you’re running, and the type of post-click experience needed to convert your visitor. Here’s a list of the most common types of advertising conversion, and when they’re likely to be used.
As a post-click conversion goal, a “click-through” is exactly what it sounds like. After clicking your ad, a user arrives at your post-click page and evaluates your content. Responding positively to that content, they click the CTA button on your page. That, in turn, takes them to another post-click page. Most often, this page aims to elicit a conversion with higher value, like trial signup or a sale. Here’s an example of a click-through page from Moz:
When to aim for the click-through
Early in the buyer’s journey, transactions between prospects and businesses are very low risk, and they rarely involve money: an email address is exchanged for a report, a phone number for an audit, etc. As a result, you’re not likely to see click-through pages at the top of the funnel.
The bottom of the funnel, however, is different. Transactions are a higher risk. They involve money, credit card forms, commitments, payment plans, and all the other things that send buyers scrambling for the back button. That’s where a click-through page works its magic. As a goal, it’s rarely talked about, because the click-through is only a means to an end. It supports sales pages, trial pages, etc., by warming up prospects to the idea of parting with sensitive personal information, like a credit card number.
Post-click tools for generating a click-through
Since the click-through goal usually comes before a high-friction conversion, it should contain all of the persuasive elements you’d normally find on landing pages for other goals, but with none of the friction. Here are the tools you’ll need to generate a click-through:
- A click-through landing page: A click-through landing page is a post-click page designed specifically to generate a click-through conversion. It features content like benefit-oriented copy, a magnetic headline, a 1:1 conversion ratio, and more. However, unlike most other pages, it doesn’t attempt to generate a traditional transaction in which the visitor gives something up for an offer. There is no form. There’s no request for sensitive information. That happens on the following page. The click-through page is designed strictly for the purpose of emphasizing the benefits of the offer.
Here’s an example from HelloFresh (top of the fold):
(Clicking through on the CTA goes to this page to select a HelloFresh plan.)
- Retargeting technology: Click-through campaigns give you the unique opportunity to learn more about your prospects than you might normally on a different kind of landing page. With retargeting pixels implanted on both your click-through page and the page following, you can create two separate retargeting campaigns that speak specifically to each audience. Those who have converted on your click-through page but not on your sales page are further down in your funnel than those who have converted on neither.
Key to earning a click-through conversion
The whole point of generating a click-through conversion is to get visitors more comfortable with a higher value, higher friction conversion that comes after. Therefore, the key to getting it to work is to avoid the hard sell.
- Frontload your persuasive content: Don’t worry about payment details, sales terms, or credit card fields. Those can go on the page that follows your click-through landing page. On your click-through landing page, you want to focus only on persuasive content: all the benefits of claiming your offer and the proof that it works: success stories, positive case studies, glowing testimonials, statistics, etc. This kind of content emphasizes value while de-emphasizing the matter of cost. A good click-through page will convince visitors they need the product or service, regardless of the price.
- Make page length a function of risk: A good rule for post-click pages is: the higher the risk, the longer the page. If you’re selling a course for $50, your page won’t need to be as persuasive as if it were selling for $500. The more risk involved for the prospect, the more persuasive content you’ll need to earn the click-through, and the longer that page will be as a result.
- Test extensively: While A/B and multivariate testing can improve the conversion rate of pages at the top of your funnel, it’s the ones at the bottom that benefit most from the technique, since they’re directly tied to revenue. A/B testing is great for determining the best overall page between drastically different designs and structures, while multivariate testing can help you determine which combination of elements on that page produces the best results. When every conversion counts, these two data collection techniques are an invaluable part of any campaign that aims for a click-through.
As an advertising conversion goal, a “lead” refers to a prospect that expresses interest in a product or service by submitting a piece of contact information in exchange for an offer. That contact information could be email, phone number, social media profile, etc. And the offer could be a number of things: a resource, like an ebook or a report; it could be a service like an audit; newsletter, discount, or a demo:
Lead generation marks the beginning of the official relationship between a prospect and a business. By exchanging their contact information for your offer, the prospect is expressing interest in your service and consenting to be contacted by your marketing team.
With this contact information, a business can begin the process of lead qualification through a number of channels–like social media or email, for example–collecting more and more information until the lead is deemed sales-ready.
When to aim for the lead
Of all the goals marketers count in their overall campaign strategy, none is more common than lead generation. More than two-thirds of businesses say their goal is to increase sales leads in 2019.
This work is done in the top half of the funnel. Leads are generated at the very top, with the help of brand awareness goals–like video views and time on page, clicks, traffic, etc.–then a little farther down, those leads are qualified by marketing and sales until they become viable sales opportunities.
Post-click tools for generating a lead
A highly successful lead generation campaign doesn’t just generate leads. It generates leads that could eventually become prospects. To get the job done, you’ll want to consider the following post-click tools.
- A squeeze page: A squeeze page is a post-click page that’s designed for lead generation. Unlike most other lead capture pages, it’s designed to capture a very small amount of contact information–the minimum required to follow up with a lead.
- A super-short form: Often, the form has no more than two fields for name and email address, and many squeeze pages reduce friction by eliminating the requirement for name submission. These are highly effective at generating leads since they’re simple and don’t request much from the prospect in return for contact information.
Key to generating a lead conversion
While bottom-funnel goals are usually high-friction, top-of-funnel goals are not. That’s why the key to turning an anonymous prospect into a lead is to keep it simple.
- Be brief: Keep copy to a minimum, and use a bulleted list to highlight the benefits of claiming your offer.
- Give a lot of value: Offer ebooks, tip sheets, reports, email newsletters with discounts and updates.
- Ask for little in return: At the top of the funnel, when your only concern is generating a lead to begin qualification, ask for little more than email.
- Don’t overwhelm with media: When you’re offering a lot of value for little in return, there’s minimal risk for the prospect. You don’t need countless trust badges, explainer videos, and infographics to convince them to exchange their email for an ebook. On top-of-funnel post-click pages, go minimal.
A sales conversion is any transaction that involves the exchange of money for goods or services. The most coveted of conversions, this one occurs at the bottom of the funnel, after your lead has been nurtured to the point they’re comfortable buying.
When to go for the sale
While all sales occur at the bottom of the funnel, not all funnels are the same size. So, when you aim for a sale depends on what kind of business you’re running.
B2B funnels tend to be quite long for a few reasons: Their sales conversion is usually fairly expensive, and it also needs requires more stages of approval. Going for the sale immediately is usually a big mistake.
A B2C funnel, however, can be very short, since B2C products are often inexpensive, and the buyer isn’t buying on behalf of a team or department, but one or two individuals. So, going for the sale immediately is a tactic used by many ecommerce and retail brands.
Of course, intent must be taken into consideration. If, for example, a B2B customer finds you through Google with a keyword phrase that indicates they may be ready to buy, going for the sale immediately may be a good choice. It depends on a number of factors that are only available to you through analysis.
The tools for a sales conversion
More than anything, a sale requires earning the trust of a lead. And that isn’t accomplished by anyone sales page, but through many relevant, quality, pre and post-click experiences. Still, there are components that a post-click experience which aims for the sale should include. Here’s what they are:
- A sales page: Generally, a sales page is one that attempts to earn a sales conversion. However, the term “sales page” is used differently by marketing professionals. Sometimes it’s used to describe a click-through page that attempts to persuade visitors to buy a product or service. While the sale isn’t actually completed on this page, it’s still designed to sell a product. Other marketers, however, use the term more literally to mean a page that a sale is completed on.
Since we’ve differentiated a click-through page from a sales page, when we say “sales page,” we mean a page on which a sale is completed. This type of page is the one that commonly follows a click-through page. It is designed specifically to complete a sales transaction, and its main features are a form that captures sensitive information, and some small but powerful indicators of trust and security.
- HTTPS: Since this page is one on which visitors will input their sensitive information, anything other than HTTPS will likely keep users from converting. And if you’re thinking, “Nobody for ‘HTTPS’”, now, they don’t have to. Google Chrome, the web’s most widely used browser, will indicate to a user when they’re on a page that’s not secure:
- Retargeting tech: There’s no way around it: You’re going to have to draw a number of visitors back to your post-click sales page. For this, retargeting tech is a must. As mentioned before, a campaign that retargets those who clicked through to the sales page, but did not convert, will look very different from a campaign that targets people who didn’t even click through. Install it to know whether your audience will be receptive to another sales message, or if they need more nurture from the marketing team.
- A “thank you” page: While not every post-click experience needs a “thank you” page, a sales page does. Not only is this way to thank your lead for purchasing and welcome them as a customer, but it can also deliver value immediately with recommended content, like tutorials, that can help them get the most from their new product.
Key to generating a sale conversion
If you’ve created a great click-through page, your sales page needs only to finish the job. The work is mostly done. Still, visitors have to feel comfortable inputting sensitive information and committing to a purchase. The key is emphasizing security.
- Show confidence in your product: Nothing says confidence in your product like a satisfaction guarantee. These tend to make visitors more comfortable buying since they feel there’s recourse if they don’t like the product.
- Take advantage of badges: HTTPS provides the security, but it’s the feeling of security that gets your visitors converting. “Secure” in the address bar can do it, but icons from Norton Antivirus, or the Better Business Bureau, or even a generic lock, can sometimes be what visitors need to be sure their information is safe. Here’s an example from Salesforce:
- Keep your form as frictionless as possible: On your sales page, a visitor will look for any reason to second guess your brand and their purchase. That’s why it’s more important than ever to make the purchase process as frictionless as possible. Only capture what’s absolutely necessary to make the sale, and make sure all forms are clearly labeled–that the labels are permanent, and outside the fields, not inside them as gray disappearing placeholder text. Error messages should be clear and concise, and a user should have no problem correcting their mistakes.
Here’s an example:
- Test extensively: Like a click-through page at the bottom of the funnel, a sales page is tied directly to revenue. So, traffic willing, it should be tested extensively to improve conversion rate.
A video view refers to a conversion goal in which a user views a certain amount of a video. That “certain amount” depends on the network where your video is played.
On Instagram and Facebook, a video view is counted when someone watches a video for at least three seconds. But on YouTube, a 30-second instream ad must be watched for at least 11 for a view to be counted, and an instream ad longer than 30 seconds must be watched for at least 30 seconds to be counted as a view.
When to aim for the video view conversion goal
To some, it’s strange to think of video view as a conversion goal, since it doesn’t end in a lead or a sale. However, video views are particularly valuable at all stages of the funnel.
At the top, they’re great for introducing an unknown brand or figurehead. In the middle, they can be valuable educational content that proves your authority. At the bottom, they can prove your effectiveness through case studies and testimonials.
They’re so versatile, that there’s no particular place in the buyer’s journey where videos excel more than another. However, if you’re aiming for a video views conversion, you’re likely aiming for a conversion in the pre-click experience, with an instream or outstream ad.
Key to generating a video view conversion
Internet users are more bombarded than ever by content. Not only does your video have to compete with that content for attention, but it must also be watched to generate any value. The key to generating a video view conversion is engagement.
- Keep it short: Your video is unlikely to keep viewers’ attention for longer than two minutes. In most cases, that should be the absolute longest your video goes. One minute is even better, and thirty seconds is even better than that. Pack as much value as possible into the little amount of time as you can without compromising watchability.
- Make it long if you need to: Sometimes, longer videos work well as introductions to relatively unknown people who have accomplished extraordinary things. If your brand relies on the image of an unknown figurehead (like an advertising course, for example), a 5 to 10-minute dive into their background and why it’s valuable can also be a successful tactic.
- Steal but don’t copy: Look around at other videos, read case studies, and replicate ideas from successful campaigns, but don’t create a video to look like another branded video. This falls in line with the old quote from Howard Gossage on successful advertising: “Nobody reads advertising. People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.” When more interesting content is just a click away, you can’t afford to bore your visitors with the same old video ad recycled to suit your brand.
Why advertisers haven’t focused on conversion
Before the internet, advertising was simple: Advertisers advertised, salesmen sold. But when businesses made their transition to digital, the way people bought completely changed. Finally, they could research and buy all on their own.
The industry, though, was slow to adjust. While advertisements and web pages remained separate entities to the people creating them, to the people navigating them, clicking, researching, and buying was all part of a continuous experience.
Compounding the problem was not only a lack of tools early on, but an old-school mentality that the new business was the best business, and if you weren’t stuffing your funnel with prospects, you weren’t advertising.
So, advertisers did what they knew best: They pumped out ads and generated traffic. The rest was up to web designers.
But to web users, the advertising campaign remained imbalanced. Specific product ads sent people to homepages where they had to hunt for the offer they were promised. There was no consistency or trust, and soon it became necessary to rethink the modern ad campaign.
Today, we know the campaign does not end at the click. Users expect consistency between ads and landing pages, they expect value, and they expect a level of relevance so high that we refer to it as 1:1 personalization.
With more tools than ever to help advertisers improve landing pages, that experience is finally getting closer to users’ expectations. Still, though, there’s a long way to go to meet users’ needs.
Marketers are still focused on generating leads more than keeping customers, even though we know now that it’s more profitable to keep current customers than generate new ones. They’re on Facebook, YouTube, Google, LinkedIn, looking for leads and sales. Judging by the following data, though, they need to be more focused on the post-click experience. Otherwise, they’ll continue to leave money on the table.
Advertising conversion benchmarks by industry
What’s a good conversion rate? What’s a low cost per click? How high is the average click-through rate? Chances are you’ve asked these questions regardless of your industry. And while benchmarks can only tell the story of other businesses, it’s still valuable to know what’s possible. So, what is possible?
Find out from the following averages, and remember: the best key advertising conversion metrics are better ones than you have now.
Google Ads Average CTR by industry
The average Google Ads CTR across all industries is 5.06% for search, with a high of 7.83% in the travel & tourism industry, and a low of 3.27% for law & government.
On the display network, the average CTR is 0.50%, with a high of 0.64% in the business and industrial industry, and a low of 0.37 in the health industry.
Average cost per click in Google Ads by industry
The average Google Ads cost per click across industries is $2.41 for search, with a high of $6.35 for law and government, and a low of $1.38 for apparel.
On the display network, the average cost per click across industries is $0.59, with a high of $0.81 in the law & government industry and the finance industry, and a low of $0.44 in the apparel industry.
Average conversion rates in Google Ads by industry
The average Google Ads conversion rate across all industries was 4.40% for search, with a high of 7.98% for vehicles, and a low of 2.77% apparel.
On the display network, the average Google Ads conversion rate is 0.57%, with a high of 1.12% for hobbies and leisure, and a low of 0.29% for business and industrial.
Average cost per action in Google Ads by industry
The average CPA in Google Ads across all industries is $56.11 for search, with a high of $101.40 in the computers and electronics industry, and a low of $26.17 in the auto industry.
On the display network, the average CPA is $90.80, with a high of $152.03 in the business and industrial industry, and a low of $35.43 in the hobbies and leisure industry.
How to create a high-converting ad
While conversion happens in the post-click stage, it starts in the pre-click stage. Producing a sale, a download, signup, etc., hinges on balancing both stages to produce a seamless, personalized user experience.
But the key there is balance. After discovering they’ve neglected the post-click stage for so long, some marketers have a tendency to overcorrect the problem, hyper-focusing on the post-click experience at the expense of the pre-click experience. This is just as big a mistake.
So, what does an effective pre-click stage look like? Here are some tips:
Choose your platform wisely
You don’t have to run ads on every platform. In most cases, you shouldn’t. Your audience isn’t on every platform. And not every platform’s format suits your product or service.
Instagram, for example, is primarily a visual social network. For brands with highly visual products and services, it may be a valuable place to run ads. The same goes for brands with younger audiences since Instagram is populated by mostly younger users.
LinkedIn, however, is known as the network for professionals. In fact, it’s known as the most valuable network for B2B businesses. If you’re an account-based marketing business, LinkedIn should be one of the first networks you consider advertising on. If you’re a B2C retailer? Probably not.
Before you run an ad anywhere, make sure your audience has representation on the network, and that your product or service suits its advertising format.
Narrow your targeting as much as possible
It doesn’t matter if your images are engaging, your headline is magnetic, nor if you have glowing testimonials from industry leaders–if you’re serving your ads to the wrong audience, they won’t get clicked.
Gather as much information as possible on your prospects. Create buyer personas with data. Uncover ideal customer profiles. Interview your customers and sort through analytics.
There are countless qualitative and quantitative ways to determine who buys your product and how they do so. Take advantage of them.
Start with a goal
If you take examples from popular ads, it’s easy to get overwhelmed: Where do you start?
Headline? Image? Copy? No, no, no. Start with a goal.
What are you trying to achieve and how does that translate to what you have to offer?
For example, your goal may be to generate leads with an ebook. Your prospects, however, don’t care about that. They only care about what’s in it for them.
So, what can your ebook provide to your prospects? What will they learn from claiming your resource? What will they become and be able to do?
Put yourself in their shoes. What is the most valuable thing your ebook will offer? Is it a plug-and-go worksheet? Is it a case study from an industry influencer? When teased out, this is the major selling point of your ad, and it will be used as a foundation for your creative.
Write a benefit-filled headline
Once you’ve extracted the major selling point of your ad, it’s time to present it. And there are numerous ways: You can start with a strong verb, like “Become” to indicate transformation, or “Start” to convey a new beginning; You can use words like “Introducing” “Quick,” “Easy,” or “New and Improved,” You can drop names of brands or use statistics to boast of your success…
Whatever you do, though, your headline should imply a benefit. For example, “Become a lead gen expert with this strategy used by Amazon’s top sellers.” This headline emphasizes transformation, and because Amazon is a recognized brand filled with lots of competition, a strategy from “top sellers” sounds like an appealing and valuable offer.
Whichever route you take, make sure to remember the most valuable word in advertising: “You,” and to test many different approaches. Here’s a headline from Uber that entices people to sign up to drive and earn money on their own schedule:
Elaborate with copy
Most ads you write will allow more than just headlines. They’ll let you add body copy too. Treat this copy as though it probably won’t get read, but if it is read, it’ll add value.
In other words, use your most persuasive and powerful content in the headline (the USP), but if the platform you’re using allows for body copy, don’t repeat yourself. Body copy is valuable real estate. What other benefits are there to claiming your offer? This is where you add them.
Make your visuals stand out
This is straightforward but often forgotten. Your visuals are your key to grabbing attention in a highly competitive online world.
Remember that our brains aren’t wired to treat all stimuli equally. This is the basis of visual hierarchy.
Motion will grab our attention, contrast will make an ad stand out from its surroundings (so if you’re advertising on Facebook, avoid too much blue and white), and bigger and bolder visuals yell louder than the smaller ones that blend in. These are just a few rules to remember when picking visuals.
As always, test, and keep in mind that some visuals are better for conveying certain kinds of information. For example, infographics are great at presenting statistics in an easy to understand way, while more complicated products are best presented in a short explainer video.
Like you would ask about the platform you choose, ask: Which visual is the best for my offer? And how do I use it to grab attention? Here’s a great example of how statistics, when presented visually, can really highlight the unique selling proposition of a brand:
Call to deliverance
The “Call to action” is the word or set of words used to earn the click. Often they’re words like “Download” or “Sign up,” or “Register”–but these words put too much on the shoulders of prospects.
Instead of emphasizing a benefit, they emphasize what the prospect has to do to claim the offer. This is backward.
A better way to think is: “What will this offer deliver to the user?”
If you’re advertising an audit, your button copy might say “Fix my website,” or “Upgrade my landing pages” or “Show me how I’m losing money.” Much better than “Register” or “Sign Up,” these emphasize the benefit of clicking the button as opposed to the action that the user must take to receive it.
Here’s an example from VWO:
It’s not all about the ad anymore
Advertising isn’t all about the ad anymore. But it’s not all about the post-click experience either. Today, users expect a personalized, relevant campaign from the first impression to the final click.
For advertisers, that means that every ad needs its own dedicated post-click experience. Providing it, though, can’t be done the traditional way.
Building from scratch is too slow. Hiring an agency can be too expensive. The only answer is post-click automation.
With post-click automation, users can create, scale, optimize, organize, and personalize post-click experiences in a matter of minutes. To learn more, get a complimentary Postclick conversion analysis here.