The PPC Customer Journey:
How Many Paths Do Your Visitors Take?

Johnathan Dane
Johnathan Dane
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If you run any type of PPC campaigns, there’s a good chance that they’re working well for you.

You’re getting impressions, then clicks, and then some conversions. You may not care much about how people are converting, just as long as they are.

But what if most of your prospects take one specific path to that conversion than others? Wouldn’t you want to know which campaigns are just drawing impressions, and which ones should get the conversion credit?

That’s what the PPC customer journey will tell you. A clearer map around your actual attribution, so that you can see the entire picture, not just what the last PPC touch point is.

PPC customer journey animated infographic

To help you identify your own PPC customer journey, we’ve teamed up with Autopilot to bring you some insights you can take advantage of today.


Ice Cold Display

If you’ve ever launched direct display network campaigns (not retargeting), then you probably know it’s challenging to get them to convert at the bottom of the funnel.

Most of the time, PPC visitors that come from a regular display click enter into your funnel at the top. And while display advertising can still work as a direct response PPC channel, the time it takes for the visitor to travel down to the purchase can be quite long.

marketing funnel
You’ve seen this funnel before

When it comes to your PPC customer journeys, it’s important that you don’t discredit display advertising, even when it doesn’t lead to a direct conversion.

Because there’s a really good chance that display is leading to a ton of assist conversions.

If you go into your Google Analytics account and view the Conversions > Attribution > Model Comparison Tool, with a look back window of at least 90 days, you might see something like this:

ppc customer journey display assisted conversions
Display is the third highest channel with the most assist conversions

Depending on the data from the attribution model you use (most companies use last click), you might want to pause your display campaigns because they’re aren’t the last conversion touch point in your PPC customer journey. But as the example above shows, your other PPC channels may suffer as well.

Engaged Video Viewers

A step closer to the actual sale, you’ll find video as a PPC channel that has a higher level of engagement compared to regular display advertising.

Many times, we’ve found that YouTube visitors can lead to a sale up to four times faster than a display conversion.

This is mostly because video engagement can be tracked as “percentages of video watched.” The higher the engagement, the higher the likelihood that they didn’t accidentally click on your video ad like they would a regular display ad.

In addition to that, you’re able to create new retargeting audiences through Google Ads and Facebook depending on how deep a visitor has watched your video.

The longer the attention span, the higher the chance of a conversion.

engagement custom audience
Here’s an example of a Facebook Engagement Custom Audience for video - image source

Super Specific Social

Further down the PPC conversion funnel, we find that direct social advertising allows you to target your prospects with more accuracy compared to display advertising.

You can now layer in more accurate demographics, behaviors, and interests for a more focused impression and potential conversion.

In addition to that, you can use Facebook Custom Audiences to find people who fit the demographic and behavioral blueprint of people who are already converting on your site or landing page.

We’ve written quite a few articles on ad tips for Facebook and different types of Facebook ad targeting that you can use to your advantage.

Across the dozens of clients that we currently have here at KlientBoost, we find that social advertising (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest) show faster movement through our clients’ funnels when the PPC traffic and call to action offer is set to match each other.

ppc channel temperatures
Correctly targeted social traffic is warm, not cold or hot

This means that visitors who enter into your funnel via social could be just 2-3 steps away from turning into actual sales. Or better yet, turn into sales right away.

When it comes to PPC advertising, it doesn’t get any better than having your target audience tell you what they’re interested in.

That’s what search advertising is in a nutshell: a reactive, demand harvesting channel.

But there are two major downsides:

  1. Ad space is limited on Google. Which means that supply is short and CPC costs are rising.
  2. All keywords you bid on are not created equally. In fact, there are smaller micro funnels within the search advertising world where keywords don’t just have different conversion rates, but actual sales rates.

If this was your current performance, which keyword is performing best?

multi funnel search
Keyword 1, right?

But what if you’re in the lead gen/SaaS space and wanted to track the sales rates (not just conversion rates)? Now which keyword is performing better?

multi funnel search 3
Keyword 2 now is

Because of this, you shouldn’t have the CPA goal of search network campaigns as a single blanket CPA.

Not only do your keywords have different sales rates, but the PPC customer journey starts differently for people depending on which keyword they search around.

Imagine that you buy cars from the general public - these are some of the keyword groupings you could bid on, with the understanding that they perform differently.

ppc customer journey micro search funnel car example
The micro search funnel within your bigger funnel

Have you identified which keywords are questionable on the conversion and sales intent seesaw?

The Attribution/Retargeting Puzzle

Remember how certain PPC channels help out other channels, but don’t get all the credit? That has to do with attribution models and the different journeys your PPC visitors take.

But knowing which type of attribution model to use can be super confusing - because each type of model assigns different types of conversion credit at the beginning, middle, or near the end of the PPC customer journey.

Just take a look at the screenshot below:

ppc customer journey attribution
Compare attribution models side by side

With a specific attribution model, you can assign credit weight in different ways. The challenge is that no attribution model is 100% correct or without its flaws.

It’s the same with different audiences you’re creating to retarget later on.

Each visitor you have took a path towards the first ad impression that can be unrelated to another visitor, so measuring intent based off impressions, ads clicked, and URLs visited, can be incredibly difficult.

So what’s the moral of the story?

Test out different attribution models to uncover which types of campaigns are assisting others. This will help you allocate your budget more wisely to get a stronger idea of your PPC customer journey.

The Golden Conversion

Okay, so you got the visitor to convert, but have you made the sale?

If you’re in eCommerce, your job may now be over (unless you have a sweet thank you page that helps with upsells). But if you’re in the lead gen or SaaS space, your work has just begun.

Depending on the volume of conversions you’re getting (remember, not sales), you’re able to start tracking the sales down to the keyword, placement, or audience level as well.

With enough sales volume, this will help you start identifying what’s actually making you money and what isn’t, when it comes to your different PPC campaigns.

One of the quick ways within Google Ads is to use ValueTrack parameters and append that data to your final URLs. Then, by using hidden fields on your lead capture form, you can track much more data behind the scenes to understand what’s turning into sales.

This also helps you identify which types of PPC channels (search, social, video, display) have longer sales cycles and what you can do to shorten that time gap, if possible.

Back To You...

Now you know what PPC attribution is, and how you can map out your PPC customer journey. The next step is to figure out which paths your visitors take.

Are there campaigns, keywords, or audiences that assist more than convert? Give them the credit they deserve, and shift your budgets to what works best.