June 19, 2013
Case Study

PPC Marketing: Call tracking increases leads 98%, decreases CPA 43%

SUMMARY: This case study illustrates how adding data points for analysis can dramatically improve marketing efforts.

In this article, learn how Paychex went from a multiyear trend of rising cost-per-acquisition on its paid search to increasing its lead generation 98% while decreasing CPA 43%, all by adding the ability to differentiate between phone leads and form leads on its SEM landing pages.

The additional data on phone leads also improved testing and optimization efforts and how the paid search team handled PPC bidding and landing page messaging.
by David Kirkpatrick, Senior Reporter


Jesse Kanclerz, Online Advertising Manager, Paychex, a payroll, HR and benefits outsourcing company serving the SMB market, joined the company and began analyzing historical data from its paid search campaigns.

He found cost-per-acquisition (CPA) in the paid search channel had been rising over several years, and although there had been some rule-based bidding, the team had never explored automated bidding.

Also, there had been no conversion rate optimization on landing pages for paid search.

Read on to learn how Paychex was able to increase leads 98% while decreasing CPA 43%.


Kanclerz also learned tracking paid search to online form submissions was "pretty solid," but the team wasn't able to track another key area …

Step #1. Uncover problem areas in data collection

That key area was tracking paid search to a phone call generated from the landing page.

Kanclerz said form submission was driving around 65% of Paychex's leads, and phone calls about 35%. At the same time, those phone calls were valuable leads for the company.

He added the call center would ask callers, "How did you hear about us?" This was not very effective, and many callers would state they reached the company through a search engine, but wouldn't specify if they came from organic search or a pay-per-click ad.

"So, there is an area there where I recognized that we didn't have very accurate tracking to determine [if it] is coming from paid search, is it coming from an organic search or an email campaign, or a print piece, or anything like that. So, that was kind of the big decision there, to actually go ahead and use call tracking to kind of fill that gap," Kanclerz explained.

He continued, "We know that a certain percentage of the calls that are coming in are from a search engine. You know, we are spending 'X' amounts on paid search and our cost-per-acquisition is increasing."

"If we can more accurately attribute a phone call to paid search or organic where our cost-per-acquisition, especially on paid search, was increasing, [and] we were able to decrease our cost-per-acquisition with the added tracking that we can get from phone call tracking, we can spend this 'X' amount of professional service fees on a phone call tracking solution," he explained.

The important goal was to be able to build the business case through data collection and improve the call center through a professional vendor.

Step #2. Make sure the technology is in sync

For Paychex, this meant its paid search and call center technology was able to grab and utilize data coming in from paid search clicks, including the values coming in from the URL stream such as creative ID value and keyword ID value from the clicked ad.

Step #3. Track the paid search data to individual ads

Kanclerz explained each search engine click leads to a unique URL string that identifies if it is from from paid or organic search. From there, a script pulls a unique phone number into the landing page with tracking information tied to that number if the visitor calls it. For the visitor, the unique numbers look like the default number on the landing page.

If the call happens during that website visit, the system knows the keyword and creative from the specific PPC ad, if the visit comes from paid search.

"On the Paychex side, our system is set up where a unique code will then display on the phone rep’s screen," Kanclerz said. "Maybe it's a non-brand paid search keyword, or maybe it's a brand paid search keyword, or maybe it's from an organic search, and then the rep then writes that down."

He added the next stage for this program is to automate that final process where the rep doesn't have to write anything down.

When the phone rep sends the call information to the sales team for follow-up, the salesperson gets qualifying information on the call uncovered by the phone rep, like company demographics and product interest, and they also get the "under-the-hood" data provided by that unique landing page URL.

Step #4. Apply the tracking to other marketing channels

Before the tracking system was in place, Paychex thought paid search accounted for 10% to 15% of leads. After the tracking system was in place, the team realized that the number of leads from paid search was really 35%.

That data point immediately reduced the cost-per-acquisition for paid search because a much higher percentage of telephone leads were coming in via PPC campaigns than the team previously could state with confidence.

Kanclerz said once the proof of concept showed this tracking was working well with paid search, it piqued the interest of other teams within the marketing department.

For example, the email marketers were interested in finding out which campaigns were performing better through phone calls rather than form submissions. This was an area the company was still in the process of implementing.

Step #5. Use the data to improve bidding strategy, messaging and conversion optimization

Even though Kanclerz said the new insights had a higher impact on bidding strategy, it also altered the messaging strategy on the landing pages.

The main change was how prominent the phone number appeared on the landing page.

These learnings also impacted the conversion optimization because previously, the team was only looking at optimizing form submissions. With the ability to track phone calls, both methods of lead generation were taken into account when testing and optimizing.

"We can look at our landing page test and say, 'OK, here are our overall conversion rates between version A and version B. But why did version A convert better than B? Was it actually generating more form submissions or was it actually generating more calls?'" Kanclerz said.

Step #6. Use new insights to improve automated bidding

Kanclerz said automated bidding based on products and geographies was impacted by new insights into phone leads over form leads.

"The more complicated a specific service is, the more likely that we are able to get a phone call," he said. "And, usually the higher value that specific call is."

With geographies, the team was plotting cost-per-lead by ZIP code and metropolitan areas. Areas with higher margin products impacted bidding strategies accordingly.

Kanclerz added the next step is to adjust bids down to form versus phone leads into this deep data dive on paid search campaigns.


This entire effort provided Paychex two key results:
  • Leads increased 98% from 2011 to 2012

  • Cost-per-acquisition decreased 43% over the same time frame

Kanclerz said the team does track other KPIs, such as cost-per-impression, but volume of lead gen and cost-per-acquisition are the two major metrics tracked.

He also said a major takeaway from this effort was having the ability to pull data from the different technology pieces and have them all work together.

The key word for this was "flexibility" — the flexibility in all the various pieces to be in sync so the team can gain insights from all the data collected.



Mongoose Metrics — Paychex's call center vendor

Marin Software — Paychex's paid search vendor

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