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How To Improve Lead Quality Without Backend Data

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How To Improve Lead Quality Without Backend Data


Integrating backend data into digital marketing initiatives is a gamechanger for performance.

But what can you do when backend conversion data is unavailable or unreliable?

How can marketers optimize lead quality and higher margins without explicit insight into which keywords and audiences have the most value?

This article will walk you through some indirect ways in which you can optimize for lead quality in Google Ads, despite not having the ideal data passback with your digital advertising platforms.

First, let’s review why this is so important.

Why Optimize For Down-Funnel Events Or Margin?

Before we get into strategies, let’s first align on why this even matters. What’s the harm in just optimizing toward a lead event or transaction?

This visualization below is one our agency uses when communicating the need to blend backend data to inform campaign strategy and decision-making.

Note that while this example is specific to B2B, B2C advertisers generally will have a progression toward revenue, as well.

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For example, B2C ecommerce could have a Click > Add To Cart > Start Checkout > Create Account > Complete Order flow.

 Image provided by Closed Loop, December 2021

As the above shows, the path to revenue has several milestone stages, including Clicks, Leads, MQLs, Opportunities, and Closed/Won.

Most advertisers these days are savvy enough to realize that optimizing for the lowest cost click/website visit will lead to low-quality, fat tail keywords that don’t produce impact down-funnel.

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However, due to the technical hurdles required to blend backend and front-end data, I often find advertisers stopping at leads when optimizing.

Not a big deal? Think again.

Here’s an example that solidifies what an impact shifting your focus lower in the funnel can bring:

deeper-funnel-metricsImage provided by Closed Loop, December 2021

On the surface, Campaign A has far stronger performance when evaluating based on leads.

However, the gap widens lower in the funnel to the point where the cost per sale for Campaign A is over 5x of that of Campaign B.

So, What Do I Do About It?

You should not wait until the ideal state solution is deployed before optimizing toward lead quality.

Offline data can take time to get integrated into Google Ads and other platforms.

However, you can still take meaningful steps to start moving the needle in the right direction while that integration is being worked on.

Before we get into those steps, let’s look at the ideal data state.

The Ideal State Of Backend Data

The ideal scenario for optimizing toward backend data includes:

  • Hidden fields are set up on all of your website and native lead gen forms to pass the platform identifier (GCLID, FBCLID, etc.) into your CRM record.
  • Offline Conversion Tracking (OCT) integrated fully into Google Ads and other supporting channels (Microsoft Ads, Facebook, LinkedIn).
  • Values calculated and assigned to each conversion point.
  • Value-based bidding enabled in-platform.
  • Backend data blending across channels via a daily, automated CRM export (assuming not all ad platforms you are running on support data passback) to enable cross-channel, full-funnel reporting.
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While this may sound straightforward, my experience is that it takes many advertisers a long time to get to this point, given the need to involve stakeholders from multiple departments.

Here are tangible steps you can take to optimize for down-funnel events while the ideal state is being worked on.

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Stage 1: The Low Hanging Fruit

Perceived Keyword Intent

When optimizing to lead, the search terms that trigger said lead will vary greatly in quality.

Assuming limited budgets and a desire to improve down-funnel results, you should evaluate keywords (and campaign budget allocation) based on perceived intent, as well as tangential signals that identify quality, such as engagement signals ported in from Google Analytics.

If share of voice (SOV) is lower-than-ideal for strongly performing, high perceived intent terms, consider decreasing exposures on terms with a low perceived intent or poor tangential signals.

Don’t let higher cost per lead numbers scare you.

If you identify keywords with higher perceived intent, despite higher cost per lead, consider adding an “intent multiplier” for leads triggered from certain keywords and audiences.

Pro-tip: Apply labels when making adjustments so that you can easily filter for changes made at specific points in time.

This will enable you to make updates quickly to that data set in the future (e.g. If your monthly budget increases and it makes sense to activate a tranche of keywords previously paused).

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Pre-Qualify The Click

Marketing 101 tells us that the higher the CTR is, the more aligned your targeting and messaging are.

However, one should not blindly optimize in efforts to maximize CTR.

Your ad copy is one of the easiest levers you have at your disposal when trying to improve the quality of your leads.

Think through the attributes that make up a high-quality lead, then tailor your ads to speak to those personas.

For example, if you are a B2B advertiser attracting enterprise IT prospects in the Retail vertical, call out things like “Enterprise IT Solution for Retail” in your headline.

Tailoring will decrease the ad’s relevancy for some searchers.

However, you’ll free up the budget for audiences better aligned.

By clearly identifying who your product or service is for in the copy, you’ll weed out those who aren’t good fits, such as SMBs and manufacturing companies.

Utilize Audience Layers

Google Ads has a wide range of affinity, in-market, detailed demographic, and custom audience options available to advertisers.

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By applying audience layers to your campaigns, you can bid up or down (manual bidding) or include or exclude via RLSA campaigns.

See also  3 ways marketers can build trust with data ethics

Stage 2: Leverage First-Party Data For Audience Building

Regardless of whether your CRM is connected to your advertising platforms, it still holds customer and prospect records that are highly valuable to you as a marketer that you can extract.

Here are three ways you can fully leverage that data.

Nurture Using CRM Data

You can improve down-funnel lead quality – especially in sales funnels that extend beyond a few days – via lead nurture initiatives across display/programmatic, YouTube, social, and search.

A marketer’s job does not stop at the lead stage.

An organization must stay top of mind throughout the entire buyer’s journey.

Marketers should be working with sales in evaluating (often via a lead scoring system) which leads in their system have promise.

Then ensure that they and the organization’s buying committee (via ABM), are being saturated with both brand and thought leadership content to keep you top of mind and to build more authority.

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Marketers should also collaborate with sales to evaluate promising leads (using a lead scoring system) and ensure they, including the organization’s buying committee (via ABM), are nurtured with content marketing to maintain brand awareness and industry authority.

While Google does not offer ABM solutions, you can target specific companies and functions within said companies via the Microsoft Audience Network, LinkedIn, and other providers.

List Building Using CRM Data

Major ad platforms offer list upload options (via phone, e-mail, or mobile app ID) to seed Similar To/Lookalike audiences.

By thinking through your list upload segments, you can target people who have attributes similar to your most valuable lists (e.g. top customers).

On the flip side, you can upload lists for groups of low-quality prospects and customers, then exclude them from your targeting (all bid strategies) or bid down if using a manual bid strategy.

You don’t have to use that list for explicit targeting. It can also glean insights into your customer base or as a seed list for Similar To or Lookalike audience creation (keep reading!).

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Target Modeling Using CRM Data

In addition to explicitly targeting and/or creating a lookalike-based audience using a list upload, both Google Ads and LinkedIn have audience insight tools that can help you identify additional audience segments that align with your best and worst customers.

In Google Ads, head over to your Shared Library > Audience Manager > Your Data Insights.

Here, you will be able to select an audience (upload, pixel, YouTube-based), then see how that audience indexes against a control group (e.g., US population; Bad lead list) across dimensions like age, gender, parental status, location, device and most importantly, Google affinity and in-market segments.

Here’s a look at that report, using a “Closed/Won” list:

audience segmentation on Google Ads Screenshot from Google Ads, December 2021
audience segmentation on google adsScreenshot from Google Ads, December 2021

Once you have some insights, you can decide how best to apply the insights across your campaigns. This could be via bid adjustments, value rules, inclusions (RLSA), or exclusions.

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TL;DR: Use Customer Match uploads to feed Google Ads (and beyond) your customer data, then utilize that data through inclusions, exclusions, and attribute modeling.

Pro-tip: While you can manually upload lists to platforms, consider tools like Zapier, Salesforce Advertising Studio, and Liveramp to automate this update process better and improve match rates.

Stage 3: Use Conversion Values To Inform Bidding

The holy grail to strive for is OCT-based conversion points + value-based bidding. Even without OCT data, using value signals in your bidding decisions can still be a net win for performance.

Here are three steps to maximizing conversion value usage.

Step 1: Assign Values To Each Conversion Point

Don’t worry about providing the system with a perfect value when getting started. The goal is to establish values that will nudge the algorithms in the right direction.

Down the road, these values should be based on the value multiplied by the conversion rate from that action to the transaction.

Step 2: Test Into Value-based Bidding (Max Conversion Value/tROAS)

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When first getting started, you should set your tROAS targets equal to the CPA of your legacy bid strategy.

The goal here is to shift to value-based bidding without undue volatility and then start improving efficiency and/or scale by adjusting tROAS target.

Step 3: Use Value Rules

New to Google Ads in 2021, this feature allows you to add, subtract and multiply any conversion value based on audience, device or location.

For example, imagine I want to target enterprise IT decision-makers but don’t have OCT, so lack visibility into what drives performance beyond the lead.

Even without backend data, I intuitively know I want the algorithms to:

  • Bid higher if in a Similar To audience based on-site engagement.
  • Bid higher if Google buckets them into an In Market: Enterprise Software bucket.
  • Bid higher for those who work at enterprise companies.
  • Bid higher for those located in San Francisco, CA.
  • Bid lower if they work at a small company.

Translating that into value rules looks something like this:

value rules on google ads exampleScreenshot from Google Ads, December 2021

With value rules, you can use tools like Google Ads Data Insights along with findings pulled from LinkedIn Detailed Demographics reports, first-party personas, and customer data to tell the algorithms to serve ads to those prospects of higher quality.

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Wrapping Things Up

Integrating first-party data to inform audience building and bidding should be at the top of your priority list.

Incorporating backend conversion data via OCT can be challenging, but it is a worthy endeavor to strive toward.

Remember these methods when improving lead quality without using OCT while you lay the groundwork for direct data passback.

More resources:


Featured Image: Brovko Serhii/Shutterstock





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Why Does Google Not Recognize My Competitor’s Links As Manipulated?

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Why Does Google Not Recognize My Competitor's Links As Manipulated?


This week’s Ask An SEO question comes from Arvin from Vancouver, Canada, who wrote:

“One of our competitors has gotten tons of backlinks from unrelated posts including forums like that of apache.org (and many other .edu sites, too). Even after updates like Penguin, why are they considered relevant backlinks by Google?”

Let me begin by saying, Arvin, that we are a sports-loving family.

I currently have four kids on seven teams.

I love the lessons that sports teach my kids.

And one of the big lessons I work to instill in my kids is never to blame the referees for a loss.

I’ve never seen any sporting event where, if one of the teams did something better, the referee’s call would never factor into the outcome.

This lesson translates well to SEO.

If you know how to play the SEO game, what your competitor – or even Google and Bing – does should never be your main concern.

Focusing on your competitor’s SEO instead of improving your own is a frustrating waste of time.

But, as an SEO, it is important to understand the factors that are affecting the rankings of each keyword.

Like Anyone Could Ever Know

Unless you work at Google, you can never be certain about why one site is ranking over another.

We can speculate.

We can run sophisticated mathematical models to try to understand the algorithm.

But the bottom line is we can’t ever know for sure.

In fact, I’m not even sure the folks that work at Google could unequivocally tell you why one site ranks over another.

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The algorithm is so complex that no one person could ever decipher it completely.

How Do You Know The Links Are Relevant?

There is no way to know if the links that your competitor has built are being counted by Google.

Google knows a lot more than our tools tell us it knows.

None of the many backlink analysis tools available on the market today can tell you if Google is counting a link or isn’t.

These tools use data gleaned from their own analysis to determine if a link is relevant or if it is toxic.

Your competitor could be spinning their wheels and wasting a ton of money buying links that do absolutely nothing for their SEO.

Meanwhile, one piece of content or simple link from a strategic site could be boosting the site’s rankings.

Concentrate On Your Competitor’s Strengths

When you look at the “bad” things your competitors are doing, you may miss a tactic that could put you over the top for that keyword you just can’t get to rank.

Instead of looking at all the things you think they are getting away with, look at what they are doing that is legitimate that you aren’t doing.

Frequently, when a prospect comes to me screaming about the travesty of an “inferior” company is ranking above them, the real reason for the ranking usually has nothing to do with the perceived injustice.

But usually when we find the real reason – or at least what I think is the real reason – we uncover a technique that this prospect should double down on.

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It could be that your competitor has more robust content around a specific subject.

It could be that your competitor is utilizing technical SEO techniques better than you are.

It could be a thousand things.

Bottom line – when doing competitive analysis, concentrate on discovering things your competitors are doing better than you are.

Look for techniques you can modify for your own use rather than concentrating on how your client is cheating.

Especially if you don’t plan to cheat yourself.

And I recommend you don’t.

More resources: 


Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!

Featured image: VectorMine/Shutterstock





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5 Key On-Page Optimizations For Local SEO

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5 Key On-Page Optimizations For Local SEO


When most people think of local SEO, they tend to default to their Google Business Profile, local citations, and backlinks.

When trying to capture those “near me” results, these are definitely beneficial.

However on-page optimization also plays a significant factor in the signals that are sent to the search engines to influence your local rankings.

On-page SEO helps you rank higher in organic results and in MapPack results, as well.

Here are five on-page optimization tips to help boost your local visibility in search.

1. Make Sure Your NAP Is Consistent

NAP is an acronym for Name, Address, and Phone Number.

These three simple pieces of information can make or break your local SEO strategy.

Make sure you have these bits of information displayed prominently on your site. A footer is a great place to house your NAP since it will appear on every page.

Linking it to your Google Map is even better.

You can also display your NAP on service area pages and on your contact page in the body.

Consistency matters. It’s important that this key business information is the same anywhere potential customers find you online – and anywhere Google may be using it for comparison to ensure its accuracy.

This helps crawlers and bots to connect the dots between your Google Business Profile, website, and other local citations through the web.

Don’t get lost in minute details such as abbreviations over spelling out street names. It doesn’t really matter as long as you choose one and stick with it.

2. Spruce Up Your On-page Content

Your site content is an opportunity to show both your customers and the search engines that you are the authority in your area for the service you provide.

Include specific details such as landmarks and street names, in addition to the services you provide in this area. Make it clear why the customer would need your service in that specific area.

The more you sound like you belong there, the better the user experience for your customer.

See also  How marketers can use behavioral data to improve customer experiences

Think as your customer thinks.

If you were looking for your service near you, what terms would you use?

Would you include your local metro, city, or even neighborhood?

The answers to these questions will help you determine the type of content you need and which keywords to include in this content.

These keywords will help you target both combination searches [dentist in Chicago] and GPS-based searches [dentist] while sitting in Chicago.

This is where the “near me” searches come into play.

Google matches the location of the user (using IP or geolocation) with sites that service the area near the user to provide these search results.

You can optimize these keywords on overall service pages or on targeted pages created specifically for the service and the targeted service area.

Using the dentist example, let’s say you offer teeth whitening services throughout the Chicago and Southern Wisconsin areas.

In addition to your main teeth whitening page, you may have individual pages for teeth whitening in Chicago, Evanston, Milwaukee, and Racine.

Each of those pages should be hyper-targeted and optimized for that specific location.

Don’t be shy here; this may be the landing page for many of those location-based searches.

Really tell your customer why they should trust you enough to click on either the next page or your CTA.

Don’t forget to do your research.

Customers who live in an area will know the common jargon and things that are native to the area.

If you come in with half-baked information, they won’t trust that you are authentic and truly care about their local area.

3. Optimize Header Tags

We know that header tags are important when it comes to SEO.

If you haven’t explored this subject yet, be sure to check out this resource on best practices in using header tags.

By creating local-based service pages, you have just created additional real estate to create highly targeted header tags including local-based keywords + your services.

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Having great header tags gives both the visitors to your site and the crawlers a basic idea of the overall structure of the page and what to expect as they read through the content.

Be careful not to just stuff keywords into the header tags as this will be unnatural to both your visitors and the crawlers.

Keep it relevant.

4. Internal Linking

Use the power of internal linking throughout the site to educate both your customer and the search engines that you are available to serve customers in that local area.

As you are adding city names to your on-page content, you can use them as an anchor link to the service area pages.

You can also get a bit creative and create widgets, lists, and blocks that house multiple links to your service areas on top-level pages for a bit of SEO boosts.

This could be in the form of a “metro areas we service” block that includes the name of the metro, an image of the area, and a short excerpt.

The text would then link to the location page.

Screenshot of AFSRepair.com by author, January 2022.

5. Local Business Schema

Schema markup can help give the search engines a better understanding of your site.

The local business schema type includes important and relevant information such as addresses, reviews, hours of operation, social media accounts, service area geo-shapes, and departments in your code that may not necessarily live in your on-page content.

This tells the bots and crawlers all about who you are, what you do, where you do it, and why others trust you without cramming it all on a page.

This also gives you a bit more control of the information you are putting out there instead of relying on the search engines to figure out different resources around the internet.

How Will I Know If This Is Working?

Once you have everything optimized and ready to go, you will want to know if this is really having an impact on your local SEO strategy.

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There are many tools out there however we will take a quick look at a few.

Local Search Results Tools

There is nothing like looking at the SERPs directly unless you can look at the SERPs in a simulated environment that mimics the local area that you are targeting.

That is exactly what you can do with local search result tools like Local Falcon, Merkle, and BrightLocal.

With these tools, you even have the option to view Google Maps, select options such as desktop and mobile, and get as granular as the zip code level.

Local falcon GIF showing GMB resultsScreenshot from Local Falcon, January 2022

Geo-Grid Local Ranking Tools

Geo-grid local ranking tools like Local Falcon and Local Viking are a bit more visual and monitor the map results within a selected area.

These tools are great because you can actually schedule periodic scans that will capture a snapshot of your results and keep a history of how well your site has performed locally on the maps throughout time.

Since these scans are also keyword-based, it’s also an effective way to monitor optimizations within your content and title tags.

Google Business Profile Analytics

There’s nothing like getting information directly from the horse’s mouth.

When making optimizations, if successful, you should see a boost in your Google Business Profile metrics, whether those are click-throughs to your site, calls, or requests for driving directions.

As your visibility increases, you should naturally see an increase in traffic.

Remember when optimizing for on-page local SEO, keep it simple and relevant to your business.

Once customers see that you are providing what they are looking for in the location that they desire, the rest is natural.

It is your job to make sure that you are providing them with the right information.

Even with the rapid changes within the local SEO space, a solid on-page strategy is a winner for both you and your customers.

More resources:


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Google’s Core Web Vitals Badge Likely Won’t Happen

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Google's Core Web Vitals Badge Likely Won't Happen


Google says there are no plans for a Core Web Vitals badge in search results after proposing the idea when the metrics were first introduced.

This is stated by Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller during the Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout recorded on January 21.

A question was submitted asking for an update on the Core Web Vitals badge and whether it’s something that will be rolled out in the future.

It was never 100% confirmed there would be a Core Web Vitals badge in SERPs, but it was an idea Google mentioned on numerous occasions.

Now it sounds like Google won’t be following through on its idea.

Read Mueller’s full response in the section below.

No Plans For A Core Web Vitals Badge In Search Results

Mueller says he can’t promise a CWV badge will never happen, but chances aren’t good.

Since the badge hasn’t rolled out yet, and the idea was first proposed over a year ago, the feeling is that it won’t happen.

“I can’t promise on what will happen in the future, unfortunately. And since we haven’t done this badge so far, and it’s been like over a year, my feeling is probably it will not happen.

I don’t know for certain, and it might be that somewhere a team at Google is making this badge happen and will get upset when I say it, but at least so far I haven’t seen anything happening with regards to a badge like this.

And my feeling is, if we wanted to show a badge in the search results for Core Web Vitals or Page Experience, then probably we would have done that already.”

Muller brings up the fact that Core Web Vitals and Page Experience are always evolving.

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The Core Web Vitals metrics, as they are defined today, may include different measurements in the future. It depends what users care about.

“That said, everything around Core Web Vitals and Page Experience is constantly being worked on. And we’re trying to find ways to improve those metrics to include other aspects that might be critical for websites or for users that they care about.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if any of this changes. And it might be that, at some point, we have metrics that are really useful for users, and which make sense to show more to users, and maybe at that point we’ll have something more visible the search results, or within Chrome, or I don’t know. It’s really hard to say there.”

My interpretation of Mueller’s response is that a Core Web Vitals badge in search results isn’t an ideal solution, considering the criteria for earning the badge may change from one year to another.

If the Core Web Vitals were a set of metrics that would remain the same from year to year then a badge might make more sense, but that’s not the case.

Hear Mueller’s response in the video below:


 Featured Image: Screenshot from YouTube.com/GoogleSearchCentral, January 2022. 





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