Cost per Acquisition Is not Usually Black and White

Andrew Wetzler - October 6, 2010

We speak with clients and prospects all of the time who are very focused on attaining a particular Cost Per Acquisition “CPA” goal with their search engine marketing campaigns. It’s clearly valuable to put energy into that kind of tracking effort and adjust campaigns accordingly, however I believe that the data can be easily misinterpreted if there is not a process in place to account for sales that occur later when the lead source may be a bit muddier. In other words, it’s essential to be able to properly attribute “leads” that become sales at a later date back to their original lead source, not just the last touch that they received.

With Google Analytics and most of the other tracking / analysis tools, it’s easy to accurately attribute sales on ecommerce websites. It gets trickier when the selling cycle is longer, particularly when companies have a process in place to continue to market to individuals who have visited their sites, but don’t immediately “convert”. Is the sale credited back to the original marketing effort, to a remarketing campaign or to the email campaigns that prospects have been consistently receiving for the past several months?

There is no exact answer to this question, nor is the answer the same in every circumstance. More often than not, the answer is that attribution should likely be shared across multiple sources (contributing factors). That being said, it’s important not to adopt a myopic view when it comes to assessing your lead sources and figuring out where to trim (or add) additional resources to campaigns.

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