In most cases, leads are the premier metric for any pay-per-click (PPC) campaign. Sure, click-through rate (CTR) , cost per click (CPC), bounce rate, pages per visit, and other data are important. This information is great for measuring performance and progress -- and optimizing campaigns -- but typically the end goal of a PPC campaign is generating leads and ultimately sales.
Tracking online conversions is easy with PPC and web analytics programs, such as Google AdWords  and Google Analytics . These tools associate online conversions directly with a campaign, ad group, ad and keyword. Unfortunately, as soon as someone picks up a phone, this useful lead intelligence is lost.
To effectively gauge PPC campaign success you need to see all pieces of the lead-conversion puzzle, whether activity occurs online or off. Without a complete understanding of conversion rates and cost per conversion no matter where they take place, making edits to a campaign may do more harm than good.
To track offline conversions, you may want to consider a call tracking solution. Call tracking captures lead information for all phone calls received from PPC and associates them with the appropriate campaigns, ad groups, ads and keywords.
How call tracking works with PPC
Call tracking involves more than simply recording the number of calls received. It's part of a sophisticated marketing methodology that gives users accurate, real-time campaign effectiveness figures.
Call tracking allocates a distinct phone number, local or toll-free, for each unique source you want to track. Reports can be as general as calls from all search engines or as specific as calls from one unique paid search term.
When a visitor arrives on your site, the software conducts a search to determine which phone number is associated with the visitor’s origin. That phone number is then dynamically added throughout the site and cookied within their browser, so even if they return at a later time, they will continue to see the same number until the cookie is deleted.
As soon as a visitor makes a call to this tracking number, the program logs call time, PPC campaign information, available ID information, geographic location and the last web page visited, among other things.
New opportunities to improve performance
A complete lead picture shows how each campaign, ad group, ad and keyword is performing, helping advertisers more effectively identify best- and worst-performing elements to efficiently shift budgets and update or delete underperformers.
In addition, call tracking can help you better understand aspects of campaign performance that web analytics alone cannot:
- Preferred method of communication — Depending on the industry, audience and product or service, leads may be more inclined to call than fill out a form. This is true for local businesses, where, according to TMP Directional/15 Miles and comScore , audiences prefer to call a business (38%) or visit a physical location (36%) than complete a web form (9%). Understanding your audience’s preferred communication method is key to adjusting calls to action on PPC landing pages, and other marketing initiatives, to improve conversion rates.
- Landing pages — If your landing page is designed to generate web form submissions, but instead drives more calls, it may be an indication that the page content is confusing, the main call to action is not obvious or the web form is too involved. Making adjustments and tracking the number and type of conversions over time can help maximize performance.
- Call recording — Most call tracking solutions offer the option to record phone conversations. From a PPC campaign perspective, these recordings can be used to better understand the type of questions leads are consistently asking, so you can adjust the content on your landing pages accordingly.
Lead volume generated by your PPC campaign is often the most important metric for evaluating success. By simply tracking online conversions through web analytics, you may be missing a significant portion of lead data.
To most effectively improve campaign performance and maximize ROI, you need to track both online and offline conversions, which requires the integration of both web analytics and call tracking.
This is a guest post by Kathleen Colan, director of marketing and content at Mongoose Metrics, a provider of call tracking  technology that integrates phone call reports into third-party web analytics packages. For more information about Mongoose Metrics, follow us on Twitter: @mongoosemetrics .