Best Lead Generation Tips from 22 PPC Experts

Lead generation using PPC is complicated. From offers, to Adwords, to landing pages, to lead quality, there are myriad of ways to mis-step and miss the mark. So what makes lead-gen campaigns effective? What’s the biggest mistake that you could make? I asked 22 of the top Pay Per Click experts those two questions and compiled their responses here. Ready for a knowledge drop? You might want to bookmark this page. 🙂 **You can follow all 22 experts on this twitter list. Thanks @PPCJedi for compiling.** Brad Geddes (@bgTheory)bradgeddes-sm1_2_
  • Best TipGo local! Searchers like to see their geography in the ad and on the landing page for most lead gen type companies. There are some exceptions, such as education when the person is often trying to leave the state. However, no one buys ‘national insurance’; they buy Seattle or Washington insurance. In addition, your campaigns often convert differently by location, so when you go local, its easier to work with local based bidding or exclude areas.   Going local can also help you engage users by other factors, such as income levels, the type of residence commonly bought in the area, and a host of other census type data. 
  • Biggest Mistake – Using a single landing page for all your keywords. I can’t count the number of times that a company might have 100 campaigns and 100,000 keywords and a single destination URL. I often see these pages or templates tested over and over again and can become exceptionally fine tuned; however, by just connecting to the user at a keyword, industry, or geographic level, it can significantly increase the conversion rates. 
Chris Haleua (@chrishaleua)chris
  • Best Tip – Focus on the various micro-conversion rates beyond the initial click and final conversion. Bidding and ad testing can make a big difference but they are not a panacea for the other PPC problems that can only be solved by maintaining accountability beyond the click. Examples: Find the bottleneck buried in fallout analysis. It is fine to have a top priority KPI like CPA that you respond to first, but when a keyword or ad has no conversions to calculate conversion efficiency, fall back to the other micro-conversion rates to find other optimizations worth spending time on. 
  • BONUS Best Tip 2When conversion signals dry up, filter for zero and find more opportunities by sorting the next metric closest to the bottom line. Invest a little extra work to estimate revenue from leads based on their type and close rates. Moving beyond CPA to estimated ROAS can improve the data-driven nature of advertising investment. Then fall back to close rates, completion rates, bounce rates, and finally CTR. Examples: What is the conversion rate from landing page to lead started? (Refine ad copy to qualify visitors before they click). What is the conversion rate from lead started to lead completed? (Simplify the form to balance detail with speed). What is the conversion rate from lead completed to sale closed? (Coordinate efforts between advertising and sales teams).
  • Biggest Mistake Avoid blindly accepting whatever landing pages that the client already has. Don’t just try to squeeze profitability out of an inefficient conversion process that was doomed from the start. Never underestimate how a little time spent on testing designs up front can save countless hours on SEM optimization later. The only lead gen campaigns that can sustain success are the ones that combine relevant ads with data-driven bids before the click and solid business plans with an aligned site after the click. 
  • BONUS Biggest Mistake 2 – Adobe Target and Optimizely are my 2 favorite tools for this job, but there are many others. The cost and learning curves of these tools pay for themselves quickly. During the early phases of any client engagement, discuss how much time and money clients are willing to invest in the essential first step of design testing. Some retailers might complain that testing tools only demonstrate a small part of the larger site redesigns that need to be funded in the long term. Smaller lead gen campaigns can avoid those excuses for caving in to inertia of the current site. Lead gen can be much more agile with even the simplest of testing tools. 
Robert Brady (@robert_brady)robert
  • Best Tip – Know your audience deeper than the keywords they search. Go beyond age, gender, income bracket. Get to know them on an emotional level. Discover their pains & passions at work. That will improve your targeting, your ad copy & your landing pages. Want to go even further? Learn their educational background. What are their hobbies outside of work? What do they enjoy reading? These will give you even more opportunities.
  • Biggest Mistake – Imprecise/inaccurate targeting (mostly due to not knowing your audience). Leads to lots of unqualified clicks & poor leads.
Pamela Lund (@Pamela_Lundpam
  • Best Tip – For effective lead generation campaigns I recommend telling people exactly what you want them to do in your ad text or on your banners. Frequently people you’re targeting with lead gen campaigns are in information gathering mode. You need to get them to click on your ad by offering them the information they are looking for, but once they get to your site you need them to take action rather than just reading the information and leaving. So you want to specifically tell people to use the contact form or enter their email address in your ads. By setting the stage in your ad with a call to action and an offer to provide information, you will get a strong CTR but people will be more likely to do what you want them to on your landing page.
  • Biggest Mistake – The biggest mistake I see is not testing landing pages or testing too many landing page changes at once. Simply moving a contact form or reducing the number of required fields on a form can dramatically increase conversion rate. When you start testing, focus on finding the layout that converts the best. Once you get the layout optimized, test the language you use and the offer you provide. For instance, does your page convert better when you offer a whitepaper or infographic in exchange for users submitting their information?
Nicole Mintiens (@Tregesynicole
  • Best Tip – Start with a wide search funnel, then refine and target. Begin by capturing (and most importantly TRACKING) a large audience and observe their search behavior. Once significant data has accrued, analyze search queries, refine campaigns with negative keywords and pause/remove under-performing keywords and ad text. Segment ad groups, write more targeted ad text and test variations of lead capture specific landing pages. Extra credit: Give visitors who didn’t complete the form on your initial landing page the one-two punch by remarketing to them on the display network and their Facebook feed
  • Biggest Mistake – #1 = Little (to zero) or incorrectly applied conversion tracking. Very Close 2nd = No landing page testing and iteration/optimization process. As Paid Analysts, SEM Specialists, Search Gurus, PPC Wizards [insert additional titles associated with our expertise] we can do stellar jobs leading herds to water but we can’t force them to drink if the landing page is a conversion wasteland.
Mark Kennedy (@markkennedysem)Mark_pic
  • Biggest Mistake – I’ll answer Q2 first since it leads to Q1… The biggest mistake with lead gen PPC campaigns is thinking the keywords and ads will do all the work. Yes, they will drive qualified visitors for your service (if researched and set up correctly), but the magic happens on the landing page. People send these visitors to the home page or a broad services page, when in actuality, they should utilize a nice landing page with calls to action, support assets or links, etc. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a site (or landing page) not even have a phone number. Or bury it down in the footer. If the end goal is to get a visitor to contact you, make that very easy to do. And with CMS’s like wordpress or programs like Unbounce, there’s no excuse for a bad landing page.
  • Best Tip – So with all that being said, my #1 tip is to focus on the landing page and CRO. A good keyword and bad landing page will never convert. A bad keyword and great landing page has a fighting chance. And bare minimum, make the phone number and/or contact form prominent and accessible. Then once you have a decent LP, test variations and test them again. Always try and “beat the champ”.
Garrett McGregor (@mcgregor212IMG_3066
  • Best Tip –  Focus your attention and energy on what’s working in the account. Test all aspects of the campaigns, continue to optimize so you understand your target market.
  • Biggest Mistake  – Adgroup and keyword level structure not following best practices. A poorly thrown together campaign will get poor results. Campaigns should be well organized with adgroups that contain relevant keywords, ad copy and landing pages that match the searchers intentions.
Melissa Mackey (@Mel66)Mel_2012
  • Best Tip – Track obsessively. Follow your leads through the sales pipeline as much as possible. It’s not easy or cheap, but it is well worth the investment.
  • Biggest Mistake – Awful landing pages! Pages with no call to action, with the form buried or absent, or pages lacking a value proposition (i.e. “what’s in it for me?”). I also dislike pages with modal windows that you can’t close – that’s an instant bounce for your visitors.
Joe Kerschbaum (@joekerschbaum)joe
  • Best Tip – Campaign structure. Implementing the proper keywords, ad group structure, and match types can improve CTR and conversion rate, but more importantly they can reduce irrelevant traffic and improve lead quality. You don’t want to clog up your sales team with poor-quality leads.
  • Biggest Mistake – Overlooking conversion optimization. I’ve seen well-structured accounts delivering users to terrible landing pages. You have to be thinking about pre-click and post-click opportunities.
John Ellis (@JohnWellis)john
  • Best Tip – My top tip for effective PPC lead generation campaigns is simple forms. It’s important for landing page forms to ask for the bare minimum. Often that bare minimum is name, phone number, email address, and little else. Users are uncomfortable giving too much information. Make it easy for them
  • Biggest Mistake – One of the biggest mistakes I see with PPC lead-generation campaigns is under-testing. PPC includes constant testing. That means constantly testing multiple landing pages, multiple ads, different call-to-actions, etc. Once a clear winner has evolved, throw out the losing ad and add a new one to the rotation.
James Svoboda (@Realicity)James-Svoboda-sq-800
  • Best Tip – The best tip that I can give someone who’s developing a PPC lead-gen campaign is to take into account how your Audience, Content and Conversion Goals work together.  I refer to this as a Liner Engagement Model.  For Search PPC campaigns these models take into account how the keywords work with the text ads to identify and shape the searcher intent, and then how they work with the landing pages and the conversions that you are trying to generate for this audience.  It should also take into account the geography of the searcher (city, state, nation or global) as well as device type (desktop, tablet or mobile phone), conversion type (call or web lead) and the mental match of searcher with keyword, ad and landing page.  Too often I audit PPC accounts that others have built and find campaigns and ad groups that are convoluted with loosely related keywords.  If you don’t have a defined segment that you are targeting, then you will produce lower converting traffic.  I gave a presentation at SearchFest a few month back on this and the powerpoint goes deeper into the elements of these Linear Models.
  • Biggest Mistake – Not creating Linear Models earlier. J No seriously though, I’ve been guilty of dropping too many loosely related keywords into an existing ad group instead of creating a new one, or sending that traffic to a loosely related landing page.  This is one reason why I dislike standard Broad Match so much, you just don’t have the control over the visitor journey as well as with Exact, Phrase or Modified Broad.  There is no better way to kill your conversion rates on a lead generation campaign than sending it to a bad page… unless it’s to the right page but the lead capture form is broken or the phone number is wrong.  Yea, made that mistake before.
Johnathan Dane (@JohnathanDane)johnathan
  • Best Tip –  It has to be dedicated landing pages with a great focus on conversion rate optimization (CRO). So many PPC companies and individuals out there focus on bidding and/or ad creation, hoping that they can nail it perfectly and hit that CPA or lead volume goal, not knowing that it usually comes with sacrifices in either margin or volume. There’s no shortage of advertisers that send traffic directly to websites with either no clear call-to-action or incentive to capture that lead and it’s really unfortunate. They might be getting results, but they’re just not reaching their true potential. The biggest wins that I’ve found are when you can be super specific with the message match of keyword, ad, and landing page. If you’re able to double the conversion rate through CRO testing, then you’re now bringing in twice as many leads at 50% of the cost, all while you’re still spending the same monthly ad budget as before.
  • Biggest Mistake – In my opinion, the biggest mistakes are not your usual “red flag” broad match keywords, but actually where you’re sending your traffic to. Lead-generation PPC can work if you have an awesome site, but most advertisers lack big time on creativity or the ease of conversion for the visitor. It’s disappointing at the same time, because you know PPC is an amazing tool at growing businesses, but many people think it’s just a turn-key solution when there’s actually a lot more work involved than what you’d think. So to answer your question 🙂 The biggest mistake I see in PPC lead-generation campaigns is not having a specific landing page to handle the targeted traffic your creating.
Aaron Levy (@bigalittlea)aaron
  • Best Tip – Speak the language of your customers. Chances are very few people in your target audience are searching for specific head terms; they’re seeking to solve a problem. Make sure your keywords reflect the “problem” your audience may have, and that you’re effectively answering it with your ads.
  • Biggest “yeesh” – Ignoring (or abusing) the Google Display Network. Simply cloning search campaigns to the GDN isn’t gonna cut it, nor is turning a blind eye.  Google released a myriad of targeting features over the last year or so that can really help you hand pick your audience and get them interested in your brand before they even begin searching. 
Sam James (@SamuelDJames)samuel
  • Best Tip – My number one tip for effective PPC lead-generation is to gain as much insight as I can of how the offer is worth the investment of divulging contact information, and for whom. Without this insight, you start with too many targets, too little in the means of persuasive copy, and confusion that can take months and years to work through. As is always the case, it also doesn’t hurt to be on the same page as your client.
  • Biggest Mistake – The biggest mistake I see made in PPC lead-generation is decisions made from CPL alone, without treating every impression opportunity based on achieving the end goal of the client. I’ve seen too much damage done by a focus on a volume of leads, which made the entire department seem to be doing better than it was, hurting the whole company. A lack of this focus, can also lead to constantly shifting priorities and initiatives, because of overcorrections. 3)      My Twitter handle is @SamuelDJames 
Heather Cooan (@HeatherCooanheather
  • Best Tip – Tight chain of relevance from search term to ad copy to audience segment. I’ve been known to say that digital advertising success is 70% account structure and 30% data. I think this holds true across all verticals, between lead gen and eComm, and across all digital advertising channels. You must get the right message to the right people, which means a tight, granular account structure with consistent messaging based on data.
  • Biggest Mistake – The biggest mistake for many is avoidance of less restrictive match types. Often times lead gen campaigns are trying to reach a very specific segment of searchers, which means lots of one off converting queries that come in off of broad and modified broad match keywords. Without these less restrictive match types it’s just about impossible to cover all your basis and either don’t convert or leave opportunity on the table.
Greg Young (@PPCJedi)greg
  • Best Tip – There is a lot of value in realizing that not all searches are created equally; as a result, marketers shouldn’t use the same single offer for all traffic, but rather utilize different assets/offers depending on the keywords that trigger the ad.  Your visitor’s search may have been a: question, solution, brand, product, symptom, or problem.  Make sure that your offering/page matches what their query suggests they are looking for.  Some sample offerings based on queries could be: If query denotes a question, offer a guide; if query is about a competitors brand, offer a comparison; if query is about the product offer a trial.  Organize your keywords so that you’ll know what the visitor is searching for and then be able to serve up a lead capture page that better serves your visitors.
  • Biggest Mistake – One of the big mistakes I find with PPC lead generation is that companies will generate leads without having tracking in place to measure quality.  It is worth the time and money to get tracking properly implemented, and tied to your CRM so that you can optimize your campaigns for Quality Leads rather than just maximizing quantity.  If you don’t know which leads are turning into prospects or sales, then you can’t focus budget on your best sales performers.
Ginny Marvin (@ginnymarvin)ginny
  • Best Tip – I’m sure lots of other respondents will have great #1 tips, instead I’ll offer some avenues to test. I would recommend testing Twitter lead gen cards, which allow users to submit their information without leaving Twitter. The ad format is user-friendly, and Twitter’s targeting options continue to get more sophisticated. The caveat is it can be time intensive to manage and optimize Twitter campaigns, so be prepared to dedicate resources to it. Another avenue that looks promising is from PerfectAudience. They just started beta testing a product that allows companies to retarget each others’ audiences to reach new prospects. It’s a double opt-in program, so companies are in control of who they let retarget to their audiences and auctions are managed in a way that others don’t bid up the original cookie owner’s CPCs.
  • Biggest Mistake – Not testing landing pages. I’ve seen companies use the same landing page template for years, still. And when the CPAs are adequate, I get it, I do, but there are so many helpful tools and companies out there to make landing page testing easier for those that don’t have in-house resources. Every lead gen initiative should have landing page testing factored into the budget and timeline. Your CPAs, and sales team, will thank you.
David Szetela (@Szetela)david
  • Best Tip – At least test call extensions (where the phone number appears adjacent to the ad on the search results page) and click-to-call (where the only option when the ad appears on a smartphone is to make a phone call. For many advertisers, phone leads outnumber web-form-submitted leads.
  • Biggest Mistake – Too many required fields on web forms. Every additional field depresses conversion rate – or said another, each field that is elminated boosts conversion rate.
Martin Röttgerding (@bloomarty)martin
  • Best Tip – With lead generation the conversion side of the story is often crystal clear: A lead is a lead. But only if it’s a new one – so don’t count conversions twice. The easiest way to do this is to just focus on converted clicks. More importantly, don’t pay again for a click when it’s already converted. Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) are great for that. You don’t even have to put new remarketing tags on your site. The AdWords conversion tracking code doubles as a remarketing tag and covers the only audience you need for this. So go ahead and use it to make a simple remarketing list of people who converted. Then add it to your campaign and exclude the audience. Or just add it to see how much money you’re currently wasting on people who’ve already converted. 🙂
  • Biggest Mistake – My all-time favorite mistake is to have a campaign lose a large percentage of impressions due to budget constraints. If you can’t raise your budget, simply lower your bids (this goes for CPA bids as well). This will lead to lower ad positions, which will in turn lead to lower CTR, meaning you’ll need more impressions per click – no big deal when you have so many unused impressions anyway. In essence you’ll get more clicks for the same investment. On one hand it’s a big mistake, on the other hand it’s a great opportunity. Don’t miss it!
Richard Fergie (@richardfergie)richard
  • Best Tip – If running global campaigns, be *very* careful about lead quality from the content network.
  • Bonus Best Tip – Offering something (e.g. a whitepaper) in exchange for a lead increases conversion rate. But I’ve found the number of AAA quality leads stays about the same – these guys are such hot prospects that they’ll sign up anyway. Having a bigger pool of slightly lower quality leads isn’t normally a bad thing though.
  • Bonus Bonus Best Tip – Find out what they do with the leads once you’ve generated them. Make sure they can handle the deluge during busy times or lots of money can be wasted. And remember that clients hate a lead-follower-upperer (what is the right word?) sitting doing nothing; speak to them about changing efficiency targets during quiet periods.
  • Biggest Mistake – See “Best Tip” above 🙁
John A. Lee (@john_a_lee)johnlee
  • Best Tip – Don’t be afraid to try new campaign types (a la beta features, etc.) or new channels (display, social, etc.). Time and time again I find I can take my lead gen performance to another level with new channels. Of course, test – your performance may vary.
  • Biggest Mistake – No call tracking. Online conversions are a big deal. But 9 times out of 10, phone calls are as big of a deal or bigger. Track ’em. Leverage call extensions and get a 3rd party tracking tool in place (Mongoose Metrics, ifbyphone, etc.).
  • Bonus Biggest Mistake – Poor landing pages or offer. The foundation of lead gen is a quality landing page that converts. The lead form is still a transaction – what will the visitor receive in exchange? Some advertisers are lucky to have brands or services that will attract leads no matter what happens. We are not all so lucky. Review what you can offer the visitor in exchange for their information. Free trial? Demo? White paper? Maybe a contest (tread lightly here)?
Kayla Kurtz (@one800kaylakayla
  • Best Tip – Accurate & thorough attribution modeling! Too often one medium or another (could be PPC, but maybe not) doesn’t get the credit it deserves when it comes to the ultimate goal of generating quality leads. If PPC played any part in causing a consumer to submit their information to a brand, then PPC should at least get some assist points. Absolutely focus on the bottom line and what medium (hopefully PPC) is driving the most last-click leads, but don’t short sight yourself or your campaigns by not fully attributing all leads to all mediums that helped push them.
  • Biggest Mistake – Not enough focus on the *entire* funnel. It is certainly expected that the bottom of the funnel (aka – near closing) leads are more valuable, but how do you think those leads got there? They started somewhere in the funnel picture and it’s highly unlikely that they came in nearly ready to buy, so from keyword scope to ad copy messaging to ROAS/ROI goals and reporting — loading fresh, less-ready-to-buy leads in to the funnel is crucial.
In addition to these PPC experts, we’ve had some young, aspiring business and brand owners take interest in our website and the tips mentioned on this blog post. They have shared a link with us including more tips.
Special thanks to Nick  G. and the rest of his peers from the summer business and entrepreneurship program at Youth Smarts for sharing this lead generation article with us. Keep up the great work, Nick!
What tip is your favorite? Do you have your own tip that wasn’t mentioned? Leave it below and I’ll add the best tips to this article! Hat tip to @ArnieK for the idea. 🙂

8 thoughts on “Best Lead Generation Tips from 22 PPC Experts

  1. Richard McGowan says:

    For me, this article illustrates a fundamental truth: great PPC campaigns are achieved by doing a lot of little things – from phone call tracking to Match Type testing – correctly. Thanks for the abundance of helpful reminders.

    • LukeAlley says:

      @richard_mcgowan Great point! I hadn’t thought about that. I did find it interesting that so few tips overlapped. I think you’ve summed it up nicely.

  2. LukeAlley says:

    @richard_mcgowan:disqus Great point! I hadn’t thought about that. I did find it interesting that so few tips overlapped. I think you’ve summed it up nicely.

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    Heyy!! Amazing article One of my friend wanted to get some PPC services and I thought of providing a helping hand for him. I read your article and came to know more about PPC and its effects. Just loved what you shared. Looking forward for more articles. Keep Posting

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