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Do you factor in things like impressions and clicks that don’t necessarily produce sales?
In short, what is a click worth to you? Getting your site in front of a searcher that clicked on your site from a targeted search terms has to be worth something, even if they don't buy right? Would you be happy to pay 1/2 cent per visitor even if it didn't produce a sale?
To piggy back that question, what is a impression worth? Much less I am sure, but what would you pay to have your ad served 1,000 times with no clicks? A dollar? 50 cents? Getting your name on the front page of a search has to be worth something even if it doesn't produce a click right?
Both of these questions are part of a bigger question. What is branding worth? I am sure this will vary from person to person. It would be interesting to see what it means to each of us.
If you run high impression PPC campaigns for a long time, say more than 18 months, we notice a gradual increase in sales from other sources than just the online leads and sales. Branding does seem to help here.
We have customers that want to continue their exposure on content ads on adwords without a single conversion just for the branding and this runs into the thousands of $$.
My 2 cts
Depending on the sales cycle for a given product, buyers may need several weeks to make a final decision, and consistently finding and visiting your website (causing multiple clicks and costs) over time may culminate in strong increases in orders as time goes on. That would account for an upwards curve in sales (as opposed to a linear relationship in sales to spends when your campaign first starts).
This seems like a form of branding to me, but branding is only valuable if it results in more sales over time. If you have good ROI tracking software, you should be able to track the sales cycle on e-commerce sales, for example. So... one way you could try to place a value on branding is by tracking sales from users who buy more than 1 week after visiting your site initially (which again should be trackable with a decent ROI tracking program).
After 12 months of advertising, figure out the percentage of monthly orders that have originated from clicks in previous weeks or months. Apply some analysis to the percentage you get that takes mitigating factors into consideration, and you may be able to extrapolate some value that can be attributed to “branding” as you call it. Obviously, a good newsletter/visitor retention strategy will increase this percentage.