So, you’ve started to run pay-per-click advertising campaigns for your nonprofit. Perhaps it’s because you heard that Facebook ads were very effective, or perhaps you found out that your organization qualified for a $10,000 Google AdWords grant.

In any event, you took the plunge, created some ads, and launched some PPC campaigns.

Now what?

Yes, this is a common reaction because when you make a foray into the world of pay-per-click, one thing happens to everyone: you get overwhelmed. You see huge, complicated dashboards of data, throwing all kinds of stats at you like:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Cost-per-click
  • Clickthrough rate
  • Relevance score
  • Average position

“What do half of these things mean?” you might be thinking — and who could blame you?

Most people, feeling overwhelmed, stick with what they can understand: cost-per-click. It’s a clear, plain-English metric that measures how much you’re paying per click on your advertisement.

It makes sense, and so most people latch onto that stat and attempt to just drive down the cost-per-click as low as possible. The cheaper the clicks, the reasoning goes, the better the results.

While that sounds right, it doesn’t quite add up — because not all clicks are created equal.

The Only Stat You Need To Care About With PPC: Cost-Per-Conversion

That’s right. There’s really only one stat you need to concern yourself with when you’re running pay-per-click campaigns: It’s cost-per-conversion.

What’s that?

Simply put, a conversion is broad term that describes a specific result that you want. Perhaps your campaign is designed to elicit donations. In that campaign, a conversion would be a donation. Perhaps you set up a campaign to get people to sign up for your e-mail list; a conversion would be an e-mail signup in that instance. Maybe your whole goal with a campaign is for people to like your Facebook page. Yep, you guessed it; a Facebook page like would be a conversion for that campaign.

Why Cost-Per-Conversion Matters

There is so much data available in a typical PPC platform that you can miss the big picture. Ask yourself: “At the end of the day, why am I spending money on these ad campaigns?”

Is it to get a low cost-per-click? No, that’s a means to an end.

Is it to reach a lot of people? No, another means to an end.

Is it to have a high clickthrough rate? No, what’s that?

The right answer is that you want to get a specific result — a conversion. So, it would follow that you want to get the highest number of conversions for the least amount of money. That’s the whole game.

That’s exactly what cost-per-conversion measures. The stat tells you exactly — to the penny — how much you spend to get a conversion. It helps answer the age-old question: “Are these ads worth it?”

If you spend $15 in advertising to get a donation — and your average donation is $8 — then something needs to change for that campaign to justify itself. If you spend $3 per donation — and your average donation is $50 — then great job!

Cost-per-conversion shows you the winners and the losers in the clearest terms possible.

How To Set Up Conversion Tracking

Here’s the thing: The most important stat you need to measure typically isn’t the default.

When it comes to Facebook ads, you have to set up conversion tracking for everything except page likes ads. And, you have to set up conversion tracking for everything on Google AdWords. Here’s a quick walkthrough of how to do it:

1. Thank-you page: The first step is to have something to track. The easiest way is to have a thank-you page on your website. For example, if someone donates to your organization, they need to click submit and get forwarded to a webpage that thanks them. This URL serves as proof that someone donated. They can’t reach this page any other way. If you don’t have a system like this on your website, set one up.

2. Tell Google/Facebook about that thank you page: Once you have that page, next step is to tell your advertising platforms about it. With Facebook, you need to drop a pixel onto that page. The pixel is a little bit of code that sends a message back to Facebook, saying, “Hey Facebook, somebody from your ad made it to the thank-you page.” It then counts it as a conversion. Google AdWords has a similar pixel process, or you can designate the thank-you page as a Google Analytics conversion goal and import it into AdWords.

3. Create a campaign that is designed to measure/optimize conversions: With AdWords, all campaigns are able to measure conversions. You just want to make sure to check a box in the settings that optimizes the ads for conversions. That means, the ones that produce conversions most consistently are shown more often. With Facebook, that means selecting an ad that meets your objective. Some Facebook ads are only designed to generate views or engagement or clicks to your website. Make sure you select an ad campaign that is designed to get you the desired conversion.

While your journey continues from there, focusing on mining the data to see which demographics convert better and continuously optimizing for better conversion stats, simply aiming the campaigns at conversions puts you miles ahead of a pay-per-click novice. With a little more knowledge and practice, you too can use pay-per-click advertising to help your organization reach new heights.

Amir B. Eyal, JD, CFP®, AIF® is the CEO of Mylestone Plans – a national leader that educates the members of the non-profit community on how to achieve their financial goals. Mylestone provides a comprehensive range of institutional services to hundreds of non-profit organizations, as well as private financial and investment planning to their leadership and employees.