January 24, 2017 | Emily Winsauer

Why 2017 Is the Year of Pay Per Lead (PPL)

Digital marketing evolves so quickly that it can seem like you barely get started with a tool or technique before it becomes obsolete. But it's not just a race against the clock; marketers face actual opposition in the rise of ad-blockers.

In part to counter this, native advertising is growing rapidly. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are incorporating lessons they've learned from organic user behavior as well as successful tactics from ad networks and affiliate programs.

In particular, social and publishing platforms are beginning to adopt elements of different cost-per-acquisition digital advertising models and incorporate things like pay-per-lead (PPL) ads.

The reputation of PPL is about to change drastically. In the past, PPL was good for the advertiser, but usually not as profitable for the displayer of the ad, who got paid only if the lead actually converted after clicking the link. In other words, they got paid less often than when they were paid for impressions or even clicks. Sure, the pay rates were higher, but it was usually a raw deal.

However, the adoption of PPL as a part of their native advertising tools changes all of that. But before we dig any deeper, here's a little background.

What Is Pay-Per-Lead Advertising?

PPL advertising is one form of cost per acquisition (CPA) advertising. Instead of impressions or clicks, the "acquisition" is a form submission, sale, subscription, or other conversion that allows the advertiser to capture a lead.

In contrast to the pay-per-impression advertising that began in the 1990s and the pay-per-click (PPC) ads that have been popular since the early 2000s, pay per lead advertising involves a more direct, transparent relationship between the lead and the company. After all, knowingly submitting a form is a lot more conscious than clicking an ad that results in heavy remarketing.

Many display ads are still PPL, and strictly speaking, the term pay-per-lead can refer to any advertising priced by a type of conversion that can be tied to a digital identity. However, the idea of PPL is evolving beyond just display ads, thanks to social platforms.

How PPL Is Changing

Pay-per-lead started as a form of affiliate marketing, in which the advertiser pays the displayer by conversion. Over the last year, it has been transitioning from a model mostly used by advertiser networks and affiliate programs to a lead-generation option within native advertising networks on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Lead Ads

Facebook's Lead Ads tool allows advertisers to run ads that place highly customizable forms directly into the newsfeeds of people "likely to be interested in your business" (Facebook's words) based on categories you choose. You can explore how it works by clicking on Publishing Tools, then Lead Ad Forms.

When they tap your ad, the form is pre-populated with information that FB already has. Not only does this make people more likely to submit the form, but the data is more likely to be accurate (though users can always change the form info before they submit). This translates into good email deliverability and quality data for lead nurturing and personalization.

The data you gather can be easily synced with a number of CRMs, and developers can work directly with the Facebook API for custom solutions. The forms are optimized for mobile devices, and if you've implemented Facebook pixel on your website, lead ads can be shown to "people who are likely to sign up for information" and you'll also be able to measure the ROI (more info here).

One feature of Facebook Lead Ads that is a bit of a double-edged sword is that these ads let people take action without leaving Facebook. Users who are enjoying Facebook don't want to leave to go visit your website, and Facebook doesn't want them to leave either.

So while you won't get traffic right away (boo?), you also don't have to worry about creating landing pages (yay!). The fact that people won't be coming to your site immediately also means that you'll need to remind them of who you are and reinforce that relationship quickly with a follow-up email. Your email open and click rates can tell you if you're waiting too long.

Twitter Ads

Twitter also offers a form of pay per lead advertising. If you're already using Twitter Ads, all it should take is a few simple changes.

Within Twitter Ads, enable conversion tracking (if you haven't already). Then, create a new campaign, pick a type of engagement, and choose a cost-per-action bid. Instead of engagements or some other low-ROI action, choose "lead generation on Twitter."

Image of Twitter Ads Dashboard

Make sure you take advantage of Twitter's targeting by filling out every possible option in the "Select your audience" stage. You'll get the best quality leads by focusing your efforts as specifically as possible.

Picture of Twitter Lead Generation CardTwitter does offer Lead Generation Cards, which include an action directly in the tweet like Facebook's Lead Ads. However, some experts advise against them due to poor results, suggesting instead that you keep your ad looking as much like a regular tweet as possible. Be sure to test for yourself, because what works for one business may not work for another.

Either way, add an engaging photo or video and write concise copy that targets your buyer persona's main drive. Unlike Facebook, pay-per-lead Twitter Ads do redirect to a landing page, which is an opportunity to reinforce and expand on the content and tone of the tweet and increase your conversion rate.

How to Do Pay Per Lead Marketing

As you may have guessed, native ad tools within Facebook and Twitter are a great place to start. Leverage the posts that have already performed well on that platform, either by promoting an existing post or by modeling a new ad after your top-performing posts.

If you're looking for something a little more advanced, you may be able to find opportunities for traditional PPL display ads or affiliate networks. The key is that the ads need to be extremely well targeted, and they need to be placed on websites that deliver your exact buyer persona, like industry or lifestyle blogs. (Noah Kagan is one authority who has used this technique successfully).

As I mentioned before, the quick conversion makes it important to be memorable while you have their attention so they remember you later. With the original ad, target people who will have an emotional connection to what you're offering. This, like almost all marketing, works best when you're solving one of their most important problems or addressing a real fear or goal. Use an image or video that supports this message rather than just a pretty stock photo.

PPL ads also make automated workflows more important. Leads that made the decision to fill out a form more quickly may be less likely to remember doing so. Contact them right away to say something like, "Hey, we're glad you chose to get in touch! Here's what you can expect in the future." Depending on the type of ad, they may not have even visited your website, so you need to create an impression, lest your future emails be marked as spam.

There's a lot more you can do to make sure your PPL campaigns succeed, like A/B testing your messaging, buttons, and links to see what results in the you the best lead quality.

Above all, make sure that your PPL ads you reflect your buyer personas and sales funnelSince people are getting introduced to your brand at a later stage in the buyer's journey, it's extra-important that you meet their needs quickly and seamlessly!


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Emily Winsauer

Emily Winsauer

As VIEO's content director, Emily Winsauer was responsible for content strategy for VIEO and our clients for over 5 years. She recently moved to Seattle where she's still creating compelling content in her new role.

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