As Autobytel expanded its business, it became clear that we needed to place a much greater emphasis on PPC. We needed a way to measure the performance of all of our traffic sources as well as multiple revenue streams (leads and advertising). Recognizing this need, I laid out the business case for a new division within Autobytel specializing in lead generation and revenue tracking.
I was given the green light and assembled my team of SEM and SEO analysts as well as a dedicated development team to pull everything together.
The first hurdle was to create a flexible tracking code system that wasn't overly burdomsome on the database, but was flexible enough to handle paid search, email, banner and affiliate marketing. Without getting too deep in the weeds, we came up with a modular tracking system that allowed us to measure at varous levels of granularity.
Once we had the tracking in place, it was time to develop an algorithm for bidding. We knew there was no way for a human to keep up with bidding over a half million keywords, so we wanted to develop a system that would manage bidding by a set of straightforward rules. After a couple of false starts, I came up with a deceptively simple algorithm after a late-night epiphany. We manually bid our top 20 keywords to this algorithm over the next week and were shocked by the results.
Black Condor was ultimately rolled out to track every source of revenue on our site from every source of traffic: Paid, natural, affiliate, partner, advertising, etc. Every source of revenue for our family of web sites ultimately made a trip through Black Condor and came out the other side with in-depth reporting on revenue broken down with more granularity than you can imagine. We could answer questions such as "How many used cars did we sell from our traffic partner ESPN?" or "How much ad revenue was driven from our recent Ford Mustang review?" Ultimately, the tail began wagging the dog, and Black Condor was able to tell us how to grow our business, and what type of content we should release in order to generate a specific type of revenue. Black Condor was even able to customize landing pages on-the-fly to generate the specific type of revenue we were lacking at that moment.
We were able to grow the number of keywords that we were managing from about 15,000 to over a half million. Every word was bid daily on Google and hourly on Yahoo. ROI went from marginal to over 65%, leading to a gross annual profit of over $8 million. Additionally, Black Condor was used to optimize our other partnerships, generate up-front ad estimates and evaluate overall content effectiveness.