Let’s dive into what lead scoring is, how it works, and the ways it benefits your digital marketing program. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • What lead scoring is
  • How it can benefit your pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns
  • Tips to set up lead scoring
  • How it can improve paid search ROI

For most marketing initiatives, it takes a mix of time and multiple steps to achieve real results. 

But it’s also true that the less time it takes to start seeing success, the better and more quickly you can optimize and improve. 

That’s where lead scoring comes in. Essentially, lead scoring is the process of grading leads to gauge their potential value for your business by assigning them scores based on a variety of factors.

Think of lead scoring like filters in a dating app — except for potential customers rather than a partner. Why waste time chasing leads that aren’t right for you? 

Proper lead scoring allows you to filter your leads, find the best ones with the most potential, and focus your energy where it’s most likely to pay off.

For B2B and lead generation search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns in particular, experienced industry pros will tell you it’s crucial to know the value of the leads being generated. Plus, when you’re dealing with a high volume of leads, manually sorting through them can be time-consuming.

HawkSEM blog: PPC lead scoring

It’s key to be thoughtful about your sales funnel and the actions leads take that qualify them. (Image via Unsplash)

How does lead scoring work?

A lead scoring system assigns values to leads and then ranks them against one another. For this process, you can give scores based on various attributes and actions. 

This allows you to focus on leads that will generate the maximum revenue for your business with the least amount of effort — and in less time.

Scoring leads helps you better understand how certain keywords impact your conversions and, ultimately, the success of your PPC campaign overall. It works by assigning points based on actions a prospect takes, such as requesting a consultation or downloading a piece of content. 

Once a lead achieves a certain score, they can be considered a “hot lead.” From there, they can be routed to sales to nurture them down the sales funnel.

Simply put by BigCommerce, “the top benefits of companies that use lead scoring are a more measurable return on investment (ROI), an increased conversion rate, and higher sales productivity and effectiveness.”

How do I set up lead scoring?

Getting more than a couple of leads per week? Then it’s probably best to leverage a tool like Google Analytics to help you track keyword conversions. 

You or your marketing agency can connect this application to your customer relationship management (CRM) tool or marketing automation platform (MAP). This will allow you to begin scoring leads based on behaviors and actions the new contact or prospect has taken.

As Salesforce explains, improper setup can result in “poor conversion rates and sales funnel dropouts, or customers who stop considering your company for the product or service they want to buy.” That’s why it’s key to be thoughtful about your sales funnel and the actions leads take that qualify them.

Companies with access to a large amount of lead data can explore predictive lead scoring. This process uses algorithms to comb through past customer data and current lead data to find patterns. 

Traditional lead scoring can be more subjective, since your team lists the criteria they think are relevant and a point system to rank them. Predictive lead scoring, on the other hand, is data-driven and can find patterns that may otherwise be overlooked.

What factors should be taken into account with lead scoring?

It may be a process of trial and error to figure out the best lead scoring type, model, and metrics for your business. One of the best practices to improve lead quality is to consider different score thresholds for different products or services if you offer a variety.

You also may want to add negative score options to easily disqualify people like existing customers or job-seekers. Generally, good leads will fit three basic criteria.

Main criteria for good or “hot” leads:

  • Match your target audience or ideal customer persona
  • Show interest in your product or service
  • Be qualified to purchase

Furthermore, there are many ways to gauge each criterion.

Ideal customer persona match

Every business should develop a good understanding of their target audience. 

To start, find similarities between your current customers and ask them questions about themselves to find trends. This information can help you create your ideal client persona.

Helpful demographic data could include:

  • Age range
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Marital status
  • Parental status
  • Job title
  • Income
  • Household size

You may also want to include product or service-specific metrics. For example, a toy company might target parents. However, parents of children in college probably aren’t a good fit. 


A potential customer may signal buyer intent or interest in a number of different ways. Interest indicators might look like:

  • Multiple site visits
  • Longer time spent on a page
  • Scrolling down to the bottom of a page
  • Visiting multiple pages
  • Downloading a resource
  • Contacting your team
  • Requesting more information
  • Requesting a demo
  • Providing their email address
person typing on a laptop

Implementing lead scoring using up-to-date best practices can be an effective way to have your sales and marketing teams working together better and more efficiently. (Image via Unsplash)

Additional lead scoring tips

Get granular

You can get more granular by weighing things like different pages and pieces of content differently. For example, a case study, white paper, or service page may be worth more points than an evergreen guide or your homepage.

Every indicator can be broken down into more specific criteria for more accurate scoring. For example, multiple site visits are good. 

However, multiple visits within the same week is clearly a better indicator of serious interest than visiting once a year three years in a row. A lead can be given a higher score the closer together their visits are.

Plus, not all pages are created equally. If someone visits a toy company’s site to read a blog post about early childhood development stages, they may not be showing interest in their products, just that specific topic. 

Reading a blog post about the best gift to get a 1-year-old baby, on the other hand, is a great indicator of interest in buying a product. Leads can be scored differently depending on page relevance.

Remember, not all indicators are good

You can also have positive and negative scoring. A perfect example is joining your email list. 

Leads on your email list can get points just for joining. However, every email they open can also be worth points with the number of emails opened in a row raising their score even higher. Meanwhile, each lead that doesn’t open an email can earn negative points with each unopened email in a row lowering their score further.

Which emails they open can also help. Using the toy company example again, if a lead only opens emails on tangential topics, like childhood behavior, never opening product-specific emails, that could strongly indicate a lack of purchase interest. 

Clearly, scoring actions too broadly — like giving points for page visits without considering the page type, dwell time, and actions on-page — can easily lead to falsely inflated scores.

How does lead scoring create a more ROI-driven PPC strategy?

An ROI-driven PPC strategy is one that has been developed to produce revenue. By being strategic and iterating based on what’s working and what’s not, you can be poised for serious results.

Along with scoring leads, other important elements of launching an ROI-driven PPC strategy include:

  • Doing customer research
  • Writing strong ads
  • Creating optimized landing pages
  • Having eye-catching CTAs
  • Leveraging ad extensions
  • Targeting revenue-producing keywords
  • Having consistent messaging from ad copy to landing page
  • Tracking metrics

Does lead scoring make sense for longer sales cycles?

We know that a longer sales cycle means it can take a longer time to see results. Lead scoring is still important for these campaign types because you need to understand each lead’s value along the sales cycle.

This falls under the low-hanging fruit theory of easy wins. By scoring leads, you’ll know which prospects are closer to a sale and which are further away. This info will help you better prioritize where to put your efforts as the cycle moves along.

How often should I revisit my lead scoring metrics?

Scoring leads is a great way to ensure your sales and marketing teams are aligned. With that in mind, it’s a good idea for marketing team members to periodically check in with the sales department to see which types of leads are closing most often. 

This will ensure that the lead scoring parameters you have in place are as accurate as possible. You want to have enough time to accrue significant data that you can analyze properly, so aiming to do one of these check-ins a few times a year is usually sufficient. 

The takeaway

Forget hot leads falling through the cracks or wasting time following up on unqualified or uninterested prospects. 

Implementing lead scoring using up-to-date best practices can be an effective way to have your sales and marketing teams working together better and more efficiently. 

While it may take some tweaking to find the exact right method of lead scoring for your business, the time and investment are sure to be worth it once you see more leads becoming closed deals.  

This post has been updated and was originally published in August 2014.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's senior content marketing manager. Through more than a decade of professional writing and editing experience, she creates SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of reading, yoga, new vegetarian recipes, and paper planners.