My 4 Favorite Google Analytics Reports for PPC Optimization

Google AnalyticsAs a search marketer, we’re constantly reviewing and optimizing campaigns to improve performance. But at times we can get a bit myopic and focus only on the performance found in the advertising platforms themselves. In an effort to broaden some horizons and refresh those others who’ve travelled there before, I’m going to share my four favorite ways to use Google Analytics to help optimize my PPC performance.

Top Conversion Paths

I’m a big fan of top conversion paths as they give a visual representation of the route users took to convert on your site. Depending on the parameters you choose, you can easily see source, medium, campaign, or even keyword path users took to finally convert on your site.

My favorite way to use this section actually isn’t one of the preset channel groupings. I’ve become a huge fan of using this to show how users flow through my specific efforts and different campaign types. To accomplish this, I simply create a custom Channel Grouping following a basic set of “and/or” statements. Here’s what a sample group looks like for one of my smaller ecom clients.

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The data then looks like this when I choose my custom channel group.

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Again, since this is a small ecom client, there aren’t a ton of ways people return to the site, but with some larger clients, specifically large purchase lead gen, you can start to get anywhere from 3 to 10 interactions before a purchase. The challenge is to take note from the path users take and look to craft your messaging to cut out steps in the process.

Custom Reports

Granted this isn’t so much a report as it is a custom template for your own report. For my ecom clients specifically, I’ve found this to be an amazing tool to allow me to see all relevant stats from impressions and clicks to revenue and ROAS all in one screen.

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Here you can plug and play nearly any metric in GA as well as filter for only your paid traffic whether through source/medium or just medium. Unfortunately GA won’t pull in Bing performance stats (clicks, impressions, cost, etc.) but I’ve found using Sessions in addition to clicks gives you a close approximation and gives your Bing revenue data a frame of reference.

Attribution Models

One big point of irritation in PPC reporting is that Google Analytics and Google AdWords do not track conversions the same way. AdWords counts conversions on a first click basis where Analytics opts for last click. For those of you who aren’t aware, this is why your conversion numbers almost never look the same between the two platforms. The Model Comparison Tool now helps to bridge that gap.

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This tool allows you to compare a plethora of models to see how each impacts your stats. Everything from first to last click as well as linear, time decay, etc. are available as well as an option to create a custom model of your choosing. These reports can be especially helpful when deciding the fate of a keyword in your accounts. Just because the stats in AdWords/Bing look shaky, that doesn’t mean it’s not having an impact. Check different attribution models on high volume keywords to make sure you’re not cutting out assisted conversions by pausing based on stats in AdWords or Bing alone.

Note: Attribution models can be great tools to see how your efforts are impacting sales from many different viewpoints but be sure you’re counting your efforts the same as all other channels are. Each time you adjust your modeling to improve your stats, you’re taking credit away from another channel. If the same model is not then used in that channel, you could be double counting sales.

Acquisition > Channels

Heading back to a bit of the basics for the last report here, but I still find it amazingly valuable when determining if you’re showing your audience what they want to see. Under the basic channel reports, Paid Search is a preset choice. Once you drill into that, you can choose just about any primary and second dimension pieces to be able to see any aspect of your accounts.

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The biggest value I find in this report is the Behavior section outlining Bounce Rate, Pages / Session, and Avg Session Duration. Conversions and revenue notwithstanding, these on site behavior stats can inform whether or not you’re showing your customers what they’re looking for or if they’re a good match for your products to begin with. High bounce rates might be an indicator that you’re not finding your target audience. It might be a good time to revisit your keyword list or targeting settings. High pages / session numbers, unless coupled with high revenue or shopping cart numbers, could mean that customers are having a hard time finding what they’re looking for on your site. You might want to choose different landing pages or think about site reorganization.

What ways do you use Google Analytics to help improve your PPC performance?

Comments (3)

  1. Isn’t it the other way around: Adwords counts the last click as a conversion , while GA counts the first?

  2. Hi Pieter, you’re partially correct. According to Google, AdWords will attribute a transaction/goal to the last AdWords click, but Google Analytics will attribute it to the last click directly before the conversion including all channels, not just one.

    The key difference, and the point I was trying to make, is that AdWords will always attribute the sale to themselves as long as it happens in the cookie window whereas Google Analytics will attribute the sale to the last source/medium combo the visitor chose to get to the site before the conversion. The two numbers rarely match up even though your sale volume hasn’t changed. Does that help?

  3. Hi Michelle – I’m still a little confused here. About how GA attributes the sale. You said the last source/medium combo the visitor chose to get to the site before the conversion. Does that mean that the sale may have not even come from Adwords then? Thanks!

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