Don’t Pause that Keyword Until You’ve Analyzed These 4 Metrics

This is a guest post by JD Prater, Head of Customer Acquisition at AdStage.

Larry Kim wrote that 98% of your keywords are essentially useless, because they weren’t earning impressions. His basic premise is to try keywords for a month or two, but then clean up your account and get rid of the ones that aren’t working (i.e. not earning impressions).

Besides not earning impressions, how else do you know when to pause a keyword?

Is it the last of conversions? Is a gut feeling that it’s not working? I’m sure we’re all guilty of pausing keywords without having all the data points in front of us to support our decision, but we do it anyway. We review conversions and/or cost per conversion and make a snap judgment right there to pause that keyword.

We quietly justify our decision to ourselves that we’re doing the right thing, because that keyword just wasn’t performing up to our account standards.

But are we really reviewing the right metrics to make that decision?

In this post, I’ll reveal four pivotal metrics to analyze outside of conversions, conversion rate, and cost per conversion.

1. Click Assisted Conversions

Click-assisted conversions are the total number of conversions for which a specific keyword, ad, ad group, or campaign contributed one or more assist clicks. This statistic reflects only Google Search Network activity for 30 days prior to a conversion. To view this data, you must be using conversion tracking and have at least one active conversion.

Why is this metric so important to review? It’s showing you that this keyword is part of a bigger buyer journey, but it’s not the closer. In a last-click attribution model, this keyword is somewhere in the middle of the journey helping the user get closer to final completing the desired conversion.

For example, it may be someone coming in from a non-branded keyword and assisting that person to then convert on a branded keyword search a few days later. I see this all the time when analyzing my Top Conversion Paths in Google Analytics.

To locate and add this metric in AdWords, head over to your keywords tab and click on columns -> modify columns. From here scroll down to Attribution and find “click assisted conv.”

Example #1

Now you’ll be able to see how this keyword is impacting and contributing to the buyer’s journey. Here’s an example for a non-branded keyword getting 17 conversions plus 4 click assisted conversions that happened down the road.

Example #2

Most people wouldn’t pause this keyword due to its contribution to several conversions anyway. However, what would you do in this example?

Here, we have a keyword that has zero conversions during the same time period. I’m guessing most account managers would have paused it in the name of “cutting waste” or “making the most of my budget.” However, I would argue that 26 assisted conversions is huge and by pausing this keyword you would have drastically hurt your account performance. You even miss out on those down-the-funnel conversions, because of the lack of assists.

Remember to check in on click assisted conversions before pausing as it may just save your performance.

2. Impression-Assisted Conversions

Impression assisted conversions is the total number of conversions that this keyword, ad, ad group, or campaign assisted with an impression before the last click. This metric lets you see how many conversions each keyword, ad group, or campaign assisted with an impression. This statistic reflects only Google Search Network activity for 30 days prior to a conversion. To view this data, you must be using conversion tracking and have at least one active conversion over the last 30 days.

Essentially, impression assisted conversions are the total conversions for which the ad appeared but did not trigger a click. Similar to click assisted, we have impression assisted conversions. Now this one is a little bit more tricky, but still important to consider before pausing that keyword.

Add this column by following the same steps from above, but this time add “Impr. assisted conv.” as a column.

Now let’s look at the same keyword from Example #1. We still have the 17 conversions and 4 click assisted conversions, and now we can see 11 impression assisted conversions. Wow! This keyword aided in another 11 conversions for users.

In Example #2, we can see that we had 0 conversions, 26 click assisted conversions, and 24 impression assisted conversions.

3. Avg Session Duration

Average session duration can be used to measure visitor quality. These numbers are imported from your Google Analytics account(s) and are calculated based only on sessions that originated from AdWords clicks.

This column will show the average amount of time in seconds from people who searched your keyword and clicked through to the website from your ad.

To get there, navigate over to the columns, scroll down to Google Analytics and add Avg session duration (seconds).  

What’s importance of this metric? Marketers need to understand what happens post-click on the website based on a search query to make better decisions. This data can help you get deeper insights and look past the lack of conversions and consider other factors like the landing page or ad copy.

Let’s review example #1 again. We can see this keyword has an average time on site of 114 seconds. That’s almost two full minutes on the website. When reviewed in this light we can see that it’s providing highly relevant traffic to our site that is not just leaving after a few seconds. Now this may be obvious as we also have a 15% conversion rate for a non-branded keyword.

However, In example #2, where we don’t have any last click conversions, we can see that users are spending over two minutes on the landing page and/or website.

Based on this data, you could start investigating landing pages as they may not have a strong call-to-action. Or users may not understand your offer and are therefore not converting. Another possibility might be this keyword is higher in the funnel for people conducting research rather than purchasing.

Either way, don’t blame the keyword just because there aren’t any conversions. 124 seconds on the website shows this keyword is driving relevant traffic who are spending time on the website learning more about the product. Before you pause i,t consider what’s happening post-click.

4. Bounce Rate

Bounce Rate is the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page. These numbers are imported from your Google Analytics account(s) and are calculated based only on visits that originated from AdWords clicks.

This is an important metric to review, because it may not be your keywords’ fault that performance is lackluster. It may mean your landing page is bad or mobile performance isn’t optimized well.

Follow the steps in the above example to get to the bounce rate column into your AdWords interface and begin analyzing.

Review keywords systematically looking for high bounce rates or higher than average rates. In above example, the average is 35.73% so I might try to filter out bounce rates below 40% and focus my time on the remaining keywords.

This will be a good place to drill down on the problem. Then take some to review your ad copy and landing pages to determine if they could be improved before pausing the keyword.


Often, the last click before a conversion gets all the credit. But along the way, other clicks and impressions might have guided your customers toward that conversion. In the end, don’t jump to conclusions when determining whether to pause a keyword.

Do your research and understand the full impact of a keyword on the buyer journey. You won’t be disappointed.

What metrics do you review when determining whether or not to pause a keyword?

About the Author:

JD is the Head of Customer Acquisition at AdStage. He’s a savvy marketer, digital strategist, and avid cyclist. A stereotypical coffee snob and recovering Coloradan, he’s a creative thinker who sees the big picture but loves getting lost in the details.