The Holy Grail for any self-respecting AdWords campaign manager must be confirmation that the ad positions they are targeting with their AdWords campaigns provide the best possible return on ad spend (RoAS). Having an answer (based on concrete data) when a client/boss/sales manager/curious business partner inevitably questions your carefully crafted position/bid strategy, is surely gold-dust to all online marketers.
That’s why it always comes as a surprise when I come across Google Analytics users who aren’t aware that this knowledge is at their fingertips. It may be because in the past, ad position reports were only available at keyword level and one had to check every keyword individually and interpret a qualitative view at the campaign level, a truly time-consuming process and resulting, ultimately in a ropey set of data. Now with a combination of custom reports, advanced segments and pivot tables, Google has blown the door open on this and a meaningful analysis at multiple levels is possible and, (gasp!) easy to do.
Below, the process and the path to ultimate AdWords enlightenment. On a less dramatic note, it should also serve as a good introduction to the Google Analytics custom reports feature for the uninitiated.
Building a custom report
This brief tutorial is for anyone who hasn’t had a chance to play around with custom reports in Google Analytics yet. If you’re already familiar, skip this and pick up my shared custom report link at the top of the next section.
If you haven’t played with custom reports yet, you really should. There’s a good chance you can condense two or three of the standard reports you faithfully schedule and manipulate every week into one custom report and even add some analysis you didn’t know was possible.
1) Click on the custom reporting tab on the left hand menu (this should have an eye-catching red “beta” stamp next to it).
2) Choose and drag your chief dimension from the menu on the left hand-side. This is the area you are wishing to scrutinize—for example, campaign, medium, source or even hour of day.
3) If required, choose which dimensions to zoom in or “drilldown” into following your chief dimension.
4) Pick the metrics you want to look at.
Once you’ve mastered this, you can start to look at adding multiple tabs to your custom reports. Over time you should be able to build one report to show the metrics and dimensions you wish to look at weekly or monthly and deal with one report instead of many.
Applying the report
Thanks to the excellent new feature which allows sharing of customizations such as custom reports and advanced segments, you can Click this link and save the custom report which I have created, to your profile/s. Or you can follow the below format and alter the metrics to suit your KPIs. In fact, while you’re there, why not play around with the order of the dimensions, just to see what happens?
Once you have this report saved in the “my customizations” section, simply apply it and get started, the report you have should look something like this:
You will now have the ad positions (1-12) down the left hand side of your table and the metrics in columns to the right. If you have chosen to set your custom report exactly as I did then you are essentially looking at account level data.
At this point I strongly recommend that you delve down further into your AdWords account, either to campaign or ad group level. The best way of doing this is to pivot! Use the pivot table by clicking on the icon that looks a bit like an old graphic equalizer just to the right of the pie chart symbol. Pivot either by ad group or campaign and add in the metrics you want to see.
Then, voila! You have confirmation that each of your AdWords campaigns is targeting the right position—hopefully.
Interpreting the data: it’s simple really
I enjoyed Evan Lapointe’s recent discussion on whether web analytics is easy or hard to do. The comment drawn by this article is testament to the fact that it clearly is a contentious and unresolved issue. For my part, I would have to say that web analytics doesn’t have to be hard. This report is a great example of how you can get some really useful and actionable data without needing to be a statistics graduate. The metrics are calculated for you and the relationship between ad position and (for example) conversion rate is there to see.
This report shows that imagination, common sense and thoroughness are all you need to get started. I would argue it took some imagination to come up with the idea and common sense requires that I ensure there is enough data there from which to make a well-informed decision. Finally being thorough means not taking the initial findings at face value, pushing further into a sub-dimension or pivot table.
A note on thoroughness
This final point is a key one. We’re using the above analysis to make some fairly important decisions about our AdWords campaigns. With that in mind, we have to be extra careful about the validity of the data we are working with. It’s worth thinking about the structure and characteristics of your different AdWords campaigns and ad groups. What is right for one campaign/ad group/ keyword might not be for others.
In the above illustration, if we were to take the first report we generated at face value it may lead us to the conclusion that position one is the most efficient for us to be in. Acting on this decision may have lead to a serious drop in performance. Using the pivot table to drill down we see that the brand terms for this account are showing predominantly in position one and are effectively skewing the data set at account level. Suddenly position one becomes a less attractive proposition!
All I ever want to end on are some words of encouragement: give this a try, think about the results you are seeing and then, go and make the required changes. Repeat after me; analyze, act, monitor, analyze, act, monitor, repeat.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.