How To Use Google Analytics To Improve PPC Performance: Part I

Running effective PPC campaigns in B2B markets is a competitive task that can be extremely expensive. That’s why it is so important for search marketers to run efficient campaigns that create maximum value for those high-cost clicks. So what can you do to be more competitive and increase ROI, even as these tough economic times are shredding your budgets?

Measurement. Better yet, effective measurement. Because, as we all know, you can’t improve what you don’t accurately measure.

If you’re like most search marketers, you’ve often wished for more insight into your campaigns than what AdWords alone can provide. You may also be looking for a ‘one-stop’ place to analyze all of your PPC data from all engines and efforts. Recent upgrades and enhancements to Google Analytics make both possible.

While those of us who rely heavily on Google Analytics (GA) are still getting up to speed on the new features released in October, it is important to get back to GA 101 and look at the features that can really give you the most bang for your PPC buck.

In this article, I’ll present four steps to improve PPC performance by using Google Analytics:

  1. Linking your AdWords account to your GA account
  2. Setting up your GA dashboard
  3. Setting up GA goals
  4. Four fundamental GA reports to help you manage your campaigns

Before we continue, there are some assumptions and necessary steps for success. Most important, however, is that GA has been properly installed on the website pages that you are tracking. If you are unsure about this, please stop here and read this.

Another assumption is that you have used the GA URL Builder, or compatible application, to build your keywords for the other engines. More information on this is available within Google Analytics support documentation.

Linking your AdWords account to your GA account

The biggest benefit to using Google Analytics to measure you PPC efforts is its ability to have all of your data in one place. Linking your AdWords account to GA brings all of your PPC data to a single, customizable repository you can use for measurement and reporting.

Before you link your account, ensure that you’ve used the same Google Account email address for both your Analytics and AdWords account, and that the AdWords login email address has Admin access on the Analytics account. If you haven’t used the same Google Account, simply add your AdWords login email address to your Analytics account as an Account Admin.

  • Go to Reporting>Google Analytics
  • If you already have an Analytics account, click I already have a Google Analytics account
  • From the Existing Google Analytics Account drop-down list, select the name of the Analytics account you’d like to link to
  • Click Link Account
  • Next time you log in to AdWords, go to  Reporting>Google Analytics and you should be linked up

Setting up your GA Dashboard

One of the greatest strengths of GA is the ability to customize your initial screen or dashboard view to display data that is most important to you every time you log in.

All GA reports have an “Add to Dashboard” icon in the upper left side of the screen. If you have a report that you use daily/monthly, click this button to add it to your front-page dashboard for easier access. The four fundamental reports that we will review should definitely be part of your GA Dashboard.

Setting up GA goals

As I said earlier, you can’t improve what you don’t accurately measure. And you can’t accurately measure your PPC performance without clearly defined goals or metrics for success. There are many factors that go into creating goals. You should consider the following issues when setting goals:

  • Did you or the client help with these goals?
  • Match types/Case Sensitive. Are they working?
  • What are your conversion goals for the site?
  • Do you have a good idea of what the user is doing while on your site to get to that goal?

Google Analytics is most powerful when you are tracking these additional steps as well as the goal itself. Be sure to get buy-in from your client or your boss before creating these goals. What you think is a good goal may not be right for them. You all need to be on the same page to prove the success of your campaigns.

Creating reports to measure success

The Google Analytics interface is full of pretty charts and graphs that can be intimidating to even the most seasoned search marketers. To turn that stream of data into useful and actionable information, you must create reports that give you the information you need when you need it. They can be canned GA reports or custom reports you create yourself. Either way, these reports will give you the ability to extract and present your successes and show you where there is room for improvement.

In Part two of this step by step guide, I will discuss four fundamental GA Reports to help you manage your campaigns.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: B2B Search Marketing Column | Channel: SEM | How To: PPC


About The Author: is an Account Director at SmartSearch Marketing, a Boulder, Colorado-based search engine marketing agency. Sami has extensive experience in comprehensive marketing analysis across all online marketing media, including paid search, affiliate programs, organic optimization and email marketing for both B2C and B2B clients.

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  • Maggie@losasso

    I can definitely attest to the usefulness of Google Analytics! We have it linked to Adwords for all of our PPC campaigns and it makes measurement and tracking extremely efficient. I would recommend it for anyone tracking a PPC campaign

  • Julien G

    Very interesting post ! I am waiting for the part II for more info, but have a question too.

    With the new features update in October, you can now use your GA goals instead of integrating the Adwords conversation tracking code in your pages. Someone has tested it ? How relevant it is ?

  • martijnvanvreeden

    Great article about an interesting topic! The Adwords data by itself seems extremely limited to me, so GA data should complement it. I look forward to Part 2!

    @ Julien: I have tried to improt the goals. Easy as 1,2,3. It is useful, but keep in mind that the conversions are added to the Adwords interface with a delay of about 3 days.

  • NigelBurke

    All marketing should be tracked and Google makes it so easy to integrate the two of these together to create the perfect ad tracking setup.


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