The 6/90 Rule: 6 Reports Contain 90% Of Actionable AdWords Insights

Google offers numerous AdWords reports that allow you to view more data than most people have time to analyze. One of the tricks to working with PPC is to determine what data you need to look at every day or week, and then determine what data is useful to analyze when improving your AdWords account.

There are six reports that, when used effectively, can give you the majority of insight you need to analyze your accounts on a day-to-day basis. In part 1 of this two-part series, I’ll take you through these reports to find insight into your accounts. In part two, I’ll take an in-depth look at the keyword report to create actionable items from the data.

While these reports are easy to run they are most effective when combined with the AdWords conversion tracking script. This is a different feature than what you find in Google Analytics. The conversion tracking script sends data from your website back to AdWords so that you can see conversion information in your AdWords reports. In walking through these reports, I’ll make the assumption that you are using this script. If you are not, then you can still use these reports; however, you should marry up the data with the analytics package you are using to track conversions to get a complete picture of what’s going on.

The keyword report

The AdWords keyword report should be your starting place for analyzing keyword data. This report shows metrics by individual keywords within your account. For instance, the main data points to examine when reviewing information by keyword are:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • CTR
  • Conversions
  • Cost per conversion
  • Conversion rate
  • Value per click

There are three main uses of this report:

  1. Set bids based upon cost per conversion or other metrics with your established bid methodology
  2. Find low quality score keywords with high spends so you can optimize for quality score (note: it can be useful to use a pivot table to find AdGroups with high spend and low quality scores. See Josh Dreller’s In The Trenches column about mastering pivot tables for more info).
  3. Find keywords that are not on page one (where the first page bid is higher than your max CPC). Remember, though, that just because your keyword is not on page one does not mean you should raise your bid to be on page one. If you cannot be profitable on page one, then you need to decide if this is a word that can be on page two; if not, you need to optimize the landing page, ad text, or other factors for this keyword before you raise your bid to be on page one.

In part two of this article, I’ll take a deep dive into the keyword report to show various ways of working with the data it produces.

The search query report

The search query report will show you the query that was actually typed into a search engine that caused your ad to be displayed. For instance, if you bid on the broad match “coffee mugs,” your ad could show for “yellow coffee cups,” “blue coffee mug” or possibly even “tea cup.”

Use the search query report to find words that are not converting yet are consuming your ad-spend dollars. When you find such words add them as negative keywords.

Then use the report to find words that are converting and are not keywords in your account—consider these to be Google’s gift to you to help you improve the overall importance of your campaign. Add these words as keywords so that you can bid on these words based upon their actual returns. Remember, your broad match keywords will never convert higher than your exact match keywords.

When you conduct keyword research, you should always consult the search query report as part of your keyword expansion methodology.

The placement performance report

The placement performance report is only useful if you’re advertising on the content network. It shows you the sites and individual URLs where your content ads have been placed. The first time you run this report, include the actual URLs where your ad has been shown. Click on the URLs and look at the actual pages where your ads have been shown. If your ad is not being placed on the correct types of pages, then you should examine the keywords triggering your content ads.

If the ads are being placed on appropriate pages, run the same placement performance report again, but do not include individual URLs. By excluding the individual URLs, it is easier to gain high level perspective on how each web site where your ads are being displayed is performing for your business. Alternatively, you can also use a pivot table to examine the domain level information from a report that includes URLs. When you find a site that is bringing you high quality traffic that meets your business goals, add it as a placement targeted site so your ad is always shown there. When you find sites that are costing your money, but the traffic is not meeting your goals, then block the site from showing your ads in the future.

The entire work-flow process for managing content sites can be found in this Search Engine Land article.

The ad text report

The ad text report will show you all the ads that your are using along with associated metrics such as cost-per-conversion or clickthrough rate. Use this report when running any ad copy tests.

In addition, run this report on occasion to find ads that are performing below the averages for your account. Then go to those ad groups and write new ads to test which ones perform better. As you can have multiple ads running in any ad group, you should continuously be testing various ad copy. In addition, if one ad suddenly gets disapproved, you will have at least one more ad running so you will still maintain exposure in those ad groups while you fix the issue.

While most PPC marketers are always looking at text ads, do not forget your video or image ads. Use this same report to see the metrics for your other ad types. If you are running video ads, then you should be uploading multiple static images (with the same video) to see which opening image has a higher play rate, clickthrough rate, and cost-per-conversion.

The URL performance report is similar to the ad text report. It will show you where ad traffic is sending searchers on your website, and the associated cost-per-conversion and other metrics for that landing page. Analyze the URL report just like the ad text report. Find landing pages that are not meeting your goals, and test different landing pages and landing page layouts.

The geographic performance report

This is one of the more overlooked reports in AdWords. This report will give you information about where your ads are being shown and the associated metrics by geography. Even if you are a national advertiser, it can be beneficial to write ads for specific local areas.

One of the quality score metrics is clickthrough rate in a geographic region. If your ads do well in San Francisco, but poorly in New York City, then your ad will be shown more in San Francisco and less in New York City. As the New York City metro area makes up more than 10% of the entire United States population, a lack of exposure in that geography can significantly lower your total consumer base.

In the report, look for regions where you are not doing well and that have significant populations. It’s easy to overlay percentage of population data with the report to spot these regions. For instance, create a chart that shows:

  • The regions where your ad is displayed
  • The percentage of impressions and clicks you receive from that region
  • The percentage of the population that lives within that region

Always take other factors into account when examining population data in isolation. For instance, say you have a physical location in Miami and your ads are not doing well in either city. It’s likely more worthwhile to work on getting your ads to perform better in your local market, Miami, before spending time tweaking your Los Angeles campaign, even through Los Angeles has a much higher population.

When you find underperforming regions, and those regions have a high enough population that you are willing to create a campaign just for that region, follow these steps:

  • In your original campaign, exclude your ads from being shown in the new geographic area that you want to target
  • Duplicate the existing campaign with the AdWords editor, and then change the geographic area to be the new region
  • Write ads that are compelling for that region

If the region is not large enough for you to create a specific campaign for a region, conduct keyword research to see if consumers are using location specific words (such as Los Angeles plumber) in their search queries. If they are you can create an ad group that uses geographic keywords with associated geographic ad copy.

The impression share “report”

Technically, there is not an impression share report. The impression share report is an unofficial name that advertisers have given this report. To see impression share data, you need to run a campaign report, and in the reporting options select these options:

  • Impression share
  • Lost IS (rank)
  • Lost IS (budget)
  • Exact Match (IS)

Once you have the report, you will see how many impressions you are losing and why you are losing impressions.


If you are losing impression due to budget, then you can easily determine how many more impressions you would receive if your increased your budget. This is very useful for determining what your account could spend based on the current keywords in your account. If you are losing impressions due to rank, then you need to improve either the bids or the quality score to receive higher placement so these ads are shown.

Setting an AdWords reporting schedule

There is more information available in AdWords reports than you could ever hope to analyze and take action upon within any day. To cope with information overload, first define your business goals. Next, define what metrics will give you insight into attaining those business goals. Once you have defined those two items, then run the AdWords reports which will help you gain insight into those goals so that you can find areas where you need to improve your account.

Then create a reporting schedule based upon when you want to see and act upon the data. You can set AdWords report to be automatically created and emailed to you on a daily, weekly (Monday), or monthly (first day of every month) schedule. If those options do not meet your needs use your calendar to remind you to create reports.

Here’s a recommended schedule that’s easy to work with—though remember, based on your goals, budget and time, your schedule might differ tremendously.

Keyword report:

  • Daily – examine changes in cost per conversion, conversion rate, and total conversions.
  • Every Monday – examine changes in quality score, find areas of low quality score, work on improving your quality score.
  • Every Monday (or daily for large account, highly competitive industries, or volatile bidding environments) – examine keywords not on page one.

Search query report: Every other Tuesday. Conduct additional keyword and negative keyword research.

Placement performance report:

  • Every Wednesday. Examine changes in cost per conversion, conversion rate, and total conversions for bid changes purposes.
  • Every other Wednesday: Examine sites you wish to block or add as placements.

Ad text report /URL report:

  • Every Thursday. Finalize tests or create new text ads.
  • Every Friday. Finalize landing page tests, create new landing pages, create new landing page tests.

Geographic performance report: Once a month (assuming you are not a regional specific business, then weekly might be more appropriate).

Impression share: Once a month (weekly or daily during high peak seasons) to help create next month’s strategy of how to improve your account.

Always conduct in-depth audits beyond these reports and use the other reports and tools as necessary. Google offers a tremendous amount of data that you can extract from your account. While these six reports will not give you every detail you will ever need to optimize your account, these six reports will give you 90% of the data necessary to improve your account’s performance.

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

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Paid Search Column


About The Author: is the Founder of Certified Knowledge, a company dedicated to PPC education & training; fficial Google AdWords Seminar Leader, and author of Advanced Google AdWords.

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  • Tim Cohn

    Nice overview of Google Adwords reports particularly about Quality Score’s impact on an ads distribution.


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