Once Upon a Time: How PPC Numbers Tell Stories

Mayanks Numbers Post
Mayank Mathur
October 20, 2016

If you had told me a couple of years ago that numbers could tell a story, I would’ve laughed…and questioned your sanity. In all seriousness, over the past few years, I’ve found myself being humbled by numbers. And during my time at Perfect Search Media, I have finally accepted and understood the power of raw data. 

In the years prior to my epiphany, something about the finality and the transparency of numbers always ticked me off. Unlike the written or spoken word, you can’t really play around with numbers. It is what it is and there are no gray areas when looking at data…or so I thought. 

Now that I’m in Google AdWords daily and working on tasks centered on data analysis, I’ve realized how an analyst, or anyone for that matter, can use data and numbers to draw useful insights and optimize performance.


Numbers aren’t just numbers

For anyone familiar with digital marketing, it’s easy to describe certain metrics and know when to use them in each situation. For example, when you look at click-through rate, you’re looking at the power of a keyword, an ad, or a campaign to drive traffic to your website.

Conversions (such as purchases, email signups, form submissions, and so on) are used to look at what happens after the traffic has been driven. Are your landing pages and ads effective enough to make use of incoming traffic?

Finally, cost per conversion is used to measure efficiency. How much of your budget are you spending to gain more customers, and is it worth it?

It’s easy to know what a certain term means—but what’s more important than understanding the individual importance of these metrics is knowing how they complement each other.

By trial and error, I’ve learned that focusing on a single metric could ultimately prove fatal (well not really, you’ll still survive). Adding context to a metric in the form of another metric is not only beneficial — it is necessary.


How you can craft a story from your own paid advertising efforts

Let’s say your digital account analyst is showing you AdWords data to help you analyze how the campaigns in your account are performing. Say that your main goal is to optimize efficiency, or lower the dollar amount or cost you pay per conversion, without compromising on your campaigns’ ability to bring in traffic and conversions.

Before diving into the ad group and keyword data, it’s always useful to broaden your perspective and see how the account is performing on a campaign level.

Aha! Your analyst points out that one campaign has the highest click-through rate by a significant margin and therefore. You think that this campaign must be better at driving traffic than the rest.

However, it is important to note that click-through rate tells only one part of the whole story. Driving traffic is important, but what is as important, if not more, is converting that traffic.


 Click to enlarge

In the situation above, the campaign with the highest clicks is the “Brand” campaign. As it turns out, this campaign drives the second highest conversions in the account at an extremely low cost per conversion.

However, this may not always be the case. Sometimes campaigns that are effective in driving traffic may not always convert efficiently. It is extremely important to keep questioning data and adding context in the form of more data to truly understand how your account is performing.


Looking deeper

Upon further analysis, you notice that the “Texas” campaign has the second lowest click-through rate. However, it serves the most impressions by a considerable margin and is responsible for the most conversions and clicks.

It’s clear that this is the largest campaign in terms of volume, traffic, and conversions. However, it isn’t as efficient as it could be.

Armed with this knowledge, you can work with your account analyst to delve into the campaign on an ad group or keyword level to make optimizations that would help bring the cost down.

Of course, while making optimizations, it is important to monitor performance over time. You wouldn’t want to be in a situation where you see a dip in conversions because you’re not spending enough. The aim is to keep a healthy balance between spend and conversions to improve efficiency.


Ready to tell your own stories?

Your own campaigns will tell their own stories. I just wanted to show how adding data to data and diving deeper into numbers will eventually lead to thoughtful and calculated decision.

With numbers, you’ll be able to tell a story about your decision by using crucial elements such as the account goals, the performance of two or more campaigns from different perspectives, and the result of your choices.

It might not be a story that puts a child to sleep at night, but it’s one that keeps your business happy!


Ready for more PPC tips? Check out our guide to 4 things your business should do to maximize profit during the holidays.


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