How to Monitor a Pay-per-click Ad Campaign
Whether your pay-per-click advertising campaigns are managed in-house or by an agency, chances are you receive some type of reporting regularly. PPC reporting is important not only for the management team, but for the PPC managers themselves, as it offers an overview of performance that’s not often available anywhere else.
There are many reporting variations for PPC campaigns. Many of the differences in reports are cosmetic: reports can be presented in PowerPoint, Word, or Excel, for example. The format itself is unimportant. It’s the metrics in the report that are crucial.
Here are the key components that should appear in any PPC report.
Key Performance Indicators
A PPC campaign should not be launched before goals and KPIs are identified. This provides a road map for the PPC manager and guides all campaign optimization and reporting. A good PPC report begins with a restatement of the campaign goals and key metrics, along with a summary of performance against KPIs during the reporting period.
Impressions and Clicks
Impressions and clicks are the foundation of PPC. Even if the campaign goal isn’t to drive click traffic, as an advertiser you’re ultimately charged by the click, so this data should be included in your reports.
Ancillary to impressions and clicks is another important PPC metric: click-through rate — CTR. Many advertisers don’t focus on CTR, because a click doesn’t always equate to a conversion. But according to Google, CTR is the most important factor in quality score. A poor quality score means a higher cost per click, lower ad position, and lower visibility on the search engine results page. Therefore, CTR is an important metric that should also be a part of PPC reporting.
It’s rare for traffic to be the goal of a PPC campaign. Most advertisers are ultimately looking for the visitor to take an action on their websites, whether it’s a purchase, a lead form fill, an email signup, or even a view of a key page such as a product spec sheet.
As such, conversions are arguably the most important PPC metric in a report. Data should be presented for each conversion type, along with ROI measurements such as cost per conversion or return on ad spend.
The ability to test ad copy, keywords, and landing pages is one of the cornerstones of PPC. Few forms of marketing offer such a unique and easy-to-use testing ability. If your PPC manager is not running several tests each month, make it a priority to start testing immediately. Even if you only test two different ad variations, the information gained is invaluable.
Test data should be included in every PPC report. Not only does this information keep management and clients abreast of current tests, it can inform other marketing channels. Advertisers should use PPC to test marketing messaging and landing pages prior to rolling them out to other channels, simply because it’s inexpensive and the data is available so quickly. It’s not unusual for a marketing team to fall in love with a particular offer or landing page, only to find it didn’t perform well in a PPC test. Using PPC to inform other channels is not only easy, it’s smart — and having test data readily available in PPC reports is the most efficient way to accomplish this.
Details on Key Initiatives or Tactics
PPC is an ever-changing medium, with new features rolling out frequently. Savvy advertisers are eager to test new features and gauge performance. This information should also be included in a PPC report.
For example, mobile advertising is growing quickly. It’s a hot topic amongst online marketers. If your company is embarking on a new mobile strategy, then your PPC reports should include data that shows how your mobile campaigns are performing as compared with desktop campaigns.
Problems and Red Flags
Glossing over PPC problems or issues is never a good idea. Your PPC manager should use reports to alert you to any metrics that have fallen off. For instance, if a previously high-performing campaign suddenly produces fewer conversions with no decrease in traffic, the report should call attention to this.
Of course, every problem should be presented with a recommendation for improvement. Reasons for the decline in performance should be outlined, and corrective action steps should be spelled out.
Trends and Analysis
Single data points, such as clicks and impressions for one month, are not meaningful without context. A good PPC report will show data trends, encompassing seasonal fluctuations and any events that may have altered results. If you launched a new product line recently, for example, metrics will be affected, and the report should reflect this.
A good report will also include analysis of the data: it will tell the story behind the numbers to paint a picture of the health of the PPC campaign. Sending out a spreadsheet with no explanation is not useful for most decision-makers. Include a summary of what happened, why it happened, and why it’s important.