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Tell the Full PPC Story with Google Analytics

Written by Rachael Law, Senior Account Analyst

User interfaces of advertising platforms give you great data, but this is only half of the story – the pre-click half. To paint the full picture of the conversion process, you need to get a feel for who these users are, and what they are doing after they click on your ad.

 

Google Analytics is a great resource for getting the other half of the story. This whitepaper will walk through PPC storytelling using Analytics reports, not only detailing the report setup, but discussing takeaways and how to implement findings in PPC accounts. Learn the tips and tricks of Analytics reporting to answer valuable questions such as:

 

  • Who is getting to your site?
  • Are they converting?
  • If not, why?
  • If they are, what’s their conversion path?
  • What else are they doing on your site?

 

EVERY STORY NEEDS A BEGINNING – THE BACKGROUND

 

The first question you may want to start out with is: who is visiting your site?

 

To answer this question, we’ll first take a look at the demographics report:

 

 

To make things interesting, throw in another segment in your report. Here we also segmented by converters as well as All Users. In this particular account, we notice that while the majority of our traffic is comprised of users age 25-34, the older age ranges are the ones bringing in online sales.

 

You’ll also want to look at demographics by different channels. Is your PPC traffic significantly different than your organic or direct? Think about why that may be – it could point to a misalignment in your paid strategy.

 

Takeaways:

 

Do the demographics shown here align with what you would expect? Consider adding bid modifiers to your PPC campaigns to align with the right target audience.

 

For display campaigns, you can add modifiers (or even exclude them) to increase your bids for certain demographics. If you find it makes a big impact on your account, or if you want to show different ad copy to different segments, try segmenting by ad group. Rumors are that demographics will be available for search campaigns sometime in the future as well!

 

What channels?

Take a look at what channels users are coming through by navigating to the Source/Medium report under Acquisition > All Traffic.

 

 

This will help you to determine how PPC traffic stacks up against other channels. How long are they staying on the site? Are they bouncing? How many pages are they visiting?

 

Takeaways:

 

If you find that paid traffic is bouncing at a much higher rate, take a look at two things:

 

  1. Your targeting
  2. Your landing page

 

Users either bounce because they weren’t a qualified visitor in the first place, or they were sent to a page that doesn’t make sense.

 

New vs. Returning

 

Next we’ll take a look at new users vs. returning users.

 

 

Beef up your standard out-of-the-box new vs. returning report by creating a custom report.

 

Takeaways:

 

These stats will most often make a great case for remarketing. You might also try tweaking your ad copy for new vs. returning visitors based on what pages they’re looking at on your site (look at the All Pages report!).

 

THE MAIN PLOT – ARE THEY CONVERTING?

 

For most, the main goal of any paid advertising is to drive conversions. If your conversion rates aren’t where you’d like them to be (and let’s be honest – you always want them to be better!), then Analytics is a great place for you to do some digging. Whether this is an online lead form or an online sale, we’ll cover both.

 

Ecommerce

 

A good place to start is to take a high-level look at what percentage of your traffic is converting, and what percentage is not. You can do this in the All Traffic report (and filter for “cpc” if you want to only look at paid traffic). Now that you’ve got an idea of what performance is like, let’s take a look at what those non-converters are doing, and what may be preventing them from converting.

 

First, let’s take a look at what non-converters are doing on your site.

 

    1. Where are they exiting? 

      In this example, the cart page has the second highest number of exits.

       

 

    1. What other pages are they visiting?Again, segments are your friend here! 

      For this account, this retailer has brick and mortar stores, so it’s possible that non-converters are actually just going to a physical location to purchase. When segmenting /store pages viewed by converters and non-converters, it’s pretty clear that these pages have much higher views from nonconverters.

 

    1. Are they dropping off at some point in the conversion funnel? Take a look at the Funnel Visualization under the Conversions > Goals tab.

 

Take note of any places that people are dropping out of the funnel. There may be a glitch on this page, or it may just not be very clear! If they are leaving the funnel, what pages are they going to?

 

Lead Generation

 

For lead generation accounts, the In-Page Analytics tool is a powerful feature to see where users are clicking. This gives us insight into what information they need before making the decision to fill out the form.

 

To do this, there are two options:

 

    1. Navigate to In-Page Analytics from the behavior tab

 

    1. If you’re using Google Chrome – go to the URL and use the Page Analytics extension

 

If you’re doing any sort of conversion rate optimization (CRO), this is a great free tool to help you visualize what’s happening on the page.

 

Site Speed

 

Site speed is a major aspect of user experience to take into consideration. A slow site can be the kiss of death, as people don’t like to sit around waiting for a page to load.

 

 

If you’re on the agency side, let your client know if you see huge increases in load time.

 

THE SUCCESS STORY – CONVERTERS

 

Now that we’ve taken a dive into everything non-converters, let’s take a look at our converting traffic.

 

What path are they taking?

 

One of my all-time favorite reports within Analytics is the Top Conversion Paths report. While it may seem simple on the surface, it’s true potential lies in all the different ways you can customize it using Conversion Segments.

 

 

 

Here are some of my favorites:

 

  • Any interaction is cpc
  • First interaction is cpc
  • First interaction is non brand, last interaction is branded

 

Takeaways

 

  • Is PPC getting the credit it deserves?
  • Are we leveraging higher funnel campaigns / strategies properly?
  • How do PPC and organic work together?

 

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: RETURNING USERS BEHAVIOR

 

Your Analytics story likely has many character types, of all different behavior patterns and backgrounds. Let’s take some time to dig into our characters to get to know them, and what they’re doing when they come back to the site. Additionally, attribution is an incredibly important topic of discussion, so we’ll briefly discuss the model attribution tool.

 

Under the audience section you’ll find the following reports:

 

 

These can give extremely useful if your goal is to figure out in more detail what your users are doing on your site, and what kind of behavior patterns qualified users demonstrate.

 

Cohort Analysis

 

This report allows you to view and assess performance by cohort (in this case – acquisition date).

 

 

While we don’t yet have options for different cohorts other than Acquisition Date, we do have some options for cohort size, metric, and date range. Once you select the appropriate settings, you’re report will look something like this:

 

 

Here we’re looking at retention rate by day.

 

While this is a pretty neat report on its own, it really shines when you apply some custom segments to it.

 

Some Example Segments to try:

 

  • Whitepaper downloaders vs. free trial users
  • Users who visited a sale page vs. Those who did not
  • Users who filled out a contact form vs. No form

 

Look for any trends in returning behavior or revenue in these different groups.

 

Lifetime Value

 

The Lifetime Value report allows you to view revenue and engagement during the 90 days after a user is acquired. You are provided with a chart and a table:

 

 

 

This is very similar to the Cohort Analysis report, but I recommend you take a look at both to get some different views of your data.

 

Take note here of any upward ticks in Revenue Per User (LTV), and also look for when it starts to level off. Consider a remarketing strategy with new enticing ad copy during this time frame.

 

User Explorer

 

Now that you’ve explored overall trends in returning users, now you have the opportunity to look at individual user behavior.

 

When you open your report you’ll see an overview of all users. Again, I highly recommend using a custom segment to get the most out of this report.

 

 

When you click on a user, you’ll see their acquisition date, channel, and device category. Then you can drill down into each session to see what they did on your site.

 

 

If you find some actions that are interesting to you, you do have the option to create a segment by clicking the checkboxes next to each action:

 

 

In this example, we want to look at users who viewed the shopping cart page, as well as engaged with the chat box feature.

 

Takeaways

 

Look for patterns here. Since we can only view this report on the individual level, it can be a bit tougher to extrapolate this to your entire user base, which is why using segments is so highly encouraged.

 

Who gets the credit? Attribution

 

Let’s pretend that I’m looking to buy a new computer. I might start with a quick Google search (where I click an ad) from my phone to casually browse laptops during my lunch break. Then when I get home I go directly to your site to do more research. While I’m browsing other review sites, I click a link to your website yet again. Finally, I go back directly to make a purchase.

 

With the default “storytelling” method that Google Analytics uses, the last non-direct interaction will get all the credit for that purchase. Is that accurate though? We can’t ignore the first part of the story, which is that initial PPC click looking for information. We can argue that if this step did not occur, the purchase might not have happened.

 

Analytics does however, give us reports so we can further dig into the conversion path. In addition to the Top Conversion Paths report, which we talked about earlier, there’s also a handy Attribution report called the Model Comparison Tool.

 

 

This will give you an idea of which channels are at the top of the funnel, and which ones are in the lower portion of the funnel. I highly encourage conversations with your client, CMO, etc. about attribution modeling and which model fits your business best. With Google’s new data driven attribution model, we now have even more advanced attribution options.

 

THE MORAL OF THE STORY: BUILDING A PPC STRATEGY

 

It can be overwhelming trying to figure out how to apply all of this information that Analytics provides. Here are some general questions to help guide you:

 

  • Which bucket does the information I’m seeing fit into:
    • Targeting (includes display and remarketing)
    • Landing pages
    • Ad copy

     

  • Which campaign(s) does it affect?
    • Display or Search
    • Existing campaign or New

 

Tweaking your existing strategy

 

Use analytics to dive into how your current setup is performing. If you notice that a certain campaign is performing terribly in terms of conversions and engagement, it may be time to rethink your targeting.

 

Custom segments and custom reports are powerful tools. View behavior and statistics by campaign, using a custom segment like the one shown here:

 

 

New strategies

 

Analytics provides ample information to brainstorm new ideas for your paid efforts.

 

Remarketing

 

By looking at the New vs. Returning report mentioned above, you could get a good benchmark on the engagement levels of qualified users. To take it to the next step, you are able to create remarketing lists within Analytics that utilize these metrics:

 

 

Site Search

 

For example, the Site Search reports are great for determining what users are looking for (and what may be hard to find!) and which pages they are starting their search from. If you’re running a search campaign for running shoes and people are searching on the landing page for shoelaces, consider adding the shoelaces page as a sitelink.

 

 

CLOSING THOUGHTS

 

With such a powerful tool like Google Analytics at our fingertips, site engagement analysis has never been easier. We are given a slew of information about site visitors and how they are interacting with your brand. Not only do we have valuable information for PPC traffic, but also direct, organic, and referral traffic as well.

 

Use tools such as custom segments and custom reporting to get the exact data that you need. Once you find interesting takeaways, make changes to your PPC targeting appropriately.