How to Focus Your PPC Analysis & Optimization

lost-at-sea-paperworkPPC managers, as a rule, are completely swamped. But that doesn’t mean we can’t also increase productivity when managing campaigns.

One core tactic to get more done when managing PPC is to achieve a zen-like state of focus when analyzing data. The more focused your analysis and optimization is, the faster you can manage campaigns and sooner your performance will improve.

A sea of PPC data allows campaign managers to optimize almost every aspect of their account. However, with wave after wave of insightful stats, PPC managers face a common hazard: losing site of the shore and getting lost at sea.

Campaign managers can lose sight of their core business objectives when they are neck-deep in statistics. For example, here’s a list of metrics that a PPC manager may need to monitor in order to maintain their campaign:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Click-through rate
  • Cost-per-click
  • Cost-per-thousand-impressions
  • Average position
  • Conv. (1-per-click)
  • Conv. (Many-per-click)
  • Cost-per-conversion (1-per-click)
  • Cost-per-conversions (Many-per-click)
  • View-through conversions
  • Conversion rate (1-per-click)
  • Conversion rate (Many-per-click
  • Impression share
  • Exact match impression share
  • Impression share lost (budget)
  • Impression share lost (rankings)
  • Relative click-through rate
  • Phone impressions
  • Phone calls
  • Phone-through rate
  • Phone cost
  • Call duration
  • Call time
  • Average cost-per-call
  • Revenue
  • Return on investment
  • Profit margin
  • Average order value
  • Lifetime value
  • Bounce rate
  • Pages-per-visit
  • Time on site
  • % of new visits
  • % of return visits
  • Revenue per click
  • Revenue per impression
  • Value per visit
  • Quality score
  • Keyword quality score
  • Landing page quality score
  • Landing page user experience

Set Specific Goals

Before running one report or opening an Excel spreadsheet, you need to determine what your objectives are. Why are you running this report and what are you looking to accomplish? If you don’t have these objectives in mind beforehand, then you’re just looking at statistics with no real purpose. In other words, you’ve hopped in a car and just started driving – no real destination.

This may seem simple. You may be thinking, “Of course I know why I’m running this report: I want to improve the performance of my campaigns.”

Let’s think of this kind of wide-reaching statement in another context: “I want to lose weight.” That’s great a great goal. How do you plan to lose this weight? How much weight do you want to lose? What is your target date to accomplish this goal? What are your tactics to lose this weight?

In order to set achievable objectives, you have to get more specific. The more detailed the goal, the more likely you are to be successful.

Regarding the weight loss example, this sounds better, “I will lose 15 pounds in six weeks. To accomplish this goal, I will go to the gym four times a week. I will eat healthier by not going out so much, and I will pack a healthy lunch. I will (gasp!) give up beer during this time.” That is a specific goal with specific tactics for achievement.

Now, apply this example to your PPC analysis. Rather than generally state, “I want to improve the performance of my campaigns,” think about what exactly needs to be accomplished. What needs to be improved? Why does this need to happen? What tactics may need to be employed? Get specific!

Build a Hypothesis

Not only should you determine specific goals before working on account optimization efforts, but you should also establish a hypothesis before any reporting takes place. Here’s a quick definition of hypothesis: A supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.

For example, you may have noticed within your account that your cost-per-acquisition has been increasing. This is the starting point of your optimization.

The goal in this example could be: I want to lower your CPA back down below my goal of $25. I will run reports within campaigns with elevated CPA to determine where the issue resides. I will determine which ad groups and keywords are hindering my performance. I will make adjustments in order to lower the CPA down below my $25 goal. The changes I make today should get my CPA back down within seven days.

The hypothesis in this example could be: The CPA in my account has inflated because my CPC continues to increase due to elevated competition. Also, I think there are keywords generating clicks without converting.

By following this method, you have a specific goal and an initial hypothesis for guidance before you even run your first report. This will significantly decrease the time required to determine a plan of action to improve the performance of your account. When you run those initial reports, you won’t start out feeling adrift in data and lost in a sea of statistics. You’ll at least have a compass, and a horizon to follow.

My next column will discuss the next step after setting a specific optimization goal and hypothesis: prioritizing data within PPC reports. Prioritization is critical so that you can get to the data that will help you prove or disprove your thesis as well as achieve your goals as quickly as possible.

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